SIMEON (sĭm'ē-ŭn, Heb. shim’ôn, Gr. Symeōn)

SIMEON sĭm’ ĭ ən (שִׁמְעֹֽון; Συμεών, G5208, [the deity] hears, -ōn ending is a diminutive indicating a personal name). 1. The second son of Jacob by Leah (Gen 29:33), father of one of the twelve tribes of Israel (2 below). He and his brother, Levi, by means of deception, avenged themselves upon Shechem (Gen 34:25-31) when that prince had forced their sister Dinah. The act made Jacob’s family persona non grata in the area and brought Jacob’s anger upon the two brothers (34:30). Jacob’s last testament (Gen 49) indicates that his anger did not abate through the years, for he predicted that the descendants of the two would be scattered throughout the land because of their fathers’ violent natures (49:5-7).

Some scholars, denying that the tribes ever had only one originator, hold that the Genesis accounts of Jacob’s family are actually early history of the twelve tribes. From this point of view, the Simeon and Levi tribes attempted to settle in central Canaan, but because of their barbarian nature, they brought upon themselves concerted Canaanite attack. The result was that the two tribes were so completely shattered that they were never again cohesive entities. This reconstruction is so much at variance with the Scriptures that it cannot be accepted by those who hold to scriptural veracity.

Simeon was the brother whom Joseph held hostage until Benjamin should be brought to him (42:24). Some have suggested that this was in punishment for Simeon’s violent nature. It is much more likely that Joseph held him simply because he was the second oldest brother. It is probable that Reuben, the eldest, was not held, either because of his kindness to Joseph (37:21), or because the eldest brother had to be left in charge in order to prevent a perhaps violent struggle for leadership among the remaining brothers.

At any rate, it was perhaps because of the weakness of the Simeonite tribe that it was not accorded a separate inheritance in the land (Josh 19:1-9). Alone, of all the tribes, Simeon was given certain villages within the boundaries of another tribe, Judah (19:2-9; cf. 15:20-63). These villages were located in the southern area of Judah, the Negeb. It is not clear whether Simeon ever actually possessed these villages, for when David became a vassal of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath, Achish gave David the city of Ziklag, one of the Simeonite cities. This suggests that Simeon, like several other tribes, had not been able to capture all its allotted territory. That the tribe was, nevertheless, important in the far southern area is shown by the fact that a greater number of men came to David from Simeon (7100) in the early monarchy than did from Judah (6800; 1 Chron 12:24, 25).

Simeon’s special situation within Judah meant that the two groups were more and more melted into one with Judah taking the lead (Josh 21:9; Judg 1:3, 17-19). This is esp. plain in that Simeon is not mentioned in the numerous tribal lists of Judges. Its absence from the books of Samuel and Kings is also noteworthy.

1 Chronicles 4:29 notes that Simeonites lived in their allotted cities until the reign of David. Whether this is meant to imply that they did not live there after that time is not clear. It is clear that during the reign of Hezekiah, a group of them migrated to Gedor (Khirbet Judur, SW of Bethlehem?), while another group migrated S into Edom (1 Chron 4:39-43). If the identification of Gedor is correct, this may indicate that the Simeonites, deposed from their cities, spread both northward and southward in the area of Judah during the Monarchy.

The treatment of Simeon in 2 Chronicles 15:9 and 34:6 is difficult to interpret. In both instances, the tribe appears to be grouped with Ephraim and Manasseh as typifying the northern kingdom vs. Judah and Benjamin. This is impossible unless one presumes that a majority of the Simeonites had migrated into the northern area, or unless one credits the Chronicler with a memory of the Simeonite “tribe’s” ancient attempt to take Shechem. As noted above, the latter of these is contrary to the Biblical witness and the former, while possible, is without scriptural warrant. Perhaps the statements intend to say that peoples from both N (Ephraim and Manasseh) and S (Simeon) were drawn into Judah and Benjamin at this time. The fact that the second reference (1 Chron 34:6) appends “and as far as Naphtali” immediately after Simeon makes even this interpretation dubious, however.

Further complicating this question is the issue of the tribal make-up of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. If Judah was composed of Judah and Benjamin (1 Kings 12:21; 2 Chron 15:9), then Simeon would have had to be counted as one of the ten tribes of Israel. Only in the unlikely circumstance that Levi was counted as one of the northern tribes would it then be possible to argue that Simeon was simply dropped from the enumeration. Some scholars have argued that Solomon so effectively broke the separate identities of the tribes that the idea of ten northern tribes was not literally carried out.

The ideal disposition of the land (Ezek 48) places Simeon in the S, but Issachar and Zebulun, both northern, are also placed there, thus removing the passage from the realm of historical evidence.

The final reference to the tribe of Simeon occurs in Revelation 7:7 where, along with representatives of the other eleven tribes, 12,000 Simeonites are sealed against the coming doom.

3. Great-grandfather of Judas Maccabeus I (1 Macc 2:1).

4. An ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:30).

5. A devout man of Jerusalem who had been promised by God that he would see the Messiah before he died (Luke 2:26). When Jesus’ parents took Him to the Temple for the performance of the purification rites, Simeon was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Recognizing the baby Jesus as the Messiah, Simeon took Him in his arms and uttered the famous prayer known by its first two Lat. words “Nunc Dimittis” (2:29-32). He further predicted the necessity of suffering in Jesus’ redemptive work, esp. as it would affect Mary. This incident is apparently quoted by Luke as a part of his program of locating independent witnesses to Christ’s messiahship.

6. One of the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1; RSV Symeon). His Gentile name was Niger. He, along with Lucius and Manaen, recognized the Holy Spirit’s direction and commissioned Saul and Barnabas for their first missionary journey.

