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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 10:08:38 EST 2007

Kenneth Greifer:
1.  You wrote:  “I don't think the curse of Simon and Levi is so bad.  I 
think Jacob cursed their anger, and not really them.”
(a)   You’re right that Jacob curses the anger of Simeon and Levi.
(b)   But you’re wrong to say it’s not a terrible curse.  Here it is:
“Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel; 
 I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”  Genesis 49: 7
Rather than winning the coveted leadership role, each of Simeon and Levi gets 
no good inheritance at all, being “divided in Jacob” and “scattered in Israel
”.  That’s a quite nasty curse, in my view.
Especially when contrasted to the very next lines of text:
“Judah, thee shall thy brethren praise;  thy hand shall be on the neck of 
thine enemies;  thy father's sons shall bow down before thee.”  Genesis 49: 8
Now there’s a wonderful blessing, as a startling contrast to the immediately 
preceding nasty curse.  As we will soon see on this thread, Judah’s great 
blessing is beautifully foreshadowed by the magnificent birth name, “Judah”.  
Likewise, Joseph’s surprisingly mediocre (though long) blessing is beautifully 
foreshadowed by the mediocre birth name, “Joseph”.  But I’m getting ahead of 
myself.  And I haven’t even discussed “oxen” at Genesis 49: 6 yet.
You just can’t beat the pulsating excitement of the Patriarchal narratives.
2.  You wrote:  “You said Joseph was eight and a half years old (half of 17 
years), but the curse said they killed or as you say tried to kill a "man".  
Did they use to call young boys that old men or boys or youths?  If he was 17 
and called a man, at least that would fit your idea better.”
(a)  You actually raise a good point there.  Aleph-yod-shin (which appears at 
Genesis 49: 6) really means “male”, not “man”.  It means man as opposed to 
woman, and as such can mean husband.  And sometimes it means man as opposed to 
beast.  But in Hebrew, unlike the English word “man”, aleph-yod-shin does 
not mean man/adult male as opposed to a mere boy.  Rather, the fundamental 
meaning of aleph-yod-shin is “male”.  Thus consider Genesis 4:1, where 
aleph-yod-shin refers to male offspring, that is, a male infant:
“And the man [Adam] knew Eve his wife;  and she conceived and bore Cain, and 
said:  'I have gotten a man [aleph-yod-shin] with the help of the LORD [YHWH].'
”  Genesis 4: 1 
So what the Hebrew text is really saying at Genesis 49: 6, then, is that 
Simeon and Levi “in their anger would slay a male”.  The normal English 
translation “man” is in fact not quite accurate.  Thank you for raising that issue.
(b)  As to Joseph at the beginning of chapter 37 of Genesis, since he is only 
age 8½ regular years, naturally the narrator refers to young Joseph as being 
a “nar”, a “boy” or “lad”:
“Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, 
being still a lad [“nar”] even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of 
Zilpah, his father's wives;  and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their 
father.”  Genesis 37: 2 
Note that everything about Genesis 37: 2 makes perfect sense if Joseph is age 
17 “years”, in 6-month years, being age 8½ in regular years, whereas Genesis 
37: 2 is utterly senseless if Joseph is a grown adult man age 17 regular 
years.  Young Joseph is helping his father’s sons by minor wives tend the flock, 
and young Joseph tattles on these older half-brothers to his father.  That all 
makes perfect sense for an 8½-year-old boy, but would not make sense for a 
grown man (in the ancient world) age 17 years in regular, 12-month years, who was 
his father’s favorite son.
3.  Everything makes perfect sense in the Patriarchal narratives.  Especially 
everyone’s ages.  And the birth names of Jacob’s 12 sons.  And everything 
else as well.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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