Plague, rats and the Bible again.
Plague, rats and the Bible again
When discussing the ‘plague’ of the Philistines, I postulated
that the black rat only reached Egypt, and hence
discovered the monsoon in the second or first century
BC.1–3The new finds described by Freemon prove that the
black rat and its fleas arrived in Egypt over a millennium
earlier.4Either they came the long coastal way round, or
someone knew about the monsoon long before the Greeks.
But, whether the epidemic was bubonic plague4or bacillary
dysentery,5I must still insist that the rodents mentioned
were not vectors but crop pests, being ‘mice that mar the
land’ (1 Samuel, 6:5). The Philistines hoped that the God of
Israel would lighten his hand from off them and from off
W M S Russell
Department of Sociology, University of Reading,
Whiteknights, PO Box 218, Reading RG6 6AA, Berkshire, UK
1 Russell WMS, Russell C. Evolutionary and social aspects of disease. Ecol Dis
2 Russell WMS. Plague, rats and the Bible. J R Soc Med 1987;80:598–9
3 Russell WMS. Plague, rats and the Bible. J R Soc Med 2000;93:553
4 Freemon FR. Bubonic plague in the Book of Samuel. J R Soc Med
5 Shrewsbury JFD. The Plague of the Philistines. London: Victor Gollancz,
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