According to the Hebrew Bible, the Tribe of Simeon (/ˈsɪmiən/; Hebrew: שִׁמְעוֹן, Modern Shim’on, Tiberian Šimʻôn; “Hearkening; listening”) was one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
This tribe traces its descent from Simeon, second son of Jacob by Leah. He was the brother of Levi and Dinah, according to Gen. xxxvi. 25, xlix. 5, but elsewhere (ib. xxx. 1-9, xlvi. 8-15) it is stated that he had five full brothers. How many sisters he had is not related (ib. xxxvii. 35, xlvi. 7). Simeon and Reuben are mentioned together in Gen. xlviii. 5; and in Judges i. 3 Simeon is styled brother of Judah.
In company with Levi, Simeon attacked Shechem (Gen. xxxiv.), for which act he was cursed by Jacob with dispersion among the tribes (ib. xlix. 5-7). In the Dinah story Simeon is connected with the district of Shechem; but in the geographical lists (Josh. xix. 1-9; I Chron. iv. 24-33) he is connected with the southern country and associated with Judah, with whom he made common cause in the conquest of Palestine also (Judges i.). At the first enumeration (Num. i. 23) the tribe counted 59,300 members; at the second (ib. xxvi. 14) it numbered only 22,200. The Chronicler in I Chron. xii. 25 mentions the tribe as being large in the time of David; in another passage (ib. iv. 27) he acknowledges its feebleness. The lists of the clans of Simeon are given in Gen. xlvi. 10 and Ex. vi. 15.
A different list appears in I Chron. iv. 24 et seq., which is practically identical with another in Num. xxvi. 12-14. The towns belonging to Simeon are mentioned in Josh. xix. 2-6 and, with some deviations, in I Chron. iv. 28 et seq. In Josh. xv. 26-32, 42 all these places are reckoned as belonging to Judah; and to the same tribe are elsewhere ascribed such cities as Ziklag (I Sam. xvii. 6), Hormah (ib. xxx. 30), and Beer-sheba (I Kings xix. 3).
The Chronicler has an account of movements of the tribe, containing several statements the relation of which to one another is not clear. According to I Chron. iv. 38-40, certain Simeonites pushed down to the district of Gedor in search of pasture for their sheep. According to verse 41 of the same chapter (R. V.), these men “came in the days of Hezekiah” and “smote their tents, and the Meunim that were found there, and destroyed them utterly . . ., and dwelt in their stead.” According to verses 42 and 43, some of them (500 men with four leaders) went to Mount Seir, smote those who were left of the fugitive Amalekites, and settled there.
In Rabbinical Literature
The Dinah story is told in the Book of Jubilees (xxxiv. 2-8) in a different way (comp. Charles ad loc. and the literature cited by him).
In the Midrash it is said that all the tribes had intermarried in Egypt, except Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, which neither intermarried nor worshiped idols (Num. R. xiii. 8 and parallel passages). With reference to Gen. xlix. 7, the Midrash states that in the affair with Zimri (Num. xxv. 1-9) there fell of the tribe of Simeon 24,000 men, whose widows were scattered among the other tribes. All the beggars and elementary-school teachers were of the tribe of Simeon (Gen. R. xcviii. 5, xcix. 7; Num. R. xxi. 8).
The majority of the mixed multitude that had come out of Egypt with Israel intermarried with the tribe of Simeon (comp. Chefetz, “Sefer Midrash Abot,” s.v. “Simeon”). Eldad ha-Dani relates that the tribe of Simeon and the half-tribe of Manasseh lived in the land of the Chaldeans (another version says in the land of the Chazars), a six-month journey from Jerusalem. They were the largest among the tribes, and took tribute from twenty-five kings, some of whom were Arabians. In an apocryphal midrash () the following passage occurs: “In the twelfth year of Hezekiah, Sennacherib took Judah and Simeon captive. Having learned of the rebellion of the Ethiopians, he took them with him to Ethiopia, where they remained behind the Dark Mountains. When the Chazars adopted Judaism Simeon joined them. A. part of the Falashas are said to claim descent from the tribe of Simeon (“Ha-Shiloaḥ,” ix. 360).
To the positive data noted above it must be added that Simeon is nowhere mentioned as a component part of the kingdom of Judah and that his name occurs neither in Judges iv., v., nor in Deut. xxxiii., whence it would appear that Simeon was not always counted as a tribe. In the last-cited chapter, indeed, some manuscripts of the Septuagint insert the name of Simeon in verse 6b (compare the twentieth rule in the Baraita of the thirty-two rules of R. Eliezer b. Jose ha-Gelili). This, however, may be a deliberate correction unsupported by Hebrew manuscripts. Other solutions of the difficulty have been proposed by Kohler (“Der Segen Jacob’s,” p. 5) and by Grätz (“Gesch.” 2d ed., i. 468), and have been accepted with modifications by Heilprin (“The Historical Poetry of the Ancient Hebrews,” i. 113; comp. Halévy in “Journal Asiatique,” 1897a, pp. 329-331) and Bacon (“Triple Tradition of the Exodus,” p 270). Because of the unnatural shortness of the blessing of Judah, and the character of Levi’s blessing, which seems too warlike for a non-secular tribe, Kohler conjectures that in the chapter of Deuteronomy cited, verse 7 has fallen out of its place and should follow verse 10; so that verses 7-11 would form the blessing of Judah. Grätz boldly substitutes “Simeon” for “Judah” in verse 7, which is approved by Heilprin and Bacon as far as verse 7a is concerned, while at the same time they change the order of the verses as proposed by Kohler. Later commentators, however, consider such changes unwarranted (comp. Driver ad loc.).
Many attempts have been made to connect Simeon with Ishmael and Massa, and with the founders of Mecca, the establishment of Saul’s kingdom, etc. All that seems certain, to judge from the foregoing data and from the fact that a prominent subclan is called “Shaul, the son of a Canaanitish woman,” is that the tribe of Simeon was of mixed origin and was at an early date fused with Judah.