Dagon (1 Samuel 5)

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Dagon was one of the most widely worshiped deities in the ancient Near East:

  • Sargon the Great (third millennium B.C.) worshipped Dagon after his military victories in Mesopotamia.
  • The cities of Mari, Tuttul and Teqra contained temples to Dagon, and he is well attested in the Mari archives (second millennium B.C.)
  • Although Dagon is almost absent from Ugarit’s mythology, he possibly had a temple there since he is mentioned in Ugarit’s many offering lists.
  • In the Holy Land Dagon appears as a principal Philistine god, with temples at Gaza (Judges 16:23), Beth Shan (1 Chronicles 10:10) and Ashdod, where his temple has possibly been identified by archaeologists.
  • Sadly, Dagon-worship even influenced Israel (Joshua 15:41 mentions Beth Dagon).

Unfortunately, the meaning of Dagon’s name and his specific function are unclear. Some connect his name with wheat, fish or cloudy, due to similarities between the name and these words in Semitic languages. Dagon is also at times associated with military power. In 1 Samuel 5 the Philistines credited Dagon with their military victory over Israel (and thus over Yahweh). Ironically, it was Dagon who was subsequently forced to submit before Yahweh’s ark. Worship of Dagon died out during the intertestamental period (a temple of Dagon is mentioned in 1 Maccabees 10:84).

(See also “Samson and the temple of Dagon” under Judges 16)


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