5:2 Dagon. A prominent deity among the Philistines as well as in Mesopotamia, Syria, and Phoenicia from the middle of the third millennium b.c., Dagon was once thought to be a fish deity because of the similarity between the name Dagon and the Hebrew word for fish (dag). It now appears more likely that the name should be associated with the Hebrew word for grain (dagan), making Dagon an agricultural or fertility god. Dagon seems to have headed the Philistine pantheon (Judg. 16:23; 1 Chr. 10:10), which included the goddess Ashtoreth (31:8–10) and the god Baal-zebul (“Baal the prince”). Baal-zebul was worshiped at Ekron, and his name was intentionally distorted by the Israelites to Baal-zebub (“lord of the flies”; 2 Kin. 1:1–6, 16). The worship of Dagon is attested as late as the Maccabean period (second century b.c.; 1 Macc. 10:83, 84).
set it up beside Dagon. In the ancient Near East the victorious army would carry off the gods of the vanquished and deposit them in the temple of their own gods as a sign of the inferiority and subordination of the captured gods. Though not an idol, the ark of God was treated that way by the Philistines.