1 Samuel 5:1. The Philistines took the ark of God — Abarbinel gives several reasons why God suffered the ark of his presence to fall into the hands of these uncircumcised heathen: 1st, The Israelites were such great sinners that they were unworthy of this symbol of the divine presence among them: 2d, The idolatry of Micah remained to this day in the land, therefore God fulfilled his threatening, Leviticus 26:19-31 : 3d, The sin of the priests highly provoked him to deliver up the ark, which was in their hands when they were killed: 4th, The Israelites greatly offended in carrying the ark into the battle without asking counsel of God: 5th, He resolved to demonstrate his power even among the enemies of Israel. And brought it from Eben-ezer — Where the Israelites were encamped before the battle, chap. 1 Samuel 4:1; to Ashdod — One of their chief cities, in which, as also at Gaza and Garb, some of the Anakims, the giants, remained till the time of David.
1 Samuel 5:2-3. They set it by Dagon — By way of reproach, as a spoil and trophy set there to the honour of Dagon, to whom, doubtless, they ascribed this victory. Behold Dagon was fallen upon his face — In a posture of the most humble adoration, which was prostration; as acknowledging the God of Israel to be above all gods. They (the priests of Dagon) took Dagon and set him in his place — Supposing his fall to be casual.
1 Samuel 5:4-5. Behold Dagon was fallen &c. — Which showed that his former fall was not by chance, but by the power of God, before whom he could not stand. The head of Dagon, and both his hands, were cut off — The head is the seat of wisdom; the hands the instruments of action; both are cut off, to show that he had neither wisdom nor strength to defend himself or his worshippers. Thus the priests, by concealing Dagon’s shame before, make it more evident and infamous. The stump — Hebrew, only Dagon; that is, saith Rabbi Kimchi, that part of it from which it was called Dagon, namely, the fishy part; for dag, in Hebrew, signifies a fish. Upon it — Upon the threshold; there the trunk abode in the place where it fell, but the head and hands were flung to distant places. Neither the priests tread on the threshold of Dagon — Out of reverence to it, looking upon it as a holy thing, by the touch of Dagon’s head and hands. So foolishly did they pervert the meaning of God, that instead of being convinced that Dagon was no god, they even honoured the threshold which his broken limbs had fallen upon! Unto this day — When this history was written, which, if written by Samuel toward the end of his life, was a sufficient ground for this expression.
1 Samuel 5:6. The hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod — Since they were so blind as not to see his hand in throwing down their god, he smote them with such sore plagues in their own bodies as made them sensible of his power, by destroying great numbers of them. With emerods — The piles, a most painful and distressing disorder. Ashdod, and the coasts thereof — Not only the people of the city, but of the villages belonging to it, were smitten with this plague.
1 Samuel 5:7-8. The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us — Now their eyes were opened to see that, though they had vanquished the Israelites, they could not stand before the God of Israel. Let the ark be carried to Gath — They seem to have been possessed with a superstitious conceit that there was something in the place which was offensive to the God of Israel, and therefore removed the ark from Ashdod, to which and its coasts they supposed the plague, for some particular reasons, was confined. Or they thought it had come upon them by chance, or for putting the ark into Dagon’s temple, which they resolved they would not do.
1 Samuel 5:9. They had emerods in their secret (or hidden) parts — That is, internally, in their hinder parts; which is the worst kind of emerods, as all physicians acknowledge, both because their pains are far more sharp than those of the other kind, and because the malady is more out of the reach of remedies.
1 Samuel 5:11-12. There was a deadly destruction through all the city — That is, in every city where the ark of God came, some were struck with the pestilence and died, and others lingered under intolerable pains, which made them cry out in an inexpressible manner. The cry of the city went up to heaven — A hyperbolical speech; things that are exceeding great, beyond expression, being often said to reach to heaven, Deuteronomy 1:28.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany