DAGON idA'Ron), daw-gohn'),is the name of a national god of the Philistines at Gaza and Ashdod (Judg. xvi.23; t Sam. v:2-7 sq.; t Chron. x:10.
As to the meaning of the name, Philo Byblius assumed the word to be derived from dagan, corn. This derivation is admitted by Bochart, who gues that the fields of the Philistines were laid waste by mice, in order to show that Dagon was not the true god of agriculture, as he was though; to be: and by Beyer, who makes the extraordinary assertion that we may conclude, from the ing of the five golden mice (to the God of Israel! I Sam. 6:4). that golden mice were offered to flagon as an acknowledgment of his care in freeing their fields from mice. Each of these arguments is open to the objection that the five golden piles—which were sent at the same time, and which, if they bore any reference to Dagon, would possibly not be reconcilable with his character as the god of agriculture—are here altogether disregarded: yet it is quite dent that no conclusions can be legitimately drawn from the one unless they apply with equal force to the other. There arc much better arguments, however, for the other etymology, which deduces the same from dag, fish, with the ending el', (Ewald, I lebr. Grant, sec. This derivation is not only more in ance with the principles of formation, hut it is most decisively established by the terms employed in t Sam. v :4 It is there said that Dagon fell to the earth before the ark, that his head and the palms of his hands were broken off, and that 'only Pagon was left On hint.' If Dagon is rived from dag, fish, and if the idol, as there is every reason to believe,had the body of a fish with the head and hands of a man, it is easy to un derstand why a part of the statue is there called Dugan in contradistinction to the head and hands; but not otherwise. That such was the figure of
the idol is asserted by Kimchi, and is admitted by most modern scholars. It is also supported by the analogies of other fish deities among the Syro Arabians. Besides the Atergatis of the Syrians, the Babylonians had a tradition, according to Berosus (Berosi Qua• surersunt, ed. Richter, p. 48, 54), that at the very beginning of their history an extraordinary being, called Oannes, having the entire body of a fish, but the head, hands. feet and voice of a man. emerged from the Erythr:ran sea, appeared in Babylonia, and taught the rude inhabi tants the use of letters, arts, religion, law, and agriculture; that, after long intervals between, other similar beings appeared and communicated the same precious lore in detail, and that the last of these was called Odakon ellactectoo. Selden is persuaded that this Odakon is the Philistine god Dagon (De Diis Syris. p. 265). The resemblance between Dagon and Atergatis, or Derketo, is so great in other respects that Selden accounts for the only important difference between them—that of sex—by referring to the androgynous nature of many heathen gods. It is certain, however, that the Hebrew text, the Sept., and Philo Byblius, make Dagon masculine.
Apparently, the worship of Dagon among the Philistines was conducted with a highly developed and technical ritual. We may infer this from the elaborate discussions and arrangements for re turning the ark, as described in I Sam. v:6, the golden mice and golden tumors as a guilt-offer ing. the new cart, the new milch kine with their calves shut up at home.
The temple of Dagon at Ashdod was destroyed by Jonathan the brother of Judas the Maecahee, about the year B. C. 148 (1 Mace. x:84). J. N.