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Simeon, son of Jacob

Simeon, son of Jacob

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Simeon (Shimon), the second son of Jacob and Leah, was born on Tevet 21 (according to another opinion, on Tevet 28), of the year 2194 from creation (1567 BCE), nine years after Jacob’s arrival in Charan. Jacob was 86 at the time. (By another calculation, Simeon was born in 2193, when his father was 85.) According to Seder Hadorot, Simeon also died on this date, at the age of 120, seventy-five years after Jacob’s family relocated to Egypt.

Simeon and his younger brother Levi were the most volatile of Jacob’s sons. It was they who (age 14 and 13 at the time) killed the inhabitants of Shechem in response to the rape of their sister Dinah, and who led the brothers’ plotting against Joseph. To separate the two, Joseph ordered that Simeon be held as a “hostage” in Egypt until the brothers would bring Benjamin to him. Simeon and Levi were rebuked by Jacob on his deathbed, though he only cursed their “anger” and “wrath,” not their persons or even their actions. Jacob decreed that they be “divided up . . . scattered in Israel”: they were the only two tribes not allotted a distinct territory in the Land of Israel. (The tribe of Levi was assigned to serve in the Holy Temple, and were given 48 cities within the other tribes’ territories, while the tribe of Simeon became itinerant schoolteachers, and received their portion in the land within the territory of Judah.)

Simeon had six sons—Yemuel, Yamin, Ohad, Yachin, Tzochar, and Saul “the son of the Canaanitess.” According to one midrash, “the Canaanitess” is Dinah, who refused to leave the home of Shechem until Simeon promised to marry her. A year after the exodus from Egypt, Simeon’s descendents numbered 59,300 heads of households (i.e., adult males between the ages of 20 and 60), but they were greatly diminished by the Peor incident; on the eve of the children of Israel’s entry into the Holy Land 40 years later, only five of the six Simeonite families survived, with a total population of 22,200 heads of households.

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