- SIMEON (Heb. שִׁמְעוֹן), the second son of Jacob and Leah (Gen. 29:33) and the eponymous ancestor of the tribe of Simeon. The name is formed from the verb shʿm (שמע) with the addition of the suffix on (וֹן), and was given by Leah to her son because "the Lord heard" that she was unloved (ibid.). Simeon the individual is mentioned in connection with the journey to Egypt in time of famine, when Joseph imprisoned him as a guarantee that Benjamin, the youngest brother, would be brought before him (42:24, 36; 43:23). In Genesis 34 he is referred to as, together with Levi, attacking the city of Shechem, killing its inhabitants in retaliation for the rape of their sister Dinah by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, a prince of the land (cf. 49:5–6). However, many scholars see in this story echoes of the sojourn of the tribes of Simeon and Levi in central Palestine and a clash between them and the host population, even before the Israelites conquered the land. Such a supposition might explain why the Book of Joshua lacks any description of the conquest of Shechem and the mountains of Ephraim (but cf. Josh. 12). Shechem, it is presumed, was already in the hands of Simeon and Levi even prior to Joshua's invasion of Canaan. It was to Shechem that Joshua later gathered all the tribes of Israel and where they entered into a covenant to worship the Lord (Josh. 24). Some also find an allusion to Simeon's connection with the district of Shechem in the ceremony described in Deuteronomy 27:12, in which the Simeonites head the group delivering the blessing on Mt. Gerizim. Simeon is also cited together with Ephraim and Manasseh in II Chronicles 15:9. According to Judges 1:3, the Simeonites fought alongside the tribe of Judah at Bezek within Manasseh's district north of Shechem even before they turned southward to conquer the hill country of Judah (cf. Judg. 1:3). In contrast to this meager evidence showing Simeon to be located in the center of the land, there exists a large body of tradition concerning the settlement of the tribe in the southern region of Canaan. According to the Book of Joshua, Simeon settled in the Negev (cf. I Chron. 4:28–33) "in the midst of the inheritance of the tribe of Judah" (Josh. 19:1). The passage does not trace the boundaries of Simeon's settlement, but lists its towns, including the principal town of Beer-Sheba. Simeon's settlement is also included in the description of Judah's territory in Joshua 15. It lay in the Negev district, since the Simeonites inherited part of Judah's allotment (Josh. 19:8). Moreover, the listings of the levitical towns include Simeon's along with Judah's (Josh. 21:9ff.; I Chron. 6:40–44). For these reasons Simeon's territory is also called Territory of the tribe of Simeon. After Y. Aharoni, Lexicon Biblicum, Tel Aviv, 1965. Territory of the tribe of Simeon. After Y. Aharoni, Lexicon Biblicum, Tel Aviv, 1965. the "Negev of Judah," to distinguish it from other parts of the Negev which were named after different ethnic groups (I Sam. 27:10; 30:14; II Sam. 24:7). There is no unanimity about the dating of the lists of Simeonite cities (Josh. 19:1–8; I Chron. 4:28–33; cf. Josh. 15:20–32), some regarding them as early as the period of conquest of the land and the time of the Judges, others assigning them to the time of David and Solomon, or even as late as Josiah. Many of the names of locations within Simeon's area are composed of the element "ḥaẓar," denoting small settlements lacking walls (Lev. 25:31; Neh. 12:29). These served groups of shepherds and semi-nomads who had not attained the level of urban culture (cf. Gen. 25:16; Isa. 42:11; Jer. 49:33). This fits the situation of the tribe of Simeon, which continued its pastoral life, ranging through the wide spaces of the Negev to pasture its livestock. Although Simeon's area of settlement is included in the Judahite region, which perhaps explains the omission of Simeon in Moses' blessing (Deut. 33), the Simeonites managed to preserve their tribal unity and traditions. This is proved by the existence of genealogies of Simeonite families from as late as the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah (I Chron. 4:24–43). The grazing of livestock in the southern part of the land, throughout the Negev, involved constant struggles between the Simeonites and the desert and border tribes, an echo of which may appear in Jacob's blessing (Gen. 49:5–7) and in the report about families from the tribe of Simeon who in Hezekiah's time fought against the Meunites and Amalekites in the area of Gerar, spreading with their livestock over the Negev of Judah as far as Mt. Seir (I Chron. 4:38–43). The genealogies of the Simeonites testify to familial ties between them and other Israelite tribes as well as non-Israelite elements. Shaul son of Simeon is the "son of a Canaanite woman" (Gen. 46:10; Ex. 6:15); Mibsam and Mishma, sons of Simeon (I Chron. 4:25), also appear among the sons of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13–14; I Chron. 1:29–30); Jamin (Gen. 46:10; Ex. 6:15; I Chron. 4:24) is also listed as a descendant of Ram, the firstborn of Jerahmeel (I Chron. 