What does 1 Samuel 5:2 mean?
ESV: Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon.
NIV: Then they carried the ark into Dagon's temple and set it beside Dagon.
NASB: Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon, and placed it beside Dagon.
CSB: brought it into the temple of Dagon and placed it next to his statue.
NLT: They carried the Ark of God into the temple of Dagon and placed it beside an idol of Dagon.
KJV: When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.
Verse Commentary:
A frequent practice during this era was for victorious nations to take idols and religious statues from conquered enemies. They would be brought home as more than simple trophies of battle. In that time, every nation claimed some relationship with one or a pantheon of gods. Sometimes, specific groups within a culture were favored by different deities. Battles were thought to be won and lost by the gods of those who served them. Capturing the religious icons of an enemy symbolized the defeat of their gods.

The Philistines had taken a god known as Dagon for their own, though it was worshiped in other places in one form or another. Some scholars suggest Dagon was a god of fish, grain, or clouds. Others are not certain; Dagon's early imagery seem connected to the sea, yet the Philistines themselves were not seafarers. The Philistines had a temple to Dagon in Ashdod, and that is where they brought the ark of the covenant of Israel's God.

The Philistines set the ark next to a large statue of Dagon in his temple. This was meant to show that Dagon had defeated Yahweh, the God of Israel, by defeating Yahweh's people in battle. From the Philistines' perspective, placing the ark next to Dagon's stature implied that Yahweh was inferior to Dagon; even that the "god" of Israel was submissive to the god of the Philistines.
Verse Context:
First Samuel 5:1–6 describes the arrogance of the Philistines as they place the captured ark of the Lord in the temple of their false god, Dagon. That arrogance is followed by dread: the following morning, the Dagon idol is found face down before the ark. The idol is set back in place, only to fall into the same position overnight, this time with its head and hands cut off and laying on the temple's threshold. The following passage details a wave of tumors and terror among the Philistines, as they move the ark while attempting to halt the plague.
Chapter Summary:
The captured ark of the Lord is placed in the temple of Dagon. On consecutive nights, the Dagon idol is found on the floor, face down before the ark. On the second night, its head and hands are removed. The Lord sends a plague of terror and tumors on the people of Ashdod. The ark is sent to Gath and then Ekron, where the suffering grows even more intense. Some men in Ekron die from sheer panic, and the rest are struck with tumors. The people cry out to send the ark away, back to the Israelites.
Chapter Context:
In the prior chapter, Israel lost badly in battle against the Philistines, who even captured the ark of the covenant. First Samuel 5 dispels any suspicion that the Israelites' defeat means the god of the Philistines is more powerful than the Lord. In Ashdod, the idol of the god Dagon is supernaturally humiliated in its own temple. A plague of terror and tumors follows, first in Ashdod and then in Gath and Ekron as the ark is moved closer and closer to Jerusalem. The people of Ekron cry out for their leaders to send it back to the Israelites. Chapter 6 details their plan to be free from the ark and God's wrath.
Book Summary:
First Samuel introduces the key figures who led Israel after the era of the judges. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel were originally part of a single text, split in certain translations shortly before the birth of Christ. Some of the Bible’s most famous characters are depicted in this book. These including the prophet Samuel, Israel’s first king, Saul, her greatest king, David, and other famous names such as Goliath and Jonathan. By the end of this book, Saul has fallen; the book of 2 Samuel begins with David’s ascension to the throne.
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