To understand a text, or any other form of art work, as referring to a disease is not always obvious. This uncertainty, although confined to rare cases, nevertheless allows us to explore the limits and blind spots of certain frameworks proposed to think about the relationship between art and disease, notably Susan Sontag’s book Ilness as metaphor . In this article, I take a closer look at the calamity described in chapters 5 and 6 of the first book of Samuel and its various exegeses in the Western World. This calamity (still considered by many to be a bubonic plague), was not associated with the pandemic imaginary by ancient commentators, artists, and doctors, and it is only in modern times that medical diagnoses of the text change in this sense. I propose to see that these seemingly innocuous changes in diagnostic interpretations actually reflect deep changes in the relation between illness and divine agency. After a brief critical review of Susan Sontag’s writings on interpretation and their relationship to Ilness as Metaphor, I will proceed to trace the complex interpretation history of this calamity, before drawing observations about the place of interpretation in literary criticism and in the medical sciences.