[b-hebrew] The Name "Simeon"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 6 14:57:42 EST 2007

I agree with your assertion that there is essentially no “grammatical 
relationship between…sana and shama”.  But consider that at Genesis 29: 33, the word 
shama’ appears before (not after) the word sana’ in the text, and that both 
of these two words shortly precede the naming of Jacob’s second son:  Simeon.  
A critical issue here is the precise order in which the key consonants appear 
in the text.  First it’s shama’/S-M, then it’s sana’/S-N, and last is 
Simeon/S-M-N.  S-M + S-N = S-M-N.  ShaMa’ + SaNa’ = SiMeoN.  S-M-N, where S is 
either shin or sin, are the three key consonants here in these three words.  The 
author of the Patriarchal narratives is combining two otherwise unrelated 
words, shama’ and sana’, in that order, to form the name “Simeon”.
If one focuses exclusively on the true consonants (which, as we are seeing, 
is the way the author of the Patriarchal narratives does puns), you can see how 
the name “Simeon” can be viewed as being shama’, sana’, that is:  “heard, 
hated”.  S-M + S-N = S-M-N.
On one level, Leah claims that she has been blessed with a second son because 
God HEARD/shama’ that Leah was HATED/sana’.  That is the explicit pun made 
at Genesis 29: 33.  The pun is not merely that God HEARD, but rather is that 
God HEARD that Leah was HATED.  ShaMa’ + SaNa’ = SiMeoN.  S-M + S-N = S-M-N.  
On a second, more profound, level, the key moment in Simeon’s later life is 
when Simeon HEARD/sama’ Joseph’s dream, at Joseph’s insistence at Genesis 37:6, 
and then Simeon HATED/sana’ Joseph for that, at Genesis 37: 4, 5, 8.
Thus Simeon’s name, which means “heard, hated”, beautifully foreshadows 
Simeon’s most important actions later in life.
Most of this clever Hebrew wordplay is missed if one simply says, as do the 
scholarly books I have consulted, that “Simeon” is a play on the word shama’/“
heard”.  Yes, that is in part true, but it misses the most exciting aspects 
of what the author is doing with the name “Simeon” here.  S-M-N/“Simeon” 
reflects both S-M/shama’/“heard” and S-N/sana’/“hated”.  S-M + S-N = S-M-N.  
The word “heard”, standing alone, tells us almost nothing about Simeon.  But 
the words “heard, hated” deftly summarize Simeon’s future life.  Simeon HEARD 
that his full-sister Dinah had been with young Shechem, and Simeon HATED the 
men of Shechem for that.  Simeon HEARD Joseph’s dreams, which seemed to foretell 
that Joseph would rule over his older half-brothers, and Simeon HATED Joseph 
for that.  In both cases, it is precisely Simeon who is the ringleader in 
killing the men of Shechem, and in almost murdering young Joseph.  “Heard, hated.”
As we are beginning to see, the sophisticated multiple puns on the names of 
Jacob’s 12 sons deftly foreshadow what these sons then do in the rest of the 
The key here is to focus on the true Hebrew consonants, and the precise order 
of these key consonants.  It is also important to realize that sometimes 
similar, rather than identical, consonants are used in the punning done by the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives.
To view “Simeon” as merely being a play on the word shama’/“heard”, nothing 
else, is to miss much of the brilliant Hebrew wordplay in the Patriarchal 
narratives.  ShaMa’ + SaNa’ = SiMeoN.  S-M + S-N = S-M-N.  It’s right there, if 
we will simply look at the key consonants that appear, and the precise order 
in which they appear, in the text of Genesis 29: 33.  That’s the way the author 
of the Patriarchal narratives does puns.  It’s a vital key to understanding 
what the author is trying to tell us in the Patriarchal narratives.  
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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