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Sunday, March 08, 2009

The Twelve Tribes of Israel - Simeon/Simon

Simeon means "who hears or obeys" and "is heard".


He was associated with Levi in the terrible act of vengeance against Hamor, Shechem and the Shechemites.

Genesis 34
And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she bore to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.
And when Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and humbled her.
And his soul clung to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the girl and spoke to the heart of the girl.
And Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, Get me this girl for a wife.
And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. And his sons were with his cattle in the field. And Jacob kept silent until they had come.
And Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.
And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard. And the men were furious, and they were very angry, because he had done folly in Israel, in lying with the daughter of Jacob. And it ought not to be done so.
And Hamor communed with them, saying, The soul of my son Shechem longs for your daughter. Please give her to him for a wife.
And you make marriages with us, giving your daughters to us, and taking our daughters to you.
And you shall live with us. And the land shall be before you. Live and trade in it, and get possessions in it.
And Shechem said to her father and to her brothers, Let me find grace in your eyes, and whatever you shall say to me I will give.
Heap upon me ever so much price and dowry, and I will give according as you shall say to me. But give me the girl for a wife.
And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, speaking with deceit because he had defiled Dinah their sister.
And they said to them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised. For it is a reproach to us.
But in this we will agree with you, if you will be as we are, that every male of you be circumcised, then we will give our daughters to you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will live with you, and we will become one people.
But if you will not listen to us, to be circumcised, then we will take our daughter, and we will go.
And their words pleased Hamor and Shechem, Hamor's son.
And the young man did not hesitate to do the thing, because he had delight in Jacob's daughter. And he was more honorable than all the house of his father.
And Hamor and Shechem his son came to the gate of their city, and talked with the men of their city, saying,
These men are at peace with us. Therefore let them live in the land, and trade in it. For behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters to us for wives, and let us give them our daughters.
Only on this condition will the men agree to us, to live with us, to be one people, if every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised.
Shall not their cattle and their substance and every animal of theirs be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will live with us.
And all that went out of the gate of his city listened to Hamor and to Shechem his son. And every male was circumcised, all that went out of the gate of his city.
And it happened on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took each his sword and came upon the city boldly, and killed all the males.
And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went out.
The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister.
They took their sheep and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field.
And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives, they took captive, and plundered even all that was in the house.
And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, You have troubled me, to make me stink among those who live in the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites. And I, being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and kill me. And I shall be destroyed, my house and I.
And they said, Should he deal with our sister as with a harlot?

The Hivites descended from Canaan son of Ham. Abraham, on his first migration to the Land of Promise, pitched his tent and built an altar under the oak, or terebinth tree, of Moreh at Shechem. By the time Jacob came to the area, Shechem was a Hivite city. To the East of the city Jacob pitched his tent in a “parcel of ground” which he had bought from Hamor, Shechem's father (Genesis 33:19). Here he raised an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel, “God, the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20). Jacob subsequently bequeathed it, as a special patrimony, to his son Joseph. Genesis 33:19; Joshua 24:32; John 4:5. The field lay undoubtedly on the rich plain of the Mukhna, and its value was greater because of the well which Jacob had dug there, so as not to be dependent on his neighbors for a supply of water.

Then follows the story of Dinah's rape by Shechem, son of the city's chief, Hamor. Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob named so she may have been the only daughter he had. She would have been between 13-15 yrs old and they would have been living in the area for 7-8 years. Dinah may have felt safe and maybe had gone visiting the town before. She either had girlfriends there or wanted to make new girlfriends. It's possible that there was a special occasion like a festival or party. But for those times, and in the Middle East, it's doubtful that it was normal for young girls to go alone and unchaperoned to town. It's possible that she sneaked away from her father's tents and went off on her own as some teenage girls do today. And, it could have been more sinister because it's possible that Shechem had already seen her and enticed her away from the safety of her father's camp by having girls her age invite her. Was she flirting with Shechem? Was she seduced? Was she raped? Either way, she was no longer a virgin and it was serious. Shechem took advantage of her and her unprotected situation. Even in the best case scenario, she was younger, inexperienced, immature and not capable of making sound decisions and he took advantage of that. He was the adult, a male in a male driven society, he had experience in the world and he should have been the one to control himself. In the worst case scenario, he lured her out and raped her. The consequences were the same, she was no longer a virgin and this could have branded her and kept her from making a good marriage. Some say the child begotten in this act of fornication was Asenath, who was brought up by Potipherah's (probably not Potiphar's wife) wife in Egypt, as her daughter, and afterwards married to Joseph. Other scholars deny this.

