Just before the Jewish New Year, yet another article relating to the excavation was published. If I may quote from “Monty Python” – this is one is “Something Completely Different …”
The article (which is entitled: Maeir, A. 2007 A New Interpretation of the Term `Opalim (עפלים) in Light of Recent Archaeological Finds from Philistia. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 32(1 September): 23–40) deals with some recent finds at the excavation at Tell es-Safi/Gath (both in previous seasons as well as this very summer), and discusses them in light of the very interesting and up till now insufficiently explained biblical term “ofalim” (appearing primarily several times in the ark Narrative in the book of I Samuel 5-6).
While in the past this term has been explained as meaning either an affliction (usually haemorrhoids or the bubonic plague), this clearly is problematic. In light of the discoverey of phallic-shaped cultic objects at Tell es-Safi/Gath and Ashkelon, I suggest in this article that in fact, the “Ophalim” relates the Philistines’ mebra virile and in fact is probably an allusion to a little-known aspect of the Philistine cult (with Phallic manifestations), which in turned can be connected possibly to phallic-related cult in the Aegean world.
Who said archaeology can’t be interesting? :-)