The Name Dagon In The Bible
The name Dagon appears in the Bible as belonging to the chief deity of the Philistines. When the Philistines finally caught Samson, they first imprisoned him in Gaza and then paraded him off in the temple of their god Dagon . Something similar was done to king Saul, or at least to his head .
Dagon and his temple feature predominantly in the story of the abduction of the Ark of the Covenant . Hophni and Phinehas had foolishly taken the Ark as a talisman into battle against the Philistines, but the Philistines prevailed and took the Ark for booty and placed it in the temple of Dagon in Ashdod . The next morning, however, they found the statue of Dagon on its face in front of the Ark. They hoisted the statue back in place, but the morning after that they found the statue again on the floor, but this time the head and hands had broken off from the torso.
In the meantime, the Ashdodites came down with all sorts of horrible diseases and they decided to send the Ark first to Gath and then to Ekron, and everybody there too became sick. Finally, after seven months of this, the Philistines sent the Ark back to Israel, where it arrived in Beth-shemesh .
It’s worth noting that most of humanity’s great diseases so-called “zoonoses” such as tuberculosis, anthrax, measles, Ebola, leprosy, Lyme disease and even influenza come from animals and didn’t hit humanity until the agricultural revolution.
Who Was Dagon In The Bible
Dagon in the Bible was one of the oldest deities in Mesopotamia, with evidence as far back as 3,000 BC. Dagon was known as a father of other gods, so he was a major figure of worship of most of the people groups in what we call the Cradle of Civilization, where farming is thought to have first started . Dagon was primarily associated with fertility, including abundant crop harvests, but also dealt with anointing kings and leaders.
As a biblical connection, ancient texts from the region connect Dagon as the father of Baal, another false god highlighted throughout later Old Testament history.
The statue of Dagon was like a large man. Some depictions of him made him like a merman, a fish from the waist down. Some scholars have called him a fish god, which seems logical, especially for the Philistines along the coast, but other scholars have disputed it since theres more evidence he was responsible for crops and grain. Even his name is connected to an old noun for grain.
Dagon in the Bible was worshipped by the Philistines through Judges and the time of Samuel and King Saul.
Happy Days Are Here Again With Samuel And Without The Ark 1 Samuel : 3
Samuel is strangely absent from the narrative of chapters 4-6. His name is not mentioned from chapter 4, verse 2, through chapter 7, verse 2. Samuel does not seem to be with the Ark when it is foolishly taken into battle against the Philistines in chapter 4. He is not a part of the humiliation of the Philistines in chapters 5 and 6. But Samuel is very much a part of the revival of Israel as described in chapter 7. The very things which are not happening in Israel when the Ark is in Shiloh are the things which happen without the involvement of the Ark in chapter 7. The Ark is not the instrument through which God works He works through the Word of the Lord and prayer spoken by the prophet Samuel.
Samuel offers a whole burnt offering to the LORD on behalf of the Israelites. He cries out to the LORD, beseeching Him to deliver the Israelites, and God answers his prayer. Samuel is still offering the sacrifice to the LORD as the Philistine warriors arrive. The Israelites are completely unprepared for this attack, but the LORD seems to bring about a great thunderstorm which causes great confusion among the Philistine warriors and enables the Israelites to overcome them. From Mizpah, the Israelites pursue the Philistines as far as Beth Car, a city whose location is not known. Samuel then sets up a stone between Mizpah and Shen, calling the stone Ebenezer, which means, stone or rock of my help, a commemoration that this battle has been won by the LORDS help.
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What Does Dagon Mean In The Bible
The name Dagon derives from the word dag which means fish. As we can see, the Assyrians decided to take the quite literal route of calling it as they saw it. Most depictions we have of this god include a colorful bottom half of a fish and a top half of a man. Yes, it would seem they worshipped a merman. But dont let the silly imagery fool you. This idol caused many nations, including Israel, to turn away from the Lord.
According to the mythology of Dagon, Dagon was the father of Baal. Many of us will recognize the name Baal from either Sunday school classes, or a simple perusal through the Old Testament. Other nations worshipped Baal and caused Israel to stumble by having the nation incorporate the practices into their daily lives.
