1 Samuel 5:1. Ashdod, afterwards called Azotus. Acts 8:40.
1 Samuel 5:2. The ark—and set it by Dagon. See 10:6; 16:23. Some make Dagon to be the same as Nereid, Triton, and the Syrens. Virgil, in several places, speaks of the spoiling of the temples as a great calamity. Æneid. 7. It is a custom of high antiquity to deposit in temples the trophies taken in war, and latterly in churches. During the late war with France we had many flags and standards suspended in St. Paul’s Cathedral, at Whitehall, &c.
1 Samuel 5:4. Only the stump. Hebrew, the dagon, the lower part of a fish, which gave the name to the idol: the superior formations were those of a woman.
1 Samuel 5:6. The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them. The LXX, and the Vulgate, both contain the following addition to this verse. And the towns and fields throughout that region were broken up, and mice were produced, and the confusion of a great mortality prevailed in the city. This explains, probably, 1 Samuel 6:4, where golden mice are mentioned as part of the trespass offering sent up with the ark.
1 Samuel 5:12. Emerods. The critics here generally say boils, or sores. The silver images, 1 Samuel 6:5, would seem to intimate some species of vermin. Yet the critics in Poole’s Synopsis, and Stockius, contend that piles and dysenteries are here understood; diseases frequent in camps and wars from excessive fatigues.
We have just seen the scattered fragments of Israel return; but unaccompanied by either ark or priest. The ear of him that heard tingled, and I-chabod was written on every countenance. On the contrary, Philistia shouted for joy; and more for the capture of the ark and its golden cherubim, than for the defeat of Israel; because they could now profanely boast that Dagon had vanquished Israel’s God, who had filled Egypt with the terrors of his name. But the war of the ark soon taught them better wisdom. Twice did Dagon fall before it; and twice were its priests obliged to aid and assist their god to recover his station; the latter time they could not dissemble its dismembered body. The Lord, who had taken vengeance on the gods of Egypt, on the gods of Canaan, and now on Dagon, next took vengeance on the people. Many in Ashdod sickened of the pestilence, and were consumed: and while these calamities prevailed in the city, vermin consumed the increase of the field. At length the people, afflicted on every side, not daring to retain the cause of all their calamities, sent away the ark to Gath. But here, as in Ashdod, in Askelon, and Ekron, the plagues of heaven were repeated.
From the greatness and the variety of punishments inflicted on the cities and lands of the Philistines, we must infer the greatness of their sin. They knew, they well knew the character of the God of Israel, and the miracles his arm had wrought, both in Egypt and in the land of Canaan. They ought therefore to have surrounded the ark with devotion, not with insults in the house of their idols. Hence also, as this ark and its covenant were figurative of Christ, of the gospel, and of eternal glory, the christian world should learn to reverence a religion revealed from heaven. Let us never in thought, word, or deed, offer the slightest insult to the living God, or to the word of truth which is the only ground of all our hope. Especially, let us beware of doing this when in company with the wicked. An insult in the house of Dagon, heaven will not overlook.
If religion should happen to be oppressed, as it now was in Israel; if as in our own age and nation, we find the gayer circles of society inclined to disregard sacred things; and the poor, from the example of the rich, taking a license which dishonours the christian name; or if, as has often been the case, we find God’s people in exile and affliction, let us beware that we never reproach them, nor flatter the enemies of the Lord; for he will avenge every indignity offered to his name. How low soever we may find the people of God, he has afflicted his sanctuary for its purification, and for the instruction of the world. Zion shall yet arise and shine in all the glory of his covenant and promises; and they who have despised his name shall be put to confusion.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 5". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany