King Ptolemy VI sees the destruction at Azotus (1 Macc 11:4-11:7)

“When King Ptolemy approached Azotus, they showed him the burnt out temple of Dagon, Azotus, and its suburbs destroyed. The corpses were lying about. The charred bodies of those whom Jonathan had burned in the war had been piled in heaps along his route. They also told the king what Jonathan had done, to throw blame on him. However, the king kept silent. Jonathan met the king at Joppa with pomp. They greeted one another and spent the night there. Jonathan went with the king as far as the river called Eleutherus. Then he returned to Jerusalem.”

It was hard to tell what King Ptolemy of Egypt thought about the destruction at Azotus. There were dead bodies piled up all over the place. The temple of Dagon had been destroyed. They told the king that Jonathan had done all this. Jonathan then met the king at Joppa. They greeted each other and stayed 1 night together. The next day, Jonathan left the king at the River Eleutherus, which is north of Tripolis, to return to Jerusalem.

Jonathan with Simon wins at Azotus (1 Macc 10:82-10:85)

“Then Simon brought forward his force. He engaged the phalanx in battle because the cavalry was exhausted. They were overwhelmed by him and fled as the cavalry was dispersed in the plain. They fled to Azotus. There they entered Beth-dagon, the temple of their idol, for safety. But Jonathan burned Azotus and the surrounding towns and plundered them. He burned with fire the temple of Dagon and those who had taken refuge in it. The number of those who fell by the sword, with those burned alive, came to eight thousand men.”

Simon then brought his reserve forces into play. They overwhelmed the army of Apollonius as it dispersed. The troops of Apollonius fled to the city of Azotus and to their temple of Dagon. The mention of Dagon at Azotus or Ashdod goes back to Samson in Judges, chapter 16 and the Philistines with the Ark of the Covenant in 1 Samuel, chapter 5. Jonathan was not very tolerant of other religious beliefs so he burned down the temple with the refugees inside it. Altogether he wiped out 8,000 people either with the sword or by burning.

The fate of King Saul’s body (1 Chr 10:8-10:10)

“The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the dead, they found King Saul and his sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They stripped him and took his head and his armor. They sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon.”

Once again, this is almost exactly the same as 1 Samuel, chapter 31, except for the last sentence about what happened to the head of King Saul. The next day, the Philistines confirmed the death of King Saul and his 3 sons. They cut off King Saul’s head and took his armor. They sent news to all the Philistine temples and all the people. Here, like in Samuel, the armor is put in a temple. However, here it says that his head was in the temple of Dagon. Dagon was the national god of the Philistines, represented with the face and hands and upper part of a man, and the tail of a fish. The 2 most famous Dagon temples were in Gaza and Ashdod. In 1 Samuel, it said that the body of King Saul was fastened to a wall in Bethshan.

Vengeance and the death of Samson (Judg 16:23-16:31)

“Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They were rejoicing as they said. ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand!’ When the people saw him, they praised their god. They said.

‘Our god has given our enemy into our hand,

The ravager of our country,

Who has killed many of us.’”

Dagon, the national god of the Philistines, had the face and hands of a man, but with the tail of a fish, who had been adapted from the Canaanites. There were temples to Dagon in Gaza and Ashdod. The Philistines finally had their mortal enemy, Samson.  

“When their hearts were merry, they said. ‘Call Samson, let him entertain us.’ So they called Samson out of the prison. He performed for them. They made him stand between the pillars. Samson said to the attendant who held him by the hand. ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, so that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there. On the roof there were about three thousand men and women who looked on while Samson performed.”

They brought out Samson to entertain all the lords of the Philistines with about 3,000 other men and women on the roof looking on. Samson wanted to lean on the pillars since he was blind. His hair was growing back, so that he was getting stronger.

“Then Samson called to Yahweh. ‘O Yahweh God, remember me. Strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.’ Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested. He leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. Then Samson said. ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ He strained with all his might. The house fell on the lords and all the people that were in it. So those he killed at his death were more than those he had killed during his life. Then his brothers and all his family came down. They took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years.”

Samson represents the last of the 12 judges as he died destroying thousands of Philistines, including their leader lords. Samson called on Yahweh to give him the strength for one last deed, the destruction of the house of the Philistines. The 2 pillars made up for his 2 eyes. He killed more in his death than he had killed during his life. He was like a suicide bomber giving up his life to kill others. I thought he had no brothers, but there is mention of brothers here. Anyway, they bring him back to be buried with his father, Manoah, in his tomb. So ends the story of the judges, fantastic as it may sound. The super-hero Samson with this destruction of temple of Dagon brings it to an end.