In this chapter we have a piece of history, not of Israel, but of the Philistines, because the symbol of God’s presence is there. In picture it says that God’s attention is in the place where His Son is seen. This does not mean that God has given up His people forever or no longer loves them.
God does not relinquish His honor, although sometimes it seems so. When God acts like this, it always turns out that He has an intention. The result is a greater glorification of His Name than would otherwise have been possible. Thus we see that the Lord Jesus is glorified to His enemies precisely in the deliverance to His enemies and that in that therein God is “glorified in Him” (Jn 13:3131Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus *said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him;).
In their folly the Philistines place the ark by their god Dagon. God and the idols cannot go together (2Cor 6:14-16a14Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.). God does not allow Himself to be mocked, but rather mocks Himself with the idol. The Philistines make an unsuspecting acquaintance with God. They think they have Him in their power, but He shows that they are in His power.
Dagon is probably a fish-god, half man, half fish. He represent an idol of insight (man) and crowd (fish). This is also the idol in Christianity. The religious man worships the human mind and large numbers. There is the reasoning that something can’t be wrong if many people do it.
The Philistines see conquering the ark not only as a victory over Israel, but also over the God of Israel. Gentiles multiply their gods, they add gods to the ones they already have. Israel’s actions are even worse, because they exchange the true God for other gods.
The Philistines want to honor their god and belittle the God of Israel, but God maintains His majesty. He shows His presence and majesty above the god of the Philistines. It is no longer a matter between God and His people, nor between God and the Philistines, but between God and the idols. God’s presence judges the false gods (Jer 50:22“Declare and proclaim among the nations.
Proclaim it and lift up a standard.
Do not conceal [it but] say,
‘Babylon has been captured,
Bel has been put to shame, Marduk has been shattered;
Her images have been put to shame, her idols have been shattered.’
; Isa 48:55Therefore I declared [them] to you long ago,
Before they took place I proclaimed [them] to you,
So that you would not say, ‘My idol has done them,
And my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.’
If the people and/or priests wish to offer their god early the next morning, they find a god who has fallen down in worship before the God of Israel, as it were (cf. Psa 97:77Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
). They pretend it is an accident. Without further comment they lift up their god and put him up again. It is a god without power. Idols, made by human hands, must always be carried (Isa 46:1-21Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over;
Their images are [consigned] to the beasts and the cattle.
The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary [beast].
2They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.
). What a difference with the God of Israel, who carries His people (Isa 46:3-43“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
4Even to [your] old age I will be the same,
And even to [your] graying years I will bear [you]!
I have done [it], and I will carry [you];
And I will bear [you] and I will deliver [you].
). Isaiah impressively shows the contrast between the idols and God in the verses mentioned.
The Philistines learn nothing from the downfall of their god. The next night God breaks down the human characteristics. Only the bestial – as said Dagon is possibly a fish-man god – remains. In any case, this god is completely humiliated, both in his alleged intelligence – the head is cut off, what also speaks of authority, control – and in his alleged actions – the hands are cut off. The contentment between the cut-off hands of Dagon and “the hand of the LORD” (verses 6,9,116Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories.9After they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them.11They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there.) Who works things, is remarkable.
The consequence of the humiliation of their idol is an increase in their superstition. This is how blind is man who bends before idols. The custom they call respect is a lasting testimony to the powerlessness of their idol. Every time they step across the threshold, it is a reminder of their god’s downfall and of the exaltation of the God of Israel.
It is assumed, as a result of a verse in Zephaniah 1, that the idolatrous Israelites in the time of the prophet Zephaniah Dagon have accepted and worshiped as idol (Zep 1:9a9“And I will punish on that day all who leap on the [temple] threshold,
Who fill the house of their lord with violence and deceit.
). Stepping on the threshold means defilement. That’s why they step over it. Or one falls down for it and kisses the threshold. When Christianity became more and more corrupt, this worship of the threshold of the churches also took place. There have always been superstitious elements in Europe. The idols are accepted in roman-catholicism. It can be seen in the carrying of statues in processions. It is like carrying the trunk around.