sim'-e-on (shim`on; Sumeon; the Hebrew root is from shama`, "to hear" (Genesis 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 Genesis 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 Genesis 34:25; 49:5 as the brother of Levi and Dinah. He was left as a hostage in Egypt by orders of Joseph (Genesis 42:24; 43:23).
1. The Patriarch:
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" (Genesis 49:5-7).
Whatever view may be taken of the events of Genesis 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 (Deuteronomy 18:1; Joshua 13:14). From the mention (Genesis 46:10; Exodus 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" (Deuteronomy 33) Simeon is not mentioned at all in the Hebrew text, although in some manuscripts of the Septuagint the latter half of Deuteronomy 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 (Numbers 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 (Numbers 25:14). The statistics in Numbers 1:22, where the Simeonites are given as 59,300, compared with the 2nd census (Numbers 26:14), where the numbers are 22,200, indicate a diminishing tribe. Some have connected this with the sin of Zimri.
At the recital of the law at Mt. Gerizim, Simeon is mentioned first among those that were to respond to the blessings (Deuteronomy 27:12). In the conquest of Canaan "Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him" (Judges 1:3; compare Judges 1:17). (Many scholars find in Genesis 34 a tribal attempt on the part of the Simeonites to gain possession of Shechem; if this is so, Judah did not assist, and the utter failure may have been a cause of Simeon's subsequent dependence upon, and final absorption in, Judah.) In Judges 4 and 5 Simeon is never mentioned. In the settlement of the land there is no account of how Simeon established himself in his territory (except the scanty reference in Judges 1:3), but "their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the children of Judah" (Joshua 19:1); this is accounted for (Joshua 19:9), "for the portion of the children of Judah was too much for them." Nevertheless we find there the very cities which are apportioned to Simeon, allotted to Judah (Joshua 15:21-32; compare Nehemiah 11:26-29). It is suggested (in 1 Chronicles 4:31) that the independent possession of these cities ceased in the time of David. David sent spoil to several Simeonite towns (1 Samuel 30:26), and in 1 Chronicles 12:25 it is recorded that 7,100 Simeonite warriors came to David in Hebron. In 1 Chronicles 27:16 we have mention of a ruler of the Simeonites, Shephatiah, son of Maacah.
In 1 Chronicles 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 (2 Chronicles 15:9; 34:6), and tradition has come to view them as one of the ten tribes (compare Ezekiel 48:24,25,33; Revelation 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 (Nehemiah 11:26).
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:
The cities of Simeon as given in Joshua 19:2-6 and 1 Chronicles 4:28,31 are (the names in parentheses are variations in the latter reference):
Beer-sheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, Balah (Bilhah), Azem (the King James Version) (Ezem), Eltolad (Tolad), Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah (Hazar Susim), Beth-lebaoth (Beth-biri), Sharuhen (Shaaraim) (Etam), Ain Rimmon, Ether (Tochen), Ashan--in all, 16 cities in Joshua and 17 cities in 1 Chronicles. Ashan (1 Chronicles 6:59) is the only one assigned to the priests. It is written wrongly as "Ain" in Joshua 21:16. All the above cities, with certain variations in form, and with the exception of Etam in 1 Chronicles 4:32, which is probably a mistake, occur in the list of the cities of Judah (Joshua 15:26-32,42). Ziklag is mentioned (1 Samuel 27:6) as being the private property of the kings of Judah from the days of David, who received it from Achish, king of Gath.
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.
E. W. G. Masterman