1 Samuel 5


The Philistines set up the ark in the temple of Dagon at Ashdod;

whose image is found next morning prostrate before it, broken

in pieces, 1-5.

The Philistines are also smitten with a sore disease, 6.

The people of Ashdod refuse to let the ark stay with them; and

the lords of the Philistines, with whom they consulted, order

it to be carried to Gath, 7, 8.

They do so; and God smites the inhabitants of that city, young

and old, with the same disease, 9.

They send the ark to Ekron, and a heavy destruction falls upon

that city, and they resolve to send it back to Shiloh, 10-12.


Verse 1. Brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod.] Ashdod or

Azotus was one of the five satrapies or lordships of the


Verse 2. The house of Dagon] On this idol, which was supposed to

be partly in a human form, and partly in that of a fish, see the

note on Jud 16:23. Some think that this idol was the same with

Dirceto, Attergatis, the Venus of Askelon, and the Moon.-See

Calmet's Dissertation on the gods of the Philistines.

The motive which induced the Philistines to set up the ark in

the temple of Dagon, may be easily ascertained. It was customary,

in all nations, to dedicate the spoils taken from an enemy to

their gods: 1. As a gratitude-offering for the help which they

supposed them to have furnished; and, 2. As a proof that their

gods, i.e., the gods of the conquerors, were more powerful than

those of the conquered. It was, no doubt, to insult the God of

Israel, and to insult and terrify his people, that they placed his

ark in the temple of Dagon. When the Philistines had conquered

Saul, they hung up his armour in the temple of Ashtaroth,

1Sa 31:10. And when David slew Goliath, he laid up his sword in

the tabernacle of the Lord, 1Sa 21:8, 9. We have the remains of

this custom in the depositing of colours, standards, &c., taken

from an enemy, in our churches; but whether this may be called

superstition or a religious act, is hard to say. If the battle

were the Lord's, which few battles are, the dedication might be


Verse 3. They of Ashdod arose early on the morrow] Probably to

perform some act of their superstition in the temple of their


Dagon was fallen upon his face] This was one proof, which they

little expected, of the superiority of the God of Israel.

Set him in his place again.] Supposing his fall might have been

merely accidental.

Verse 4. Only the stump of Dagon was left] Literally, Only

dagon (i.e., the little fish) was left. It has already been

remarked that Dagon had the head, arms and hands of a man or

woman, and that the rest of the idol was in the form of a fish, to

which Horace is supposed to make allusion in the following words:-

Desinat in piscem mulisr formosa superne

"The upper part resembling a beautiful woman; the lower, a


All that was human in his form was broken off from what

resembled a fish. Here was a proof that the affair was not

accidental; and these proofs of God's power and authority prepared

the way for his judgments.

Verse 5. Tread on the threshold] Because the arms, &c., of Dagon

were broken off by his fall on the threshold, the threshold became

sacred, and neither his priests nor worshippers ever tread on the

threshold. Thus it was ordered, in the Divine providence, that, by

a religious custom of their own, they should perpetuate their

disgrace, the insufficiency of their worship, and the superiority

of the God of Israel.

It is supposed that the idolatrous Israelites, in the time of

Zephaniah, had adopted the worship of Dagon: and that in this

sense 1Sa 1:9 is to be understood:

In the same day will I punish all those who leap upon the

threshold. In order to go into such temples, and not tread on the

threshold, the people must step or leap over them; and in this way

the above passage may be understood. Indeed, the thresholds of the

temples in various places were deemed so sacred that the people

were accustomed to fall down and kiss them. When Christianity

became corrupted, this adoration of the thresholds of the churches

took place.

Verse 6. Smote them with emerods] The word apholim, from

aphal, to be elevated, probably means the disease called the

bleeding piles, which appears to have been accompanied with

dysentery, bloody flux, and ulcerated anus.

The Vulgate says, Et percussit in secretiori parte natium; "And

he smote them in the more secret parts of their posteriors." To

this the psalmist is supposed to refer, Ps 78:66,

He smote all his enemies in the HINDER PARTS; he put them to a

perpetual reproach. Some copies of the Septuagint have εξεζεσεν

αυτοιςειςταςναυς, "he inflamed them in their ships:" other

copies have εισταςεδρας, "in their posteriors." The Syriac is

the same. The Arabic enlarges: "He smote them in their posteriors,

so that they were affected with a dysenteria." I suppose them to

have been affected with enlargements of the haemorrhoidal veins,

from which there came frequent discharges of blood.

The Septuagint and Vulgate make a very material addition to

this verse: καιμεσοντηςχωραςαυτηςανεφυεσινμυεςκαιεγενετο

συγχυσιςθανατουμεγαληεντηπολει; Et ebullierunt villae et agri

in medio regionis illius; et nati sunt mures, et facta est

confusio mortis magnae in civitate: "And the cities and fields of

all that region burst up, and mice were produced, and there was

the confusion of a great death in the city." This addition

Houbigant contends was originally in the Hebrew text; and this

gives us the reason why golden mice were sent, as well as the

images of the emerods, (1Sa 6:4,) when the ark was restored.

Verse 7. His hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god.] Here

the end was completely answered: they now saw that they had not

prevailed against Israel, on account of their god being more

powerful than Jehovah; and they now feel how easily this God can

confound and destroy their whole nation.

Verse 8. The lords of the Philistines] The word sarney,

which we translate lords, is rendered by the Chaldee

tureney, tyrants. The Syriac is the same. By the Vulgate and

Septuagint, satrapae, satraps. Palestine was divided into five

satrapies: Ashdod, Ekron, Askelon, Gath, and Gaza. See

Jos 13:8. But these were all federates and acted under one

general government, for which they assembled in council.

Let the ark-be carried about] They probably thought that their

affliction rose from some natural cause; and therefore they wished

the ark to be carried about from place to place, to see what the

effects might be. If they found the same evil produced wherever it

came, then they must conclude that it was a judgment from the God

of Israel.

Verse 9. The hand of the Lord was against the city] As it was at

Ashdod, so it was at Gath. The Vulgate says, Et

computrescebant prominenter extales eorum; which conveys the idea

of a bloody flux, dysentery, and ulcerated anus; and it adds, what

is not to be found in the Hebrew text, nor many of the versions,

except some traces in the Septuagint, Et fecerunt sibi sedes

pelliceas, "And they made unto themselves seats of skins;" for

the purpose of sitting more easy, on account of the malady already


Verse 11. Send away the ark] It appears that it had been

received at Ekron, for there was a deadly destruction through the

whole city. They therefore concluded that the ark should be sent

back to Shiloh.

Verse 12. The men that died not] Some it seems were smitten with

instant death; others with the haemorrhoids, and there was a

universal consternation; and the cry of the city went up to

heaven-it was an exceeding great cry.

IT does not appear that the Philistines had any correct

knowledge of the nature of Jehovah, though they seemed to

acknowledge his supremacy. They imagined that every country,

district, mountain, and valley, had its peculiar deity; who, in

its place, was supreme over all others. They thought therefore to

appease Jehovah by sending him back his ark or shrine: and, in

order to be redeemed from their plagues, they send golden mice and

emerods as telesms, probably made under some particular

configurations of the planets. See Clarke on 1Sa 6:21.

Copyright information for Clarke