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Poole on 1 Samuel 5:3: Dagon Laid Prostrate before the Ark!

Verse 3:[1] And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was (Is. 19:1; 46:1, 2) fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and (Is. 46:7) set him in his place again.

[And when they had arisen at dawn] Question: Why were they awake so early? Response: Either, 1. To pray. For the Heathen also were offering prayers before daybreak to their Gods; Æneid 11, the victor was paying the vows of the Gods at first light. Or, 2. To give thanks to Dagon. Or, 3. To find out what befell their God from his nearness to the Ark. For the Heathen were imagining certain disagreements between the God of the different Nations. The Philistines had heard that the Gods of the Egyptians were crushed by the God of Israel; and they were dreading a similar misfortune for their Dagon from the Ark of God. Therefore, these, who were perhaps Priests, or princes, arose in the morning; and, as the Chaldean has it, they went before the men in Ashdod, that is, who had congregated there in order to give thanks; so that, if any harm had befallen Dagon, they might repair it, before it was published to the common people (Mendoza).

They of Ashdod, that is, 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.

[Behold, Dagon was lying prone on the earth, נֹפֵ֤ל לְפָנָיו֙ אַ֔רְצָה] He was lying collapsed with his face to the earth (Junius and Tremellius). Cast down upon (or, he had fallen upon [Pagnine, Septuagint]) his face (Jonathan, similarly the Syriac, Arabic). He was lying before it on the ground (Munster, Tigurinus). He was fallen upon his face upon the earth (Dutch, English). As if he were laid prostrate by the Ark, placed in subjection to it, and adoring it (Lapide, similarly Menochius). Kissing the earth, which the conquered do in the presence of their conqueror (Sanchez). Here, לְפָנָיו, to his face, is expounded as עַל פָּנָיו, upon his face (Drusius). Dagon did not flee completely from the Temple, but he was prostrate before the Ark: so that he might in a certain measure appear cast down and bound by its authority. Let it be additionally noted that the Ark triumphed over Dagon, 1. In Dagon’s own house. 2. While the Arke was appearing especially lowly, and Dagon especially sublime (Mendoza).

[And they restored him to his place] The Priests of Azotus did this, lest the people seeing should be offended by the ignominy of their Deity. Note here, 1. the wickedness of men: with Dagon fallen, the men of Azotus harden their necks against God. 2. The patience of God: for he immediately subverted Dagon, but left men untouched for repentance. 3. The majesty of the Ark: they restored Dagon, but they did not dare to cast the Ark down from its place (Mendoza).

Set him in his place again; supposing or pretending that his fall was wholly casual.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּשְׁכִּ֤מוּ אַשְׁדּוֹדִים֙ מִֽמָּחֳרָ֔ת וְהִנֵּ֣ה דָג֗וֹן נֹפֵ֤ל לְפָנָיו֙ אַ֔רְצָה לִפְנֵ֖י אֲר֣וֹן יְהוָ֑ה וַיִּקְחוּ֙ אֶת־דָּג֔וֹן וַיָּשִׁ֥בוּ אֹת֖וֹ לִמְקוֹמֽוֹ׃

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