When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of Yahweh. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of Yahweh, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. (1 Sam.5:1–4, ESV)It's a funny story this one. Funny ha-ha, that is, not funny peculiar. But there are a few peculiarities to which I'll come shortly. The humour, of course, is that Dagon is presented with the ark of the covenant as a sort of war trophy, but he gets the short end of the bargain when he is mysteriously thrown to the ground — and to add insult to injury, Dagon can't even lift himself up, he needs priests to stand him back up again. He's a mighty god, this Dagon!But the peculiarities are also present. The first one is that it's not the first time Dagon has been humiliated in a manner like this: to borrow the metaphor from my title, the Philistines have foolishly attempted to get a second round between Yahweh and Dagon, and the fight is as unequal as it ever was. Perhaps you remember round one. Samson's last act, with the strength Yahweh gave to him, was to tear down the (likely, Gazan) temple to Dagon (Judg. 16:23–31). He was defeated, bound, blinded and carried into the temple, and from there he effected a great and terrible judgment on Philistia and Philistia's god. It sounds not too dissimilar, in its abstraction, from this story, except that this time it is not Samson who is defeated and carried into the temple of Dagon, but it is (through the ark) Yahweh himself: and it is not through Samson that Yahweh works his victory, but by his own arm.The second strange thing, then, carries on from the first: he's funny old god, this god of Israel. He suffers ignominious defeat, even to the point of having his ark carried away into captivity and being made to sit at the feet of the god of the Philistines; but then from within this temple to a pagan god, he works the most remarkable defeat of that god. What kind of a god suffers defeat and yet for him the defeat is marvellously made a victory?The final thing, which is not so strange but is still worth remarking, is the effect that this Yahweh has on idols, and the role of the priests. If Yahweh's taken up residence, idols and false gods get short shrift; but that doesn't stop the priests from rushing round trying to stand the idols back up again. Eventually, they throw Yahweh out: he's too much trouble. A god who needs their efforts merely to stay upright is far easier to control, and certainly isn't going to make himself unwelcome. Perhaps the priests of Dagon aren't such good role models for us when we find Yahweh throwing our idols around.