[b-hebrew] The Name "Simeon"
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Dec 7 15:51:42 EST 2007
1. I agree with your etymological analysis. A linguist would explain the
name “Simeon” in terms of the word shama’, and would not see the word sana’ as
being involved in the etymology of the name “Simeon”.
2. But I do not see the author of the Patriarchal narratives as being
engaged in doing altruistic etymologies. Rather, the author of the Patriarchal
narratives is setting forth puns on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons which
simultaneously (i) reflect the immediate circumstances surrounding the birth of each such
son, and, more importantly, (ii) ingeniously foreshadow what such son’s most
important actions in the future will turn out to be. If the name “Simeon”
simply means “heard”, nothing else, what would be the point of that? It makes
etymological sense, but does not advance the storyline of the Patriarchal
narratives. But based on the author’s explicit puns, “Simeon” is viewed in the
text as meaning “heard, hated”. This not only better describes Leah’s
reaction to the birth of her second son, but it also deftly foreshadows both of Simeon
’s key actions later in his life, when Simeon “hears” and “hates”. That’s
where the real excitement is here. It does not work etymologically, but
based on the puns that the author explicitly makes at Genesis 29: 33, it works
fine from the standpoint of Hebrew punning.
3. You are making valid etymological points. But the author of the
Patriarchal narratives is making puns. The two things are not the same, not by a long
4. In order to be able to pull off these multiple puns, which are carrying
so much freight, the author of the Patriarchal narratives must deviate, often
quite dramatically, from any sort of traditional etymology. As we are
beginning to see, all that matches in these many clever puns are the true Hebrew
consonantal sounds in the key words involved, and the precise order of such true
Hebrew consonants. Nothing else matches. The alephs don’t match. And shin is
not distinguished from sin, for punning purposes.
5. I repeat: I am not challenging your etymological analysis. Rather, what
I am asserting is that the author of the Patriarchal narratives is not doing
etymology. Rather, he is doing clever puns.
Scholar Gerhard von Rad complained that there is too much punning in the
Patriarchal narratives, and that he wished that the text would simply set forth
the story and the theological points, and forget about all that incessant
punning. But as we will see, in my view, much of the story, and much of the
theology, in the Patriarchal narratives lies precisely in these never-ending puns.
We have only looked at two names so far. We have ten names still to go.
What I am trying to show is that all the puns on all 12 names of Jacob’s sons
work if, and only if, we focus exclusively on the true Hebrew consonantal sounds,
and the order in which they are presented in the text, while ignoring all
vowel-type sounds, including all alephs, and making no distinction for punning
purposes between shin and sin.
I think you may admit that as to the names “Reuben” and “Simeon”, my theory
of the case has worked fine so far, as long as we are talking puns, not
etymology. But we still have ten more names to go. The question is whether we can
discern a consistent pattern in how the author of the Patriarchal narratives
is doing puns on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons. For the most part, the author
explicitly tells us in so many words precisely what puns he making on the
names of Jacob’s sons, though he does not explicitly tell us how these puns may
foreshadow the later actions of Jacob’s sons.
What counts for me is what the author of the Patriarchal narratives is doing
with all these many puns. Whether other Hebrew authors, in other contexts,
did or did not operate like that is of no concern to me. The fact that most of
these puns (indeed, virtually all of these puns) do not track an altruistic
etymological analysis is not of critical importance. I agree with the
etymological analysis of “Simeon” that you and Pere Porta have made. But I see that
as being largely irrelevant in our quest to understand what the author of the
Patriarchal narratives is trying to tell us in his never-ending punning
throughout the Patriarchal narratives.
In my view, we need to try to figure out what the author of the Patriarchal
narratives is doing with all these many puns. Then we may be able to figure
out what the Patriarchal narratives are actually trying to tell us. In my view,
the never-ending puns are important in the Patriarchal narratives. But I
would not trust that text for an etymological analysis. That’s because I do not
see the author of the Patriarchal narratives as being interested in doing
altruistic etymologies. He has much bigger fish to fry.
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