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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Dec 12 11:00:57 EST 2007

Yaakov (J) Stein:
1.  You wrote:  “Yes, I can hear "$M(WN" in  "hear now"  $M(W-N)
 but then again, the verb "to hear" is not uncommon.  You could equally hear 
it in Abraham's multiple $M(NY to Efron, which wouldn't help your case.
 I can hear the name in "&NW) (WTW" much less.”
I am just passively repeating here the specific puns that the author of the 
Patriarchal narratives explicitly makes at Genesis 29: 33 on the name “Simeon”
.  Several people have mentioned, like you, that the second pun, on sana’/S-N/”
hate”, seems a bit forced, but that’s what the text gives us to work with.  
(I myself think it’s a brilliant set of puns, but tastes differ in such 
2.  You wrote:  “Sorry, but Jacob's word in the blessing are "for in their 
anger they
 KILLED a man", not "ATTEMPTED to kill a man". And "man" can be used 
metaphorically or collectively for "men".
(a)  I am viewing Genesis 49: 6 as being in the subjunctive.  There is a 
similar controversy at Genesis 12: 19, regarding Pharaoh’s actions toward Sarah.  
JPS1917 reads:  “I took her to be my wife.”  But KJV puts it in the 
subjunctive:  “I might have taken her to me to wife.”
I view the phrase at Genesis 49: 6 to be:  “In their anger they would kill a 
(b)  Perhaps the real key here, however, is the issue you raise as to whether 
“man” should be translated as “men” at Genesis 49: 6.  If we go with your 
own translation, we see that it says that Simeon and Levi “killed a man”.  
That does not fit the Shechem incident.  Do you really think that Jacob or the 
author of the Patriarchal narratives are shedding any tears over the death of 
young Shechem, who raped Jacob’s daughter Dinah?  No way.  Simeon and Levi did 
not kill “a man” at Shechem.  No, they killed young Shechem, and Hamor, his 
father who was the powerful leader of Shechem, and some other men of Shechem who 
were with young Shechem and Hamor at the time.  Your own proposed translation 
does not fit the facts of the Shechem incident.
Your phrase “they killed a man” does not, to my way of thinking, mean 
metaphorically that “they killed men”.  If there was any basis at all for cursing 
Simeon and Levi for their avenging of Dinah’s rape, it was precisely that 
instead of limiting their revenge to one man, young Shechem, they went far beyond 
that and killed “men” in the plural:  young Shechem’s father, and all the 
other men of Shechem who were there at Shechem.
I see this as being a key issue here.  The text says “man”.  I think the 
text means what it says.  The one “man” against whom Simeon and Levi took 
horribly immoral action was Joseph, when they tried to kill that one man.  The text 
does not say “men”, and does not mean “men”, because the text is cursing 
Simeon and Levi for trying to kill Joseph (one man), not for Simeon’s and Levi’s 
honor killings of the men (plural men) of Shechem after Dinah’s rape.
3.  You wrote:  “Furthermore, Jacob very clearly stated how
 seriously he viewed the incident before the family had to run to Bet El.
 His words were "you have made me stink to the dwellers of the land ..."
 and continuing on as to his fear that the entire family would be wiped
 out.  Hardly a small insignificant matter.”
Yes, but read on.  YHWH appears to, in effect, bless Simeon’s and Levi’s 
bold actions at Shechem:
“…and a terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and 
they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.”   Genesis 35: 5
And after having years to think it over, Jacob himself seems to bless, 
retroactively, Simeon’s and Levi’s bold actions at Shechem:
“Moreover I [Jacob] have given to thee [Joseph] one portion above thy 
brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.'”
  Genesis 48: 22
By referring to the actions of Jacob’s sons in killing the men of Shechem and 
looting Shechem as “[what] I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my 
sword and with my bow”, Jacob is asserting that those bold actions of his sons at 
Shechem were effectively Jacob’s own actions.
Why should Simeon and Levi be cursed for upholding Dinah’s honor?  And how 
could such a curse refer to “a man” in the singular?  Nothing fits on that 
traditional view of the case.  Simeon and Levi acted out of an excess of honor at 
Shechem.  That does not make them deserve a horrible final curse.  By sharp 
contrast, in trying to kill their younger half-brother Joseph, who was Jacob’s 
favorite son, Simeon and Levi jointly committed a sin of great moral turpitude, 
and thus properly deserved their horrible final joint curse.
Genesis 49: 6 works beautifully as referencing the Joseph incident.  Genesis 
49: 6 just will not work regarding the Shechem incident, especially if “man” 
is not mistranslated as “men”.
4.  You wrote:  “And you still owe us an explanation of how the oxen fit in.”
Yes, that will be my next post.  
Note, however, the following.  There are no “oxen” in the plural at Genesis 
49: 6.  Why not deal with what the text actually says?  It says “bull” (or “ox
” or “wall”) in the singular.  Why refer to a bull at Shechem?  That makes 
no sense.  And why refer to hamstringing a bull, or hamstringing oxen, at 
Shechem?  That clearly did not happen.  And why refer to a bull or ox or oxen at 
all in connection with Simeon and Levi at Shechem?  Simeon and Levi had nothing 
to do with any animals at Shechem.  All animal matters were handled by other 
sons of Jacob at Shechem, as the text clearly states at Genesis 34: 27-28.
If we focus on what the text of Genesis 49: 6 actually says, it all makes 
perfect, logical sense.  There are no “oxen” (in the plural) in Simeon’s and Levi
’s joint curse.
Simeon and Levi are jointly cursed at Genesis 49: 6 for trying to kill 
Joseph, not for avenging Dinah’s honor at Shechem.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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