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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 But because of their apostasy, God’s protective power was withdrawn from them and they were defeated. So, the Philistines triumphed over Israel and captured the ark of God (1 Samuel 4:10). But, in reverence, they didn’t 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 (1 Samuel 5:3-4). Even though God had shown the Philistine lords His miraculous power over their false god, their pride prohibited them from believing in Him.
God punishes the philistines
After seven months of having the Ark in the land of Philistia, the inhabitants of the three cities, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron (1 Samuel 5:5–12) were plagued by God with tumors. Also the Lord infested their land with mice and destroyed their crops (1 Samuel 5: 5). Among ancients the mouse was the symbol of pestilence as seen in Egyptian hieroglyphics. So, in their deep trouble, the Philistine lords asked the advice of their priests regarding what should they do with the Ark of the Covenant.
The Philistines return the Ark to Israel
The priests advised that they should return the Ark to the land of Israel with gifts. And they are to ask for forgiveness from the God and to give proof that He had brought the plagues. The first gift was a trespass offering of five golden emerods (tumors) and five golden mice. And the priests warned the people not to rebel against the Lord as the Egyptians had done. For continued rebellion to the will of God would only bring more suffering ( 1 Samuel 6:6).
The priests also instructed that the ark of the LORD should be placed on a new cart led by two milking cows that have never been yoked before (v.7,8). For they believed that if the God wanted His ark returned, He would have to make the cows leave their calves voluntarily and walk without human guidance. And, thus, the ark of the covenant was returned. And the cows headed straight towards Beth Shemesh without turning aside (v. 12). When the ark arrived to the Land of Israel, the Levites rejoiced and offered sacrifices of praise to the Lord (v. 16).
In His service,