References: Genesis chapter 34; Joshua 19.1-9; Revelation 7.7
Heart of the Story: Much of what we read in the Bible about Simeon is not flattering; yet, his anger not his person is condemned by his father, Jacob.
Back story and Story Line: Simeon (Shimon), the second son of Jacob and Leah, was a violent man. Simeon and Levi killed the inhabitants of Shechem in response to Shechemites rape of their sister Dinah. Joseph held Simeon as a “hostage” in Egypt until the brothers would bring Benjamin to him. The Bible provided no information on how Joseph treated his older brother during this hostage situation; however, Simeon was one of the brothers who sold Joseph into slavery to Ishmaelites.
On his death bed, Jacob blessed his sons. At that time, Jacob cursed Simeon and Levi anger, but not their person or even their actions. Jacob decreed that they be “divided up . . . scattered in Israel.”
A year after the exodus from Egypt, Simeon’s descendants numbered 59,300 (adult males between the ages of 20 and 60). It was primarily the Simeonites that sinned by worshiping Baal of Peor near the end of the Israelite forty-year trek in the wilderness. Other Israelites murdered many Simeonites because they worshipped Baal of Peor and because the men had sex with prostitutes dedicated to Baal. Only about 22,000 heads of Simeon households survived and entered the promised land.
Simeon is the only tribe Moses does not bless in Deuteronomy 33. Joshua gave Simeon only a few select cities in Judah’s territory (Josh. 19:1–9). When the Israelites entered the promised land, Simeon received land surrounded by land belonging to Judah. The tribe of Judah eventually absorbed the Simeonites, and they disappear from Old Testament history. Jewish scholars proposed that men from Simeon became itinerant schoolteachers; they did not remain in assigned land.
In Revelation 7:7 the tribe of Simeon is listed among the twelve tribes of Israel who are sealed by God’s protection in the tribulation. Simeon is referenced throughout the Pentateuch and seven times in the book of Joshua. Simeon and/or the tribe that bears his name is mentioned in the historical records of 1 and 2 Chronicles and in the book of Ezekiel.
Pondering Relationships: All of Jacob’s sons were brothers. Some were full brothers (had same mother and father and some were half-brother in that they had the same father but not the same mother). Jacob named Simeon and Levi “brothers,” explicitly noting that sword binds them together in ways they are not bound to their other brothers (Genesis 49:5). Simeon was a man of anger and violence. The Hebrew term for violence here tells us an abhorrent ruthlessness motivated Simeon and Levi’s behavior when they killed Shechemites. Simeon and Levi hamstrung Shechem’s oxen needlessly, injuring innocent animals and ruining them as beasts of burden.
In some way, it seems important that the tribe of Judah was selected to encompass Simeon. Judah was Jacob and Leah’s fourth-born son; however, this early in Israelite history, Judah is given a leadership and perhaps even tending role over his brothers.
Reflection: Paul wrote to the Ephesian church “In your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4.26 NIV). Notice Paul did not say that anger was a sin; rather the inference is that the outcome of anger, i.e., violence, was the sin. Paul advised Ephesians not to let the sun go down while they were yet angry. My mother would have said, “Don’t go to bed mad.”
Copyright: December 10, 2018; Carolyn Adams Roth