Many polytheistic nations had different purposes for each god. Dagon took charge of crop fertility. Dagan can also mean grain. We know Philistia bordered the Mediterranean, as did the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires , so it would make sense as to why they would craft their god after a fish. As fishing remained an important part of their lifestyle.
Dagon In The Bible: The Fish God
Dagon was often depicted as having the torso of a man and a tail of a fish. Yup, a merman. Here are a couple of pictures
He was chiefly known as a god of fertility and reproductive power. Fish can multiply at quick rates. For example, the gray grouper can produce 340 million eggs in one season. Thats insane!
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The Philistines And The God In The Hands Of God
1 Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4 But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on 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 on the threshold only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
While The Israelite Army Was Defeated In Battle Their God With No Army Brought The Enemy To Its Knees
But when they rose early on the next morning,behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on theground before the ark of the LORD.
Though the Philistines had never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, they knew enough about the God of their enemy to be afraid. After a sharp repulse, rather than retreating from the field of battle, the Israelites sent men to Shiloh to fetch back their secret weapon, the ark of the covenant. Inside this golden chest, a container so holy even the priests of the Almighty dared not touch it, were the stone tablets on which the fingertip of God had inscribed his law. Despite the recent defeat, when Hophni and Phineas, the unreliable sons of the high priest Eli, arrived in camp with the ark, a cry of triumph filled the air. It was loud enough to shake the earth, the story says, and to shake Philistine confidence, too.
They knew all about the Hebrew God, how hed freed his people from Egyptian bondage through terrible plagues. Smiting the Israelites was one thing. Smiting them under the very nose of their God was something else entirely. Sensing fear in the ranks, the Philistine leaders admonished their soldiers to be men and fight.
Fight they did, with disastrous results for Israel. Thirty thousand fell in the battle, including Hophni and Phineas. The Philistines captured the ark and took it back to Ashdodone more trophy to deposit in the temple of their own god, Dagon.
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In the temple of Dagon, strange things began to happen.
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Is The God Dagon Mentioned In The Bible
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Dagon was the principal pagan deity in the ancient Philistine temples. Some believe that the word translated Dagon is related to the Hebrew word dag, meaning fish, and that the god was shaped like a man above the waist, and like a fish below. Others think that the name Dagon is derived from dagan, meaning corn, and therefore, the Philistine deity was a corn god representing fertility.
The Israelites defeated before the Philistines
The god Dagon is mentioned in 1 Samuel 4. In this chapter, we read that Israel felt that if they take the ark of the covenant of the LORD to war with them against the Philistines, they will win. But because of their apostasy, Gods protective power was withdrawn from them and they were defeated. So, the Philistines triumphed over Israel and captured the ark of God . But, in reverence, they didnt uncover the ark nor looked inside it.
Dagon falls before the Ark twice
The Philistines placed the Ark in the house of Dagon in Ashdod. And when the people arose the second morning, they found Dagon, fallen on its face before the ark of the LORD. So, they set it in its place. Again, the next morning, Dagon was fallen on its face before the Ark. But this time its head and both the palms of its hands were broken . Even though God had shown the Philistine lords His miraculous power over their false god, their pride prohibited them from believing in Him.
In Biblical Texts And Commentaries
In the , Dagon is particularly the god of the , with temples at Beth-dagon in the territory of the tribe of Asher and in the Philistine cities of and Ashdod .
According to , the temple of Dagon in Gaza was destroyed by as his final act. The account in 1 Samuel 5.27 relates how the of was captured by the Philistines and taken to Dagon’s temple in Ashdod.
There was also a place known as Beth-Dagon in the territory of the . mentions a place named Dagon north of . Saint mentions a place called Caferdago between Diospolis and Jamnia. There is also a modern Beit Dejan south-east of Nablus. Some of these names, however, may have to do with simple grain production rather than the god Dagon himself.
Rabbinical tradition holds that the warrior was a devotee of Dagon. The same tradition holds that it was Goliath who captured the Ark of the Covenant as described in 1 Samuel 5, above. Goliath had the image of Dagon engraved on his chest and invoked this deity in his taunts against Israel and prior to his death.
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What Does The Bible Say About Baal
No doubt, we cant cover the breadth of verses on Baal here, but we should make a note that Baal becomes a big player in the book of Judges and during the time of the kings when Israel appears to succumb most to the foreign pantheons.
