Tribe of Simeon: History, Symbol & Facts

Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

The tribe of Simeon has a history of deceit and murder, which resulted in the lack of an inheritance for its founder and subsequent tribe. Learn more about this story and the symbols used to reflect it in this lesson.

Origins of the Simeonites

Simeon, for whom the Simeonites or tribe of Simeon was named, was the second oldest of Jacob's sons who were the founders of the tribes of Israel. Since his older brother Reuben lost his inheritance, why didn't Simeon not receive it as next in line? While Reuben's was a result of incest, Simeon's was a lack of self-control - and an excess of murder.

According to the Book of Genesis, while Jacob and his family were staying in the area of Shechem, Jacob's daughter Dinah decided to visit the women who were in the area, possibly to make political connections. When Dinah was there, Shechem, who was the prince of the area, defiled Dinah. Despite his initial actions, Shechem fell in love with Dinah and wanted to marry her, asking his father to make arrangements with Jacob. Jacob's sons agreed - though deceitfully - to let this happen if Shechem and all his men were circumcised to keep with Jewish custom. However, Simeon and Levi, both children of Jacob and his first wife Leah, like Dinah was, were still bitter about the event. While the men of Shechem were still in pain and recovering from their procedure, Simeon and Levi slaughtered them all and captured the women and children.

Simeon and Levi killing the Shechemites
Simeon and Levi killing the Shechemites

Simeon's Consequences and Symbol

Simeon's Lost Inheritance

The slaughter of Shechem and his men was and remained the identifying factor of the tribe of Simeon, both in terms of consequences and their future, as well as for their tribal symbols. When Jacob blessed his sons while on his death bed, dividing the kingdom, he told Simeon that he and his brother Levi, who together deceived and killed the Shechemites, had swords that were ''weapons of violence.'' He divided and scattered the two tribes as a result. While the Levites eventually took on an important role, the Simeonites did not. The tribe only inherited a small portion of land that was originally part of Judah, but the Judahites did not have man power for. This ''hand-me-down'' land was completely surrounded by Judah's territory.

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