Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod.The Philistines place the ark of God at Ashdod in the house of Dagon; which falls down, once and again, 1 Samuel 5:1-5. They of Ashdod are smitten with emerods; they send the ark to Gath, 1 Samuel 5:6-8. They are also smitten with emerods, and send the ark to Ekron; they resolve to return it back to the Israelites, 1 Samuel 5:9-12.
Quest. Why were not they immediately killed, who touched the ark, as afterwards Uzzah was? 2 Samuel 6:7.
Answ. First, Because the sin of the Philistines was not so great, because the law forbidding this was not given, or at least was not known to them; whereas Uzzah’s fact was a transgression, and that of a known law. Secondly, Because God designed to reserve the Philistines for a more public and more shameful punishment, which had been prevented by this. From Eben-ezer; where they found it in the camp of the Israelites, 1 Samuel 4:1. Ashdod, called also Azotus; whither they brought it, either because it was the first city in their way, or rather because it was a great and famous city, and most eminent for the worship of their great god Dagon.
When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.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.
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.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 arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.The
head is the seat of wisdom; the hands, the instruments of action: both are cut off, to show that he had neither wisdom nor strength to defend himself nor his worshippers. This the priests, by concealing Dagon’s shame before, make it more evident and infamous.
Only the stump of Dagon, Heb. only Dagon, i.e. that part of it from which it was called Dagon, to wit, the fishy part, for dag in Hebrew signifies a fish. And hence their opinion seems most probable, that this idol of Dagon had in its upper parts a human shape, and in its lower parts the form of a fish; for such was the form of divers of the heathen gods, and particularly of a god of the Phoenicians, (under which name the Philistines are comprehended,) as Diodorus Siculus and Lucian both witness, though they call it by another name.
Was left to him, or, upon it, i.e. upon the threshold; there the trunk abode in the place where it fell, but the head and hands being violently cut off, were flung to distant and several places.
Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.Out of a religious reverence, supposing this place to be sanctified, by the touch of their god, who first fell here, and being broken here, touched it more thoroughly than he did other parts. This superstition of theirs was noted and censured long after, Zephaniah 1:9. Herein they manifested their stupendous folly, both in making a perpetual monument of their own and idol’s shame, which in all reason they should rather have buried in eternal oblivion; and in turning a plain and certain argument of contempt into an occasion of further veneration.
Unto this day; When this history was written, which if written by Samuel towards the end of his life, was a sufficient ground for this expression, this superstitious usage having then continued for many years.
But the hand of the LORD was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, for their incorrigibleness by the foregoing documents.
He destroyed them; partly by wasting their land, 1 Samuel 6:5; and partly by killing many of their persons, as is sufficiently implied here, 1 Samuel 5:10.
Emerods; a disease mentioned only here and Deu 28:27; it was in the hinder parts. It is needless to inquire into the nature of it. It may suffice to know that it was a very sore disease, and not only very vexatious and tormenting, but also pernicious and mortal.
And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.No text from Poole on this verse.
They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither.Supposing that this plague was confined to Ashdod for some particular reasons, or that it came upon them by chance, or from some bad influence of the air, or of the stars, or for putting it into Dagon’s temple, which they resolved they would not do.
And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the LORD was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts.Or,
in their hidden parts, to wit, in the inwards of their hinder parts; which is the worst kind of emerods, as all physicians acknowledge, both because its pains are far more sharp and keen than the other, and because the malady is more out of the reach of remedies.
Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people.Not that they intended this, but because this would be the event of it.
So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.Throughout all the city, to wit, the city of Ekron, during its short stay there. Or, in every city, to wit, where the ark of God came; for it came also to Gaza and Askelon, and produced the same effects there, as may be gathered from 1 Samuel 6:4,17, though for brevity sake it be here omitted.
And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven.The men that died not; either of some other plague or ulcer, as may be thought from 1 Samuel 5:6, or of the emerods, which infested and tormented even those whom it did not kill.
The cry of the city, or, of that city where the ark was; and the city is put for the people inhabiting it.