🔼The name Simeon: Summary
- He Who Hears
- Snub Nosed
- From the verb שמע (shama'), to hear.
- From the noun σιμος (simos), someone with a hollow face and a wide, flat nose.
🔼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).
The name Simeon occurs 7 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
🔼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 verb שמע (shama') means to hear and may also mean to understand or obey. Noun שמע (shema') means sound. Nouns שמע (shoma') and שמועה (shemu'a) mean tidings, report or mentions. Noun השמעות (hashma'ut) describes that which is caused to be heard. Noun משמע (mishma') means rumor or a thing heard. Noun משמעת (mishma'at) refers to a group or listeners.
The waw-nun extension of our name is a normal construction to localize or personify a root.
When our name Simeon is reviewed on a Hebrew stage, it means He Who Hears or Man Of Hearing. But also note the striking similarities between our name and the Greek word σημειον (semeion), meaning mark or sign.
Another association that might have been readily made in the Greek world is between our name and the word σιμος (simos), which describes the characteristics of a non-Semitic countenance: a hollow face and a wide, flat nose. Greeks called Egyptians and Scythians so, and Aristotle even deemed all children simoi. The Latin variant simia came to denote apes, from which comes our English word "simian," which describes the infraorder that also includes humans. This invites the suggestion that the name of Simeon Niger actually means Black Flat Nose, and even that his character refers to a much broader range of wisdom, to also include its very ancient beginnings (see our article on Noah for more on this idea).
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.
To Greek and Latin speakers, our name would probably have sounded like Snub Nosed.