Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together
The five lords, with their friends, not directly upon Samson's being taken and committed to prison, but some time after; perhaps some months:
for to get a great sacrifice to Dagon their god;
in later times their god was called Marnas F15, which signifies the lord of men, but now Dagon; who also had a temple at Ashdod, another of the five principalities of the Philistines, ( 1 Samuel 5:2 ) and seems to have been at this time their common and chief deity: according to Jarchi in the place referred to, it was in the form of a fish, for "dag" in Hebrew signifies a fish; and Kimchi on the same place says, that from its navel upwards it was in the form of a man, and from thence downwards in the form of a fish F16; and Diodorus Siculus F17 relates that Derceto, a goddess of Ashkelon, another of the five principalities of Palestine, its face was human, and the other part of its body resembled a fish; and the same Lucian says of the Syrian goddess; and Cicero F18 testifies, that the Syrians worshipped a fish, and Porphyry F19 says they will not eat any; and Gaza being a maritime city, a sea port, this might be their sea god in this form: but Ben Gersom in the above place says, it was in the form of a man; and Sanchoniatho F20 making mention of Dagan, a brother of Saturn, Philo Byblius, who translated his history into Greek, interprets it by Siton, which signifies corn, deriving it from Dagan, which so signifies; as if this deity presided over corn, as Ceres in other nations, and Jupiter Frumentarius, or Aratrius; yea, he says he invented corn and the plough; however this be, the Philistine princes met together to sacrifice to him, not a common offering, but a great sacrifice. It is very probable that this was a public festival of the Philistines, as Josephus F21 says, an anniversary one; and perhaps was held in a more grand manner on the present occasion, since it is added,
and to rejoice: for they said, our god hath delivered Samson our enemy
into our hands;
for though Samson's harlot had done it, and they had paid her for it, yet they attribute it to their god, such was their blindness and stupidity; and yet this may shame us believers in the true God, who are so backward to ascribe to him the great things he does for us, when such Heathens were so forward to give glory to their false deities, without any foundation for it.
F15 Hicron. in Isa. xvii. fol. 39. K.
F16 So David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 18. 3. & Milton in his Paradise Lost, l. 1. v. 462, 463. "Dagon his name; sea monster! upward man, And downward fish."
F17 Bibliothec. l. 2. p. 92. & Ovid Metamorph. l. 4. Fab. 1. v. 44
F18 De Natura Deorum, l. 3.
F19 De Abstinentia, l. 2. sect. 6.
F20 Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 1. p. 36, 37.
F21 Antiqu. l. 5. c. 8. sect. 12.