[b-hebrew] Genesis 49: 6: The Joint Curse of Simeon and Levi

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 12 09:24:28 EST 2007


If we focus on the puns on the names “Simeon” and “Levi”, we can 
reinterpret their joint curse at Genesis 49: 6 on that basis.
 
“Simeon”/S-M-N is a pun on “hear”/shama’/S-M and “hate”/sana’/S-N, and “
Levi”/L-V is a pun on “joined”/L-V “to him”/L-V.  Based on these puns, the 
most important actions in the lives of Simeon and Levi are when Levi/L-V “joined”
/L-V “him”/L-V, that is Levi joined his slightly older brother Simeon, in “
hearing”/shama’/S-M and “hating”/sana’/S-N.
 
That does not actually happen in the Shechem incident, because the word “hate”
/sana’/S-N does not appear in chapter 34 of Genesis.
 
But it happens in spades in chapter 37 of Genesis.  Joseph forces all his 
older half-brothers, including Simeon and Levi, to “hear”/shama’/S-M Joseph’s 
dream, and these older half-brothers, including in particular Simeon and Levi, “
hate”/sana’/S-N Joseph for that.  As soon as they have the opportunity, 
Simeon and Levi attempt to murder their younger half-brother Joseph.  
(Interestingly, the word “joined”/lavah/L-V never appears in the Patriarchal narratives 
except when Levi/L-V is named in chapter 29 of Genesis.)
 
Once you know what words to look for (“hear”/shama’/S-M and “hate”/sana’
/S-N, as the explicit puns on the name “Simeon”/S-M-N), they’re right there in 
the text of chapter 37 of Genesis:
 
“And he [Joseph] said unto them [his older half-brothers]:  'Hear [“hear”
/shama’/S-M], I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: …And they hated [“hate
”/sana’/S-N] him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.”  Genesis 
37: 6, 8
 
So if the names “Simeon” and “Levi” are foretelling what the most important 
action of these two sons of Jacob will be, then that most important action is 
their dastardly attempt to murder their younger half-brother Joseph.
 
Why should Simeon and Levi be horribly cursed for avenging their sister Dinah’
s rape by a man of Shechem?  That does not make sense from an early Hebrew 
perspective.  No, Simeon and Levi are rightly cursed because they tried to kill 
Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, who was primarily “guilty” only of so obviously 
being his father’s favorite son.
 
Accordingly, the horrible joint curse that Simeon and Levi receive at Genesis 
49: 6 should focus on their despicable attempted murder of Joseph, not on 
their actual honor killing of men at Shechem.  If aleph-yod-shin is given its 
natural meaning of “man” in the singular (rather than “men” in the plural, as 
has often been done in the 20th century), and if subjunctive mood is implied in 
context, then the key line of Genesis 49: 6 makes complete sense:
 
“For in their anger they would slay a man.”
 
The unforgivable offense of Simeon and Levi is that in their anger, they 
tried to kill one male -- their younger half-brother Joseph.  The fact that Simeon 
and Levi killed men of Shechem in avenging their sister’s rape was not the 
key act in their lives, nor was it the basis for their horrible ultimate curse 
from their father.
 
If we focus on the puns the author makes on the names “Simeon” and “Levi”, 
it all becomes quite clear, and it all makes perfect sense.  “Simeon”/S-M-N 
was forced by Joseph to “hear”/shama’/S-M Joseph’s dream, and Simeon “hated”
/sana’/S-N Joseph for that.  “Levi”/L-V “joined”/L-V “him”/L-V, that is his 
slightly older brother Simeon, in that.  Together, Simeon and Levi tried to 
kill Joseph, and for that terrible act, they justly receive a terrible final 
curse from their father Jacob at Genesis 49: 6.  Only chapter 37 of Genesis 
regarding the Joseph incident, not chapter 34 of Genesis regarding the Shechem 
incident, features both “hear”/shama’/S-M and “hate”/sana’/S-N, which are the 
explicit puns on the name “Simeon”/S-M-N.
 
If we pay close attention to the explicit puns that the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives makes in chapter 29 of Genesis when Simeon and Levi are born 
and named, we can understand their joint curse at Genesis 49: 6.  Absent 
focusing on those puns, however, it is easy to misinterpret that horrible joint 
curse at Genesis 49: 6, and thereby misinterpret what the Patriarchal narratives 
are trying to tell us.
 
The explicit puns on the names of Jacob’s 12 sons are, in my view, one 
important key to understanding the Patriarchal narratives.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois 




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