Very few of us know the time of our death. But in Deuteronomy 33, Moses knows that his time has come. God told him. So Moses took this extraordinary opportunity to speak blessings to the people, to each tribe of the chosen people.
In the previous chapter, Deuteronomy 32, Moses had spoken some very harsh words, but he didn’t want those to be his last. He wanted to leave the people that he had led out of Egypt and through the desert for these forty years with words that would encourage them, despite their failings.
The observant reader (or listener) will notice that each of the twelve tribes receive a distinct blessing except one. I’ll list the twelve. See if you can pick out the one who was left out: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin. Which tribe received no blessing? Did you get it? It was Simeon.
Why was Simeon left out?
Let’s quickly look at some history. Remember that Jacob loved Rachel and asked her father, Laban, for her hand in marriage. Laban had two daughters, Rachel and her older sister Leah. Laban told Jacob that he could have Rachel after he worked for him for seven years. But after the seven years were up, Laban tricked Jacob by giving Leah to him instead. In order for Jacob to have Rachel as his wife, Jacob had to give Laban another seven years.
Then we’re told in Genesis 29 that when the Lord saw that Leah was unloved by Jacob, he gave her children, but Rachel was unable to do so. Leah’s firstborn son was Reuben, followed by Simeon, Levi and lastly, Judah. Leah also gave birth to a daughter named Dinah.
When Dinah was a young woman, she caught the eye of a man, a prince, named Shechem, who raped her. Shechem told his father, Hamor, that he wanted Dinah to be his wife. So Hamor went to talk to Jacob, Dinah’s father. When Dinah’s brothers found out what had happened to her, they were furious. Hamor insisted that Shechem wanted to marry Dinah, and he told Jacob that they could agree that their two peoples could intermarry. Shechem also added, in essence, “Name your price. Anything you ask, I will agree to. Only let me marry your daughter.”
So Dinah’s brothers, angry still at what he had done to their sister, devised a scheme. They told Shechem and his father that they could never allow their sister to marry an uncircumcised man. It would be a disgrace. They could only agree if all the males were circumcised. Then and only then would they allow Dinah to marry Shechem and allow intermarriage between their people.
Hamor and Shechem agreed, and they convinced all the males of the city to be circumcised. Three days later, while they were all still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, came into the city and killed every male. They killed Hamor and Shechem, and took Dinah out of there. And then all of Jacob’s sons came into the city and looted it. They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children.
Near the end of Jacob’s life, he gathered his sons to himself, to tell them what would happen to them in the future. Of Simeon and Levi, those who had instigated this act on Hamor, Shechem and the city of Shechem, Jacob said in Genesis 49:5-7 “Simeon and Levi are brothers—their swords are weapons of violence. Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased. Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel! I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.”
So the tribe of Simeon eventually became small and insignificant, and was absorbed into the tribe of Judah. Levi was also scattered throughout Israel, but in a much different way. God chose them to be His priests.
Tomorrow we’ll read Acts 19. I hope you’ll join me. Until then, may God bless you richly. I’m Steve Webb.