|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
16:22-24 Samson's afflictions were the means of bringing him to deep repentance. By the loss of his bodily sight the eyes of his understanding were opened; and by depriving him of bodily strength, the Lord was pleased to renew his spiritual strength. The Lord permits some few to wander wide and sink deep, yet he recovers them at last, and marking his displeasure at sin in their severe temporal sufferings, preserves them from sinking into the pit of destruction. Hypocrites may abuse these examples, and infidels mock at them, but true Christians will thereby be rendered more humble, watchful, and circumspect; more simple in their dependence on the Lord, more fervent in prayer to be kept from falling, and in praise for being preserved; and, if they fall, they will be kept from sinking into despair.
Verse 23. - Gathered them, i.e. themselves. To rejoice. The Hebrew is for a festivity, or merry-making, or feast. There was to be a great feast upon the sacrifices offered to Dagon their God. Dagon (from dag, a fish in Hebrew), the national male god of the Philistines, as Atergatis, or Derceto, was their goddess. Both the male and female divinities seem to have had the head and breast and hands human, and the rest of the body fish-shaped (see 1 Samuel 5:5). The fish was a natural emblem of fertility and productiveness, especially to a maritime people. The fish-shaped idol is found upon old Phoenician coins, and also on the monuments of Khorsabad, and on some Assyrian gems in the British Museum. One of the chief temples of Dagon was at Gaza. Several towns bore the name of Dagon, as Beth-dagon in Judah (Joshua 15:41) and in Asher (Joshua 19:27), Caphar-dagon near Diospolis, etc., showing that the worship of Dagon was widespread.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together,.... The five lords, with their friends, not directly upon Samson's being taken and committed to prison, but some time after; perhaps some months:
for to get a great sacrifice to Dagon their god; in later times their god was called Marnas (o), which signifies the lord of men, but now Dagon; who also had a temple at Ashdod, another of the five principalities of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 5:2 and seems to have been at this time their common and chief deity: according to Jarchi in the place referred to, it was in the form of a fish, for "dag" in Hebrew signifies a fish; and Kimchi on the same place says, that from its navel upwards it was in the form of a man, and from thence downwards in the form of a fish (p); and Diodorus Siculus (q) relates that Derceto, a goddess of Ashkelon, another of the five principalities of Palestine, its face was human, and the other part of its body resembled a fish; and the same Lucian says of the Syrian goddess; and Cicero (r) testifies, that the Syrians worshipped a fish, and Porphyry (s) says they will not eat any; and Gaza being a maritime city, a sea port, this might be their sea god in this form: but Ben Gersom in the above place says, it was in the form of a man; and Sanchoniatho (t) making mention of Dagan, a brother of Saturn, Philo Byblius, who translated his history into Greek, interprets it by Siton, which signifies corn, deriving it from Dagan, which so signifies; as if this deity presided over corn, as Ceres in other nations, and Jupiter Frumentarius, or Aratrius; yea, he says he invented corn and the plough; however this be, the Philistine princes met together to sacrifice to him, not a common offering, but a great sacrifice. It is very probable that this was a public festival of the Philistines, as Josephus (u) says, an anniversary one; and perhaps was held in a more grand manner on the present occasion, since it is added:
and to rejoice: for they said, our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hands; for though Samson's harlot had done it, and they had paid her for it, yet they attribute it to their god, such was their blindness and stupidity; and yet this may shame us believers in the true God, who are so backward to ascribe to him the great things he does for us, when such Heathens were so forward to give glory to their false deities, without any foundation for it.
(o) Hicron. in Isaiah 17.fol. 39. K. (p) So David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 18. 3. & Milton in his Paradise Lost, l. 1. v. 462, 463. "Dagon his name; sea monster! upward man, And downward fish." (q) Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 92. & Ovid Metamorph. l. 4. Fab. 1. v. 44, &c. (r) De Natura Deorum, l. 3.((s) De Abstinentia, l. 2. sect. 6. (t) Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 1. p. 36, 37. (u) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 8. sect. 12.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Jud 16:23-25. Their Feast to Dagon.
23. the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon—It was a common practice in heathen nations, on the return of their solemn religious festivals, to bring forth their war prisoners from their places of confinement or slavery; and, in heaping on them every species of indignity, they would offer their grateful tribute to the gods by whose aid they had triumphed over their enemies. Dagon was a sea idol, usually represented as having the head and upper parts human, while the rest of the body resembled a fish.
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