For instance, Hezekiahs son rebuilds the shrines to Baal and the Canaanite goddess Asherah that Hezekiah had torn down:
He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them .
And one of the most famous instances of Israel going head to head with the prophets of Baal comes from 1 Kings 18. In this chapter, the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal have a show-down to prove the power of their God and gods.
Baal remains silent during the exchange, whereas God showers a sopping wet altar with fire. All 450 prophets of Baal do not escape the slaughter that takes place after that.
In short, Scripture has nothing positive to say about Baal. Most often, it condemns Baal worship, and any example of Israel going after Baal leads to their loss of direction, and ultimately, scattering at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
What Can We Learn From This Story
Nothing having to do with the holiness of God is to be taken for granted nor treated with anything but reverence. The Philistines learned this the hard way and are no longer in existence as a people.
How now shall we learn to reverence the things of God and bow to His omnipotence? God is God, period, and He will not be mocked .
Addressing the nations in Psalm 2:4, the psalmist says, He who sits in heaven laughs the Lord holds them in derision.
Psalm 37:13 speaks of nations who hold idols above the Lord. He laughs at the wicked for He knows His day is coming.
No nation can rise above the power of God. Psalm 59:8 states the LORD laughs at them and holds all the nations in derision.
As we ponder how the image of Dagon fell over, thats how God pushes all lies asidelies created that exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men and birds and animals and creeping things . With a breath God created the heavens and the earth, and with a breath He will vanquish His foes.
If we remain unmoved and unwilling to surrender all to Him, God will give us up to dishonorable passions . Idols, whatever they be will never, can never sustain us. Its only in surrender to Jesus, the Way and the Truth and the Life that we will live a life free from lies.
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Why Was Dagon Worshipped
The worship of Dagon is quite evident in ancient Palestine. He was, of course, the foremost deity in the cities of Azotus, Gaza, and Ashkelon. The Philistines depended on Dagon for success in war and they offered various sacrifices for his favor.
A Brief Review And Overview
It may appear to the Israelites and to the Philistines that God is now being held hostage by Israels enemies. Israel has been defeated in an initial battle with the Philistines, suffering the loss of about 4,000 lives . The Israelites are wondering how their God could allow them to suffer this defeat, concluding that it is because they did not take the Ark of God into battle with them. Like a large good luck charm, they believe the presence of the Ark will make the difference. Confidently, the Israelites commence fighting. Fearfully, the Philistines rise to the challenge, dreading that it might mean death or defeat for them. Instead, it leads to an even greater defeat for the Israelites. Our text tells us that 30,000 foot soldiers are killed, along with the two priests, Hophni and Phinehas. When Eli learns that his sons are dead and that the Ark has been captured, he falls from his seat, breaking his neck and dying when he falls. He is followed in death by his daughter-in-law as she gives birth to the son she names Ichabod , in light of the Ark being taken.
If only from a literary point of view, the account of 1 Samuel 5-7 is fascinating. Beyond this, the theological truths and practical lessons are such that we will do well to give much thought to this text. Let us look to Gods Spirit to guide us to the truth in this text, for our good and His glory.
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A Brief History Of Baal
If anyone could get an award for Having the Worst Neighbors it would most likely go to the ancient Israelites. It seemed they couldnt border a single person who didnt try to destroy them or convince them to worship their own gods.
And that happened with the Canaanites and Baal.
Archeological excavations have dated information about Baal back as far as the second millennium BC, and the spread of Baal worship caught fire in Egypt in 1400 BC. But it could have existed long before that, when God established the law, including laws against eating pork, since pig slaughter and sacrifice was a hallmark of Baal worship.
Baal worship also included, at times, child sacrifice, which we see some Israelite kings engaging with later on.
Despite Gods efforts to dissuade them, the Israelites engaged with the Canaanite culture a little too much and adopted their practices, including Baal worship.
Even as the Canaanite religion waned, Baal took on a new role as Zeus in the Ancient Greek pantheon. Not only do the Jews have to deal with the abomination of Zeus and Antiochus Epiphanes IV , but the Greek pantheon later gets repeated in the Roman pantheon, and practices from both the Greeks and Romans still exist today.