When Jacob heard what happened, he kept his mouth shut. His sons were away from home at the time and he and his family were surrounded by tribes that could be strong enemies. He could have reacted impulsively and gotten into trouble but he used the wisdom of his years to wait. He discussed it with his sons when they came home. Naturally they were angry and upset. Not only had their sister been degraded but the whole family was humiliated. The younger men didn't think carefully as their father had. They wanted revenge and public revenge so others would think twice about mistreating their family in this way. Simon and Levi wanted to make an example of Hamor, Shechem and the men of Shechem.

Simon and Levi plotted revenge. The brothers went with their father to meet with Hamor and Shechem. It seems that Shechem had decided he loved Dinah and wanted to marry her. In Hamor's eyes this was a good solution. Hamor was the head of the Hivites and an important figure in their tribe so he thought she would be making a good marriage. Jacob and his sons met with Hamor and Shekem to discuss what happened and Hamor offered the solution of joining the two tribes by marriage. Shechem offered any amount of dowry that Jacob requested for Dinah and a peace treaty between the families for peaceful trade, solidified by intermarriages. But Abraham's servant was told by Abraham not to take a wife from one of the Canaanite tribes to be the wife of his son Isaac; and the same charge was given to Jacob by Isaac (Genesis 24:3). Jacob would never agree to intermarrying with any of a pagan nation. (Marriages with the pagan Canaanite tribes were afterwards forbidden by the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 7:3.) So, in order for Shekem to marry Dinah, he and his family would have to be circumcised and convert to the belief system that Jacob and his family followed. Hamor and Shekem went back to town and talked the men into doing it.

Simon and Levi deceived the Hivites by making the agreement with them with no intention of sticking to the agreement. They were not men of their word. Once the Hivites fulfilled their part of the bargain (be circumcised), Simon and Levi went in and killed them all, even the other men who had not been a part of Dinah's rape.

And they took the spoils. Since Simon and Levi were Dinah's full brothers, they felt it was up to them to lead in order to get Dinah back and revenge her defilement. Their vindication of Jacob/Israel's sacred calling to be separate from the Gentiles, was right; and their refusal to sacrifice Jehovah's promises for the Hivite prince's offers of a dowry was right. But the way they went about it was treacherous, cruel, and wicked. The innocent townsmen were punished too, and all Jacob's sons joined in plundering the town.

At this time, I wonder how Dinah felt? Was she also in love with Shechem? If she was, she would have been devastated that her brothers killed her lover. Or, maybe, she wasn't in love but knew she had lost her chances of making another good marriage and was willing to marry Shechem in order to be married and have children in one of the most important families in the area. What her brothers did robbed her of that. She might have been really mad at them knowing they had caused her to have to spend the rest of her life a spinster! Or was she so glad to see them! Maybe she hated Shechem and was scared to death of being married off to someone who was violent enough to rape her. Maybe she just wanted to go home and her brothers were her rescuers. How did she feel knowing that all those men were dead because of her? Little did she realize the consequences of her day out for pleasure! She is not mentioned again except to say that she went down to Egypt with her family.

