1 Samuel 5:2
When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
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(2) They brought it into the house of Dagon.—The conquerors, we are told, in the meantime, with triumph, carried the captured Ark from the battle-field to Ashdod. This was one of the capital cities of the five Philistine princes. It is built on a hill close to the Mediterranean Sea, and was in after days known as Azotus (Acts 8:40).

In Ashdod they placed it in the temple of the popular Philistine god, Dagon. This was their vengeance for the slaughter of the 3,000 Philistine worshippers in the temple of the same deity at Gaza, not many years before, by the blind Hebrew champion Samson.

The princes and Philistine people well remembered how the blind hero on that awful day, when 3,000 perished in the house of Dagon when he with his superhuman strength forced the great temple pillars down, called on the name of the God of Israel, whom they in their idol-trained hearts associated with the golden Ark.

“This only hope relieves me, that the strife

With me hath end, all the contest now

‘Twixt God and Dagon; Dagon hath presumed,

Me overthrown, to enter lists with God,

His deity comparing and preferring

Before the God of Abraham. He, be sure,

Will not connive or linger thus provoked,

But will arise, and His great name assert.”—MILTON.

The insulted Dagon and all their murdered countrymen should be avenged by the perpetual humiliation of the “God of Abraham.”

The sacred Ark should henceforth be placed at the feet of their god Dagon.

1 Samuel 5:2-3. They set it by Dagon — By way of reproach, as a spoil and trophy set there to the honour of Dagon, to whom, doubtless, they ascribed this victory. Behold Dagon was fallen upon his face — In a posture of the most humble adoration, which was prostration; as acknowledging the God of Israel to be above all gods. They (the priests of Dagon) took Dagon and set him in his place — Supposing his fall to be casual.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.They brought it into the house of Dagon (see the marginal reference) in order to enhance the triumph of the gods of the Philistines over the God of Israel. (Compare 1 Samuel 31:9; Judges 16:23; Isaiah 37:12.) 2. the house of Dagon—Stately temples were erected in honor of this idol, which was the principal deity of the Philistines, but whose worship extended over all Syria, as well as Mesopotamia and Chaldea; its name being found among the Assyrian gods on the cuneiform inscriptions [Rawlinson]. It was represented under a monstrous combination of a human head, breast, and arms, joined to the belly and tail of a fish. The captured ark was placed in the temple of Dagon, right before this image of the idol. Either, first, Out of respect to it, that it might be worshipped together with Dagon. Or rather, secondly, By way of reproach and contempt of it, as a spoil and trophy set there to the honour of Dagon, to whom doubtless they ascribed this victory, as they did a former, Judges 16:23. And though they had some reverence for the ark before, 1 Samuel 4:7, &c.; yet that was certainly much diminished by their success against Israel, notwithstanding the presence and help of the ark. When the Philistines took the ark of God,.... And had brought it to Ashdod:

they brought it into the house of Dagon; a temple dedicated to that idol, and in which his image stood; of which See Gill on Judges 16:23,

and set it by Dagon; by the side of him, either in honour to the ark, as Abarbinel, designing to give it homage and adoration, as to their own deity; for though the Gentiles did not choose to change their gods, yet they would add the gods of other nations to them; and such the Philistines might take the ark to be: or else, as Procopius Gazaeus, they brought it into their idol's temple, as a trophy of victory, and as a spoil taken from their enemies, and which they dedicated to their idol. Laniado (r) observes, that the word here used signifies servitude, as in Genesis 33:15 and that the ark was set here to minister to, or serve their god Dagon. The temple of Dagon at Ashdod or Azotus was in being in the times of the Maccabees, and was burnt by Jonathan,"83 The horsemen also, being scattered in the field, fled to Azotus, and went into Bethdagon, their idol's temple, for safety. 84 But Jonathan set fire on Azotus, and the cities round about it, and took their spoils; and the temple of Dagon, with them that were fled into it, he burned with fire.'' (1 Maccabees 10)

(r) Cli Yaker, fol. 162. 4.

When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of {b} Dagon, and set it by Dagon.

(b) Which was their chief idol, and as some write, from the navel downward was like a fish, and upward like a man.

2. When the Philistines, &c.] Better, And the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it. The repetition is characteristic of the Hebrew historical style.

Dagon] Dagon (a diminutive of endearment from dâg = fish) was the national god of the Philistines, worshipped also at Gaza (Jdg 16:21-30), and elsewhere, as the name Beth-dagon (Joshua 15:41; Joshua 19:27) indicates. The statue of Dagon had the head and hands of a man, and the body of a fish. The fish was an emblem of fruitfulness. See Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, I. 381, or Layard’s Nineveh, II. p. 466, for a representation of a fish-god, which is probably the Philistine Dagon, as the bas-reliefs at Khorsabad from which it is taken record the wars of Sargon with Syria. A corresponding goddess Dercěto or Atargatis was worshipped at Askelon.

The ark was placed in Dagon’s temple as a votive-offering (cp. 1 Chronicles 10:10), and to mark the supposed victory of Dagon over Jehovah.Verse 2. - When the Philistines, etc. The words are exactly the same as those in ver. 1, viz. "And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it," marking the simplicity of ancient narrative. Dagon is derived by Philo from dagan, "corn," and is explained by him as an emblem of the earth's fertility; but as the shape of this national deity of the Philistines was certainly that of a man to the waist, ending in the body and tail of a fish, the true derivation is doubtless that from dag, "a fish." It represented, however, not so much the sea, on which the Philistines trafficked, as the fruitfulness of water, which in the East is looked upon as the active principle of life (comp. Genesis 1:20). In one of the sculptures brought from Khorsabad there is a representation of a battle between the Assyrians and the inhabitants of the Syrian sea coast, and in it there is a figure, the upper part of which is a bearded man with a crown, while from the waist downwards it has the shape of a fish (Layard's 'Nineveh,' 2:466). Moreover, it is swimming in the sea, and is surrounded by a multitude of marine creatures. Doubtless this figure represents Dagon, who, nevertheless, is not to be regarded as a sea god, like Neptune; but as the fish is the product of water, he is the symbol of nature's reproductive energy. Together with Dagon a female deity was commonly worshipped, called Atergatis, half woman and half fish, whose temple is mentioned in 2 Macc. 12:26. In the margin there she is explained as being Venus; but the ideas have only this in common - that Venus also, as rising out of the sea, symbolises life as springing out of water. As Dagon had a temple also at Gaza (Judges 16:23), and at the other cities of Philistia (Jerome on Isaiah 46:1), he was evidently the chief deity of the nation, and the solemn depositing of the ark in his temple, and by Dagon, - literally, "at his side," - was intended as a public demonstration that the God of the Israelites was inferior to, and had been vanquished by, the national deity of the Philistines. When the messenger informed him of the defeat of the Israelites, the death of his sons, and the capture of the ark, at the last news Eli fell back from his seat by the side of the gate, and broke his neck, and died. The loss of the ark was to him the most dreadful of all - more dreadful than the death of his two sons. Eli had judged Israel forty years. The reading twenty in the Septuagint does not deserve the slightest notice, if only because it is perfectly incredible that Eli should have been appointed judge of the nation in his seventy-eight year.
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