The name Simeon in the Bible
There are five Simeons mentioned in the Bible, three of which in the New Testament:
- The first and most famous Simeon is the second son of Jacob and Leah, who exclaimed: "Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also." So she named him Simeon" (Genesis 29:33). Simeon and his brother Levi forfeit their prominence by revenging the rape of their sister Dinah by Shechem the Hivite (Genesis 34). Because of this revenge, Jacob decrees that Levi and Simeon's progeny, the tribes of Simeon and Levi, are not to be assigned territory of their own but will forever live within the borders of the other tribes (Genesis 49:7). The Levites regain their prominence by becoming the kohanim, the nation's priests and the Simeonites (שמעוני or שמעני) survive by living among the people of Judah (Joshua 19:1). When the other tribes are taken to Assyria and virtually vanish, Simeon goes with Judah to Babylon and, we may assume, return. This Simeon is referred to in the New Testament only in Revelation 7:7.
- The only other Old Testament Simeon is one of the sons of Harim, who are mentioned among the men who divorced their foreign wives during the purge of Ezra (Ezra 10:31).
Note that the Greek name Simeon (Συμεων) is a transliteration of the Hebrew name Simeon (שמעון) but that Greek name Simon (Σιμων) is a Hellenized version of Simeon. There are several Simons in the New Testament, but the Simeons of the New Testament other than the son of Jacob are:
- The righteous man in Jerusalem who identifies the infant Jesus as the Messiah (Luke 2:25)
- An ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:30).
- A leader of the church in Antioch who was also called Niger (Acts 13:1).
Etymology of the name Simeon
Some scholars (BDB Theological Dictionary) insist that the name Simeon was around long before the Book of Genesis was written (or the verb treated below was invented), and that therefore the etymology and original meaning of the name is lost. Here at Abarim Publications we find these findings deliciously clever, but void of any relevance to the story that unfolds in Genesis.
In Genesis 29:33 the name Simeon is directly linked to the verb שמע (shama'), meaning to hear:
The waw-nun extension of our name is a normal construction to localize or personify a root. The name Simeon means He Who Hears or Man Of Hearing.
For a meaning of the name Simeon, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Hearing. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names proposes a rather elaborate Hearing With Acceptance.