|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-5 See the ark's triumph over Dagon. Thus the kingdom of Satan will certainly fall before the kingdom of Christ, error before truth, profaneness before godliness, and corruption before grace in the hearts of the faithful. When the interests of religion seem to be ready to sink, even then we may be confident that the day of their triumph will come. When Christ, the true Ark of the covenant, really enters the heart of fallen man, which is indeed Satan's temple, all idols will fall, every endeavour to set them up again will be vain, sin will be forsaken, and unrighteous gain restored; the Lord will claim and possess the throne. But pride, self-love, and worldly lusts, though dethroned and crucified, still remain within us, like the stump of Dagon. Let us watch and pray that they may not prevail. Let us seek to have them more entirely destroyed.
Verses 3, 4. - On the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of Jehovah. I.e. he was in the attitude of adoration, and instead of triumphing over Jehovah, he was prostrate, as if compelled to worship. But his priests perhaps thought that it was an accident, and so they set the image in its place again. They also, we may be sure, took due precaution against any one entering his temple by stealth; but when early on the second morning they came with anxious minds to see whether any new prodigy had happened, they found their god not only prostrate, as before, but mutilated, and his head and both the palms of his hands were cut off - not broken off by the fall of the image from its place, but severed with deliberate care, and placed contemptuously upon the threshold, i.e. upon the door sill, the place where all must tread. Only Dagon was left to him. We cannot in English render the full contemptuousness of this phrase, because Dagon is to us a mere proper name, with no significance. In the original it conveys the idea that the head, the emblem of reason, and the human hands, the emblems of intellectual activity, were no real parts of Dagon, but falsely assumed by him; and, deprived of them, he lay there in his true ugliness, a mere misshapen fish; for dag, as we have seen, means a fish, and Dagon is here a diminutive of contempt. In spite of his discomfiture the Philistines were tree to their allegiance to their god, because, believing as they did in "gods many," he was still their own national deity, even though he had been proved inferior to the God of Israel, and would probably be rendered more particular and exacting as regards the homage due to him from his own subjects by so humiliating a defeat. For the gods of the heathen were jealous, fickle, and very ill tempered if any slight was put upon them. After all, perhaps they thought, he had done his best, and though worsted in the personal conflict, he had managed so cleverly that they had gained in fair fight a great victory.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, Either the people, the inhabitants of the place, who came early to pay their devotions to their idol, before they went on their business; or the priests of the idol, who came to sacrifice in the morning:
and, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord; as if he was subject to it, and giving adoration to it, and owning it was above him, and had superior power over him:
and they took Dagon, and set him in his place again; having no notion that it was owing to the ark of God, or to the God of Israel, that he was fallen, but that it was a matter of chance.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
1Sa 5:3-5. Dagon Falls Down.
3, 4. they of Ashdod arose early—They were filled with consternation when they found the object of their stupid veneration prostrate before the symbol of the divine presence. Though set up, it fell again, and lay in a state of complete mutilation; its head and arms, severed from the trunk, were lying in distant and separate places, as if violently cast off, and only the fishy part remained. The degradation of their idol, though concealed by the priests on the former occasion, was now more manifest and infamous. It lay in the attitude of a vanquished enemy and a suppliant, and this picture of humiliation significantly declared the superiority of the God of Israel.
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