7. The name used by James with reference to Simon Peter (Acts 15:14; RSV Symeon). This use of Peter’s Heb. name may well have been to remind troubled Jews in the group that it was through a good Jew like Peter that God had inaugurated the Gentile mission.


K. H. Graf, Der Stamm Simeon (1866); W. F. Albright, “Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb: the Topography of Simeon,” JPOS, IV (1924), 149-161; M. Noth, Die israelitischen Personnamen (1928), 35, 185; A. Cutler, “Does the Simeon of Luke 2 refer to Simeon the Son of Hillel?,” JBR, XXXIV (1966), 29-35; A. de Pury, “Genese XXXIV et L’histoire,” RB, LXXVI (1969), 5-49.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(shim`on; Sumeon; the Hebrew root is from shama`, "to hear" (Ge 29:33); some modern scholars (Hitzig, W. R. Smith, Stade, etc.) derive it from Arabic sima`, "the offspring of the hyena and female wolf"): In Ge 29:33; 30:18-21; 35:23, Simeon is given as full brother to Reuben, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun, the son of Leah; and in Ge 34:25; 49:5 as the brother of Levi and Dinah. He was left as a hostage in Egypt by orders of Joseph (Ge 42:24; 43:23).

1. The Patriarch: Biblical Data:

In the "blessing" of the dying Jacob, Simeon and Levi are linked together:

"Simeon and Levi are brethren;

Weapons of violence are their swords.

O my soul, come not thou into their council;

Unto their assembly, my glory, be not thou united;

For in their anger they slew a man,

And in their self-will they hocked an ox.

Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce;

And their wrath, for it was cruel:

I will divide them in Jacob,

And scatter them in Israel" (Ge 49:5-7).

Whatever view may be taken of the events of Ge 34:25 (and some would see in it "a tradition of the settlement of Jacob which belongs to a cycle quite independent of the descent into Egypt and the Exodus" (see S. A. Cook, Encyclopedia Brit, article "Simeon")), it is clear that we have here a reference to it and the suggestion that the subsequent history of the tribe, and its eventual absorption in Judah, was the result of violence. In the same way the priestly Levites became distributed throughout the other tribes without any tribal inheritance of their own (De 18:1; Jos 13:14). From the mention (Ge 46:10; Ex 6:15) of Shaul as being the son of a Canaanite woman, it may be supposed that the tribe was a mixed one.

In the "blessing of Moses" (De 33) Simeon is not mentioned at all in the Hebrew text, although in some manuscripts of the Septuagint the latter half of De 33:6 is made to apply to him: "Let Simeon be a small company." The history of the tribe is scanty and raises many problems. Of the many theories advanced to meet them it cannot be said that any one answers all difficulties.

2. The Tribe in Scripture:

In the wilderness of Sinai the Simeonites camped beside the Reubenites (Nu 2:12; 10:19); it was Zimri, a member of one of the leading families of this tribe, who was slain by Phinehas in the affair of Baal-peor (Nu 25:14). The statistics in Nu 1:22 f, where the Simeonites are given as 59,300, compared with the 2nd census (Nu 26:14), where the numbers are 22,200, indicate a diminishing tribe. Some have connected this with the sin of Zimri.

In 1Ch 4:39 f mention is made of certain isolated exploits of Simeonites at GEDOR (which see), against the MEUNIM (which see), and at Mt. SEIR (which see). Later references associate certain Simeonites with the Northern Kingdom (2Ch 15:9; 34:6), and tradition has come to view them as one of the ten tribes (compare Eze 48:24,25,33; Re 7:7), although all the history of them we have is bound up with Judah and the Southern Kingdom. There is no mention of the return of any Simeonites after the captivity; their cities fall to Judah (Ne 11:26 f).

3. References in Egyptian and Assyrian Inscriptions:

It has been supposed by many authorities that the name Shim`an occurs in the list of places plundered by Thothmes III (see Petrie, Hist, II, 104; also Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition, 268; Sayce, Early Hebrew Traditions, 392). In the 7th century we have a doubtful reference in an inscription of Esar-haddon relating his Egyptian campaign when a city Ap-ku is mentioned as in the country of Sa-me-n(a), which may possibly be a reference to Simeon. The survival of the name so late, if true, is strange, in the light of what we gather from the Bible about the tribe. (For discussion of both of these inscriptions, with references to the lit., see EB, coll. 4528-30.)

4. The Territory of Simeon:

For the situation of these cities, so far as is known, see separate articles under their names. It is clear that they were all situated in the southwestern part of Palestine, and that Simeon had no definite territorial boundaries, but isolated cities, with their villages, among those of the people of Judah.

(shim`on; Sumeon):

(1) The 2nd son of Jacob by Leah (see separate article).

(2) Great-grandfather of Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc 2:1).

(3) A man in Jerusalem described as "righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel." When the infant Jesus was brought into the Temple, he took Him into his arms and blessed God in words which are famous as the Nunc dimittis. Simeon bestowed his blessing on the wondering father and mother (Lu 2:25,34). Legend has made him the son of Hillel and father of Gamaliel I, but this has no historical basis.

(4) An ancestor of Jesus (Lu 3:30); the Revised Version (British and American) "Symeon."

(5) The Revised Version (British and American) "Symeon": one of the prophets and teachers in the Christian community at Antioch. He is also called Niger, which was the Gentile name he had assumed, Symeon being Hebrew. He was among those who set apart Paul and Barnabas for their missionary work (Ac 13:1,2). Nothing more is known of him.

(6) The Revised Version (British and American) "Symeon": the Hebrew name of Simon Peter (Ac 15:14).

ni’-jer): The King James Version in Ac 13:1, the Revised Version (British and American) "Symeon" (which see).