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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Heb. Dagon', דָּגוֹן Sept. and Josephus, Δαγών ), the national god of the Philistines. Some have derived the name from דָּגָן, grain (Sanchoniathon, Fragm. ed. Orelli, p. 26, 32; Bochart, Hieroz. 1:381; Beyer, ad Seld. p. 285); but the derivation from דָּג, a fish, with the diminutive (i.e. endearing) termination on (Gesenius, Thes. p. 320), is not only more in accordance with the principles of Hebrew derivation (Ewald, Heb. Gram. § 312, 341), but is most decisively established by the terms employed in 1 Samuel 5:4. It is there said that Dagon fell to the earth before the ark, that his head and the palms of his hands were broken off, and that "only Dagon was left of him."

If Dagon is derived from דָּג, fish, and if the idol, as there is every reason to believe, had the body of a fish with the head and hands of a man, it is easy to understand why a part of the statue is there called Dagon in contradistinction to the head and hands, but not otherwise. That such was the figure of the idol is asserted by Kimchi, and is admitted by most modern scholars. It is also supported by the analogies of other fish deities among the Syro-Arabians (see Herod. 2:72; AElian, Anim. 10:46; 12:2; Xenoph. Anab. 1:4, 9; Strabo, 17:812; Diod. Sic. 2:4; Cicero, Nat. Deor. 3, 15; comp. Miunter, Rel. d. Karth. p. 102; Movers, Phoniz. p. 491 sq.; Creuzer, Symbol. 2:78 sq.). Besides the ATERGATIS (q.v.) of the Syrians (which was the female counterpart of Dagon), the Babylonians had a tradition, according to Berosus (Berosi Quae supersunt, ed. Richter, p. 48, 54), that at the very beginning of their history an extraordinary being, called Oannes, having the entire body of a fish, but the head, hands, feet, and voice of a man, emerged from the Erythraean Sea, appeared in Babylonia, and taught the rude inhabitants the use of letters, arts, religion, law, and agriculture; that, after long intervals between, other similar beings appeared and communicated the same precious lore in detail, and that the last of these was called Odakon (᾿Ωδάκων ). Selden is persuaded that this Odakon is the Philistine god Dagon (De Diis Syris, p. 265), a conclusion in which Niebuhr coincides (Gesch. Assurs, p. 477), but from which Rawlinson dissents (Herod. 1:482). The resemblance between Dagon and Atergatis (q. d. אִדִּיר and דָּג, great fish) or Derketo (which is but an abbreviation of the last name) is so great in other respects that Selden accounts for the only important difference between them that of sex by referring to the androgynous nature of many heathen gods. It is certain, however, that the Hebrew text, the Sept., and Philo Byblius (in Euseb. Praep. Ev. 1:10) make Dagon masculine ( Δαγών ). The fish-like form was a natural emblem of fruitfulness, and as such was likely to be adopted by seafaring tribes in the representation of their gods. (See Gotze, Dissert. de ἰχθυολατρείᾷ, Lips. 1723.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Dagon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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Dagonel, Pierre
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