1 Samuel 5:3
And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen on his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Dagon was fallen upon his face.—This Dagon was one of the chief Philistine deities, and had temples not only in Ashdod and in Gaza, but in the cities of Philistia. (See St. Jerome on Isaiah 46:1.) The idol had a human head and hands, and the body of a fish. Philo derives the word Dagon from dagan, “corn,” and supposes the worship to have been connected with Nature worship. The true derivation, however, is from Dag, a fish, which represents the sea from which the Philistines drew their wealth and power. In one of the bas-reliefs discovered at Khorsabad, and which, Layard states, represents the war of an Assyrian king—probably Sargon—with the inhabitants of the coast of Syria, a figure is seen swimming in the sea, with the upper part of the body resembling a bearded man wearing the ordinary conical tiara of royalty, adorned with elephants’ tusks, and the lower part re sembling the body of a fish. It has the hand lifted up, as if in astonishment or fear, and is surrounded by fishes, crabs, and other marine animals.

“There can be hardly any doubt,” argues Keil, “that we have here a representation of the Philistine Dagon. This deity was a personification of the generative and vivifying principle of nature, for which the fish, with its innumerable multiplication, was specially adapted, and set forth the idea of the Giver of all earthly good.”

This strange image the men of Ashdod, on the morrow of their triumphal offering of the Ark of the Lord before the idol shrine, found prostrate on the temple floor, before the desecrated sacred coffer of the Israelites.

They at once assumed that this had taken place owing to some accident, and they raised again the image to its place.

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.) 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.

They of Ashdod, i.e. the priests of Dagon.

Arose early on the morrow; either to worship Dagon according to their manner, or being curious and greedy to know whether the neighbourhood of the ark to Dagon had made any alteration in either of them, that if Dagon had received any damage, they might, if possibly they could, repair it, before it came to the people’s knowledge, as indeed they did, to prevent their contempt of that idol, by which the priests had all their reputation and advantage.

Set him in his place again; supposing or pretending that his fall was wholly casual. 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.

And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth] In the attitude of homage to the ark. Jehovah does not leave the Philistines to fancy that their god has conquered Him. He will shew that He is “the living God.” “The idols shall be moved at his presence” (Isaiah 19:1).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. The judgment which fell upon Eli through this stroke extended still further. His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was with child (near) to be delivered. ללת, contracted from ללדת (from ילד: see Ges. 69, 3, note 1; Ewald, 238, c.). When she heard the tidings of the capture (אל־הלּקח, "with regard to the being taken away") of the ark of God, and the death of her father-in-law and husband, she fell upon her knees and was delivered, for her pains had fallen upon her (lit. had turned against her), and died in consequence. Her death, however, was but a subordinate matter to the historian. He simply refers to it casually in the words, "and about the time of her death," for the purpose of giving her last words, in which she gave utterance to her grief at the loss of the ark, as a matter of greater importance in relation to his object. As she lay dying, the women who stood round sought to comfort her, by telling her that she had brought forth a son; but "she did not answer, and took no notice (לב שׁוּת equals לב שׂוּם, animum advertere; cf. Psalm 62:11), but called to the boy (i.e., named him), Ichabod (כבוד אי, no glory), saying, The glory of Israel is departed," referring to the capture of the ark of God, and also to her father-in-law and husband. She then said again, "Gone (גּלה, wandered away, carried off) is the glory of Israel, for the ark of God is taken." The repetition of these words shows how deeply the wife of the godless Phinehas had taken to heart the carrying off of the ark, and how in her estimation the glory of Israel had departed with it. Israel could not be brought lower. With the surrender of the earthly throne of His glory, the Lord appeared to have abolished His covenant of grace with Israel; for the ark, with the tables of the law and the capporeth, was the visible pledge of the covenant of grace which Jehovah had made with Israel.
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