2:27); Zerah as Simeon's son (I Chron. 4:24) suggests familial ties between the tribe and the family of Zerah, son of Judah (Gen. 38:30), or possibly with an Edomite family descended from Esau (Gen. 36:17; I Chron. 1:37). It is also possible to find traces of familial ties between the tribe of Simeon and the Midianites in the association of Zimri son of Salu, a chieftain of the Simeonites, with Cozbi, daughter of Zur, the Midianite (Num. 25:6–19). Although Simeon is considered Jacob's second son, the Simeonites enjoyed no outstanding position in the tribal organization of Israel either before or after the conquest and occupation of Canaan. There were no judges appointed from that tribe, and Deborah does not mention Simeon at all. During the period of the monarchy, the Simeonites and their territory formed an inextricable part of the Kingdom of Judah, the fate of its population being tied to that of the kingdom generally. (Bustanay Oded) -In the Aggadah The rabbinic attitude to Simeon was determined largely by his violent role in the Dinah affair (Gen. 34:25ff.); the need to explain his detention by Joseph (Gen. 42:24); Jacob's harsh criticism of Simeon and Levi (34:30; 49:5ff.) though the latter, being a priestly tribe, fared much better later on; the total omission of Simeon in Moses' blessing (Deut. 33); and the virtual disappearance of the tribe during the period of the Judges or the early monarchy. Simeon and Levi were only thirteen years of age when they massacred the Shechemites, and they did so independently and without consulting one another (Gen. R. 80:10). The purpose of this manifest exaggeration was no doubt to emphasize the great physical strength of Israel's ancestors. It was Simeon who devised the circumcision stratagem to weaken the Shechemites (Sefer ha-Yashar, Va-Yishlaḥ on Gen., p. 115); and it was his implacable hostility to Joseph which began the chain of events leading to Joseph's sale into slavery. Simeon proposed to have Joseph put to death (ibid., Va-Yeshev on Gen., p. 147; Tanḥ. B. Gen. p. 183 et al.), and it was he who threw him into the pit (Gen. R. 91:6; Tanḥ. Va-Yiggash 4) and ordered large stones to be cast on him to kill him (Tanḥ. B. Gen. 184). Joseph thus had good reason to arrest Simeon in Egypt (cf. Gen. 42:24); but he also wanted to separate him from Levi to avoid another massacre (Gen. R. 91:6). Simeon, who was endowed with extraordinary strength as well as a powerful voice which frightened all his enemies (Test. Patr., Sim. 2:3; Tanḥ. Va-Yiggash 4 et al.), refused to submit to detention, easily overcoming some seventy Egyptian warriors; but eventually he was overpowered by Joseph's son Manasseh (Tanḥ. ibid.). This account is in line with the general idealization of Israel's progenitors, most of whom were considered to have wielded supernatural powers. According to a more realistic view, however, Simeon was included in a list of the five weakest sons of Jacob (Gen. R. 95:4). The tribe of Simeon, which was early absorbed by Judah, plays a relatively minor role in rabbinic literature. Along with the tribes of Reuben and Levi, the Simeonites are said to have refrained from idolatry and intermarriage with the Egyptians during the period of the Egyptian bondage (Song R. 4:7). This may be regarded as an apologetic compensation for Jacob's criticism of the ancestors of these three tribes (cf. Gen. 49:3ff.) with a view to removing any taint from Israel, which must be "all fair" and "flawless" (Song R. 4:7; cf. Shab. 55b–56a). It was, nevertheless, conceded that a large proportion of the Simeonites became seriously involved in the Baal-Peor affair (cf. Num. 25:1ff.), opposing the severe punishments ordered by Moses, and causing their chieftain Zimri to enter upon a confrontation with Moses and get involved in a fatal liaison with the Midianite woman (Sanh. 82a–b). In view of the enormous population loss suffered by the tribe of Simeon – from 59,300 in the first census (Num. 1:23) to 22,200 in the second (ibid. 26:14) – it was assumed that all 24,000 who had died in the plague following the sin at Baal-Peor (ibid. 25:9) were Simeonites (Gen. R. 99:7; Num. R. 21:8 et al). The relatively low esteem in which the tribe of Simeon was held is indicated by the humble role attributed to it in later Jewish history. Most or all poor people, beggars, and the notoriously poverty-stricken schoolteachers were supposed to be descended from Simeon (Gen. R. 98:5; 99:7; Yal. Gen. 158). (Moses Aberbach) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: W.F. Albright, in: JPOS, 4 (1924), 149–61; Olmstead, Hist, 200; H.H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (1950), 43–44; D. Allon, in: Mi-Bifnim. 17 (1953), 100–16 (Heb.); Alt, Kl Schr 2 (1953), 276–88; F.M. Cross and G.E. Wright, in: JBL, 75 (1956), 202–26; Y. Aharoni, in: IEJ, 8 (1958), 26–38; S. Talmon, ibid., 15 (1965), 235ff.; Z. Kallai-Kleinman, in: VT, 8 (1958), 134–60. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginsberg, Legends, 1 (19422), 395–404; 2 (19466), 11–16, 86–87, 142, 191–4; 5 (19476), 328–9, 348, 367; 6 (19463), 137–8.
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.