Judges 16:23
Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
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(23) Unto Dagon their god.—Comp. 1Samuel 5:1-2; 1Chronicles 10:10. This was the

“ Sea-monster:—upward man,

And downward fish.”

In 1Samuel 5:4 we have an allusion to his stump or fish-part. Dag means “fish,” and the same root is found in Tagus. A goddess of similar form and attributes was worshipped under the name of Atargatis or Derceto (2 Maccabees 12:26). How widely the worship was spread we see from the commonness of the name Beth-dagon in the Shephelah (Joshua 15:41). His chief temple at Azotus was burned by Judas Maccabeus (1 Maccabees 10:83). The only other Philistine god mentioned in Scripture is Baal-zebub, god of Ekron (2Kings 1:2-16).

Jdg 16:23. To offer a great sacrifice — They assembled to render honour to their idol, for their triumph over a man who as much detested their idolatry as he did their barbarous oppression of his countrymen. Unto Dagon their god — Whose image is supposed to have been, in the upper part, of the human form, and in the lower part like a fish; probably one of the sea-gods of the heathen. The Philistines foolishly attributed to this idol what had come to pass by the will of the God of Israel, to punish Samson for his sins.

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.Dagon was the national idol of the Philistines 1 Chronicles 10:10, so called from Dag, a fish. The description of Dagon, in his temple at Ashdod 1 Samuel 5:4, exactly agrees with the representations of a fish-god on the walls of Khorsabad, on slabs at Kouyunjik, and on sundry antique cylinders and gems. In these the figures vary. Some have a human form down to the waist, with that of a fish below the waist; others have a human head, arms, and legs, growing, as it were, out of a fish's body, and so arranged that the fish's head forms a kind of mitre to the man's head, while the body and fins form a kind of cloak, hanging down behind. 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.

The lords of the Philistines gathered them together; either upon some annual or customary solemnity; or rather, upon this special occasion, to praise Dagon for this singular favour. And they did not appoint this solemn service as soon as Samson was taken, but some considerable time after, as appears by the growth of Samson’s hair in the mean time, because they would give sufficient time and warning for all their friends and allies to come thither, and for the making of all necessary preparations for so great an occasion.

Dagon is by most supposed to be an idol, whose upper part was like a man, and whose lower part was like a fish; whence there is mention of Dagon’s hands, but not of his feet, in 1 Samuel 5:4. And this place being near Egypt, where some of their gods were worshipped in the form of fishes, and being near the sea, it seems most probable that it was one of the sea gods of the heathens, and that it had in some part the resemblance of a fish.

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.

Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
23. a great sacrifice unto Dagon] at Gaza, as the context suggests (Jdg 16:21). Dagon was the god specially honoured by the Philistines; he had a temple at Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:2-7, 1Ma 10:83 f., Jdg 11:4) and elsewhere; there was a Beth-dagon in the Shephçlah (Joshua 15:41? = Beit-dejan 6 m. S.E. of Joppa, or Dejan 1½ m. further south1[57]) and on the boundary of Asher (Joshua 19:27). But the name also occurs outside the territory once held by the Philistines; it survives in Beit-dejan 7 m. E. of Nâblus; and we may infer that the worship of Dagon was not confined to the Philistines. Most likely he was a Canaanite god adopted by the Philistines when they settled in the country, just as they adopted Ashtoreth (1 Samuel 31:10). The name of the Canaanite letter-writer Dagan-takala in the Amarna tablets (Nos. 215, 216) carries us back to the age when Babylonian influences prevailed in Canaan; and Dagan is met with as the name of a deity from the early Babylonian down to the Assyrian period, both in proper names and in conjunction with Anu; the latter fact points to a god of heaven. But whether he was a native Babylonian god is not certain; it seems probable that he was introduced from outside, perhaps from Canaan; most authorities identify him with the Philistine Dagon2[58]. Of his nature nothing definite is known. Philo of Byblus derives the name from dâgân = corn, and regards him as an agricultural deity; Ḳimḥi (xiiith century a.d.) in his commentary on 1 Samuel 5:4 mentions a tradition that Dagon’s image was shaped as a man above the waist and a fish below (dâg = fish). These, however, are only etymological guesses. It may be questioned whether the god, half man and half fish, represented on the coins of Ascalon and Arvad, was intended for Dagon3[59].

[57] One of these was probably the Bit-daganna mentioned in the Prism Inscr. of Sennacherib, KB. ii. 93.

[58] See Dhorme, La Rel. Assyro-Babylonienne (1910), 17, 35, 165; Zimmern, KAT.3, 358.

[59] As Lagrange considers, Ét. sur les Rel. Sémitiques2, 131 f.

for they said … our hand] looks like a gloss founded on the song in the verse which follows.

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. Judges 16:23The captivity of this dreaded hero was regarded by the Philistines as a great victory, which their princes resolved to celebrate with a great and joyous sacrificial festival in honour of their god Dagon, to whom they ascribed this victory. "A great sacrifice," consisting in the offering up of a large number of slain sacrifices. "And for joy," viz., to give expression to their joy, i.e., for a joyous festival. Dagon, one of the principal deities of the Philistines, was worshipped at Gaza and Ashdod (2 Samuel 5:2., and 1 Macc. 10:83), and, according to Jerome on Isaiah 46:1, in the rest of the Philistine towns as well. It was a fish-deity (דּגון, from דּג, a fish), and in shape resembled the body of a fish with the head and hands of a man (1 Samuel 5:4). It was a male deity, the corresponding female deity being Atargatis (2 Macc. 12:26) or Derceto, and was a symbol of water, and of all the vivifying forces of nature which produce their effects through the medium of water, like the Babylonian Ὠοδάκων, one of the four Oannes, and the Indian Vishnu (see Movers, Phniz. i. pp. 143ff., 590ff., and J. G. Mller in Herzog's Cycl.).
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