Jacob/Israel was angry with them because they had let him make a covenant with the Hivites with no intention of honoring it. It ruined the reputation and integrity of their family. Who would make a covenant with a tribe who might not honor it? And, what if the other pagans decided to exact revenge on Jacob/Israel and attacked the family? This could have been an "international incident". In their youth and anger, they had endangered their whole family and possibly their way of making a living (if avengers attacked their flocks or drove them from the land, etc). They had gone of "half-cocked" as the saying goes without thinking out all the consequences. It was wrong for Shechem to do what he did. God was not pleased with what happened to Dinah! But, at least in their eyes, Hamor and Shechem had tried to make it right. It was wrong for the descendants of Abraham to intermarry with pagan tribes. God had specifically made that clear. But God has a way of dealing with wrongs. He is the only fair and righteous Judge. The brothers should have taken this problem to God and followed God's instructions rather than making their own decisions and doing things in their own way. It's possible that God would have told them to do exactly what they did. But they never asked God. They did it in their own strength and in their own wisdom. Their deceitfulness and treachery, their cruelty was also wrong. And they knew better! They knew they should go before God and wait for His Words and obey Him. But they wanted to do what they wanted to do.

Later, when the brothers go to Egypt for food during the famine, Simon was detained by Joseph in Egypt as a hostage (Genesis 42:24).

His father, Jacob, pronounced this against him when dying:
Genesis 49:5-7
Simeon and Levi, you are brothers, each a gruesome sword.
I never want to take part in your plans or deeds. You slaughtered people in your anger, and you crippled cattle for no reason.
Now I place a curse on you because of your fierce anger. Your descendants will be scattered among the tribes of Israel.

The tribes of Judah and Simeon joined together in the conquest of southern Canaan in Judges 1:3, 17

Simon's families are enumerated in Genesis 46:10; Numbers 26:12-14; and, 1Chronicles 4:24-43. At the census at Sinai, Simeon numbered 59,300 (Numbers 1:23); it was then the most numerous after Judah. At Shittim it had become the smallest, numbering 22,200. The mortality was a consequent of the idolatry of Peor (Numbers 25:9; Numbers 25:14). Zimri, slain in the act, was a prince of Simeon (Numbers 26:14).

Simeon was the "remnant" with Judah and Benjamin, which constituted Rehoboam's forces (1Kings 12:23). Still Simeon remained strong enough in Hezekiah's days to smite the men of Ham with an expedition under 13 Simeonite princes, and to occupy their dwellings "at the entrance of Gedor to the E. side of the valley" (1Chronicles 4:34-43). The Simeonites "found the Meunim" there besides the Hamites. The Meunim were connected with Maan, a city near Petra, "nomads". Five hundred Simeonites undertook a second expedition under four chiefs, sons of Shimei, against the remnant of Amalek that had escaped from Saul and David (1Samuel 14:48; 1Samuel 15:7; 2Samuel 8:12) to the mountains of Idumea; they smote them utterly, and dwelt in their place, and were there at the date of the composition of 1 Chronicles, i.e. after the return from Babylon.

Simeon is omitted in Moses' blessing, possibly because of the idolatry of Peor. Simeon in the wilderness marched south of the tabernacle, with Reuben and Gad, sons of Zilpah, maid of Leah, Simeon's mother. The Canaanitess, mother of Shaul (Genesis 46:10), and the Horite father of Shaphat, the spy from Simeon (Numbers 13:5), indicate the laxness of Simeon in marriage connections. It was forbidden to marry outside the Israelite tribes because of the fear of falling into the pagan worship of those they intermarried with.

Their villages and 18 or 19 cities lay round the well of Beersheba in Judah's extreme south. Simeon stands first of the tribes appointed to bless the people on Mount Gerizim (Deuteronomy 27:12). Though cities of Simeon were among those to which David sent presents of the Amalekite spoils, and though Ziklag was David's own property, received from Achish king of the Philistines who had wrested it from Simeon (1Samuel 27:6; 1Samuel 30:26), yet Simeon and Judah were few in numbers at his installation at Hebron (1Chronicles 12:23-37). Some men of Simeon were apparently settled in the northern kingdom of Israel after the disruption (2Chronicles 15:9; 2Chronicles 34:6). Simeon is between Issachar and Benjamin, not beside Judah, in Ezekial 48:25. Simeon is also in Revelation 7:7.

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