[b-hebrew] The Name "Simeon"

pporta at oham.net pporta at oham.net
Sat Dec 8 03:56:10 EST 2007


Jim,

if you intend to analyze the rest of the names of Jacob's twelve children... 
it will be better, methink, first you post your analyses and we continue our 
dialog after that.

Pere Porta
Barcelona (Spain)


> 1.  In analyzing the names of Jacob’s 12 children, one must distinguish
> between (i) an objective etymological analysis that would be done by a 
> linguist,
> and (ii) clever Hebrew puns being done by the author of the Patriarchal
> narratives, which deftly foreshadow what such sons’ most important actions 
> in the
> future will be.
>
> This is easy to see with the name “Reuben”.  As scholar Gerhard von Rad
> noted, one obvious possible etymology of the name “Reuben” would be that 
> it means
> “Look, a son!”.  No linguist would say that the name “Reuben” derives from
> a reference to a deity “looking upon my affliction”.  But the author of 
> the
> Patriarchal narratives is not giving us an objective, scientific etymology 
> of
> the names of Jacob’s 12 sons.  No, he is making clever Hebrew puns that 
> show
> how these sons’ very names can be imaginatively construed as foreshadowing 
> what
> they will end up doing in the rest of the text.
>
> As to the name “Simeon” that you discuss, I do not actually disagree with
> the argument that an objective etymology of such name might be based 
> solely on
> the word shama’, meaning “heard”.  As to the ending “-on”, the first word
> that comes to my own mind is “Hebron”.  I think that the suffix “-on” can 
> have
> as one of its possible meanings “place” (as in geographical locale).
>
> But the author of the Patriarchal narratives is not doing an objective
> etymology of the name “Simeon”.  Rather, he is using a series of explicit,
> imaginative puns to provide a much more profound meaning for the name 
> “Simeon”.  God
> did not just HEAR about Leah.  No, God HEARD that Leah was HATEFUL to 
> Jacob.
> So the name “Simeon” should therefore have the connotation of “heard, 
> hated”
> , in order to make this explicit pun work.  That is where sana’ comes in. 
> Sana
> ’ starts with an S-type sound (as do shama’ and Simeon), and sana’ has as
> its other true consonant a nun/N.  So shama’ + sana’ = S-M + S-N = 
> S-M-N/Simeon.
>
> The name “Simeon” may pre-date the Patriarchal narratives. If so, that 
> older
> use of the name “Simeon” may very well have been based solely on the word
> shama’.  I agree with you that any older use of the name “Simeon” would 
> not
> have involved the word sana’/“hated” in any way.
>
> But the author of the Patriarchal narratives is doing informative puns, 
> not
> objective etymologies.  He wants to foreshadow that both at Shechem and 
> when
> Joseph tells his dreams, the key reaction of Simeon will be “heard, hated”. 
> At
> the city-state of Shechem, Simeon HEARD that his full-sister Dinah had 
> been
> with the son of the leader of that city-state, and Simeon HATED all the 
> men of
> Shechem for that.  Likewise, in chapter 37 of Genesis the text tells us 
> that
> Joseph made his older half-brothers HEAR/shama’ Joseph tell his dreams, 
> and
> then Simeon and the other older half-brothers HATED/sana’ Joseph for that.
>
> This is clever Hebrew wordplay at its finest.  And in my view, this is an
> important aspect of the Patriarchal narratives.  The author of the 
> Patriarchal
> narratives (not Jim Stinehart) is forcing the names of Jacob’s 12 sons to
> foretell what such sons will do in the remainder of the text.  And he does 
> that
> brilliantly (something far beyond my capabilities, needless to say).  I 
> myself am
> not making up these brilliant Hebrew puns.  Rather, I am just noting the
> brilliant Hebrew puns so beautifully made by the author of the Patriarchal
> narratives.
>
> 2.  As to the aleph in particular, for purposes of punning an aleph is not
> treated as being a true Hebrew consonant by the author of the Patriarchal
> narratives.  As we will see, in the puns on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons 
> the alephs
> are basically ignored.  Only true Hebrew consonants are used for punning
> purposes.
>
> I realize that an aleph is in fact a Hebrew consonant.  And it is likely 
> that
> if an objective etymology were being done, the presence or absence of an
> aleph would be very important.  But what I am saying is that for purposes 
> of the
> ubiquitous punning that is done throughout the Patriarchal narratives, the
> alephs are basically ignored.  The large number of puns in the text can be 
> seen
> quite clearly if we focus exclusively on true Hebrew consonantal sounds. 
> But no
> vowel-type sounds are taken into account when the author of the 
> Patriarchal
> narratives does his punning.
>
> We’ve only done two names so far.  But I think that you may see that as we 
> go
> through the 12 names of Jacob’s sons, the author of the Patriarchal
> narratives does his incessant punning based exclusively on the true Hebrew 
> consonantal
> sounds.  Indeed, that very assertion is one of the main reasons why I want 
> to
> examine the puns in the text on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons.
>
> 3.  To a certain extent, all of your points are valid.  If one were going 
> to
> do an objective etymology of the 12 names of Jacob’s sons, your approach 
> would
> be fine.  But what I am saying is that that is not what is going on in the
> Patriarchal narratives, in my view.  Rather, the author of the Patriarchal
> narratives is using clever Hebrew wordplay to force the names of Jacob’s 
> sons to
> foreshadow their later actions in the text.
>
> Neither Jim Stinehart nor the author of the Patriarchal narratives is 
> trying
> to do an objective etymology of the names of Jacob’s 12 sons.  Rather, 
> what I
> am trying to do in these posts is to set forth the multiple puns that the
> author of the Patriarchal narratives imaginatively makes on these 12 
> names.
>
> I think that we will eventually see that all this ubiquitous punning in 
> the
> text has a purpose, and that analyzing these various puns will help us
> understand what the author is trying to tell us in the Patriarchal 
> narratives.
>
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
>
>
>
>
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