Why is the tribe of Simeon one of the lost tribes of Israel?
The name Simeon is used of four men in the Bible: Simeon, son of Jacob (Genesis 29:33); Simeon, a man in Jerusalem who met the baby Jesus (Luke 2:25); Simeon, named in the lineage of Jesus (Luke 3:30); and Simeon of the church in Antioch (Acts 13:1).
Simeon in the Old Testament is the second-born son of Jacob, born to Jacob’s wife Leah. Jacob was the patriarch, or father, of the twelve tribes of Israel and had received the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 28:14–15).
Simeon was a man of anger and violence. His sister Dinah was taken and defiled by a Hivite named Shechem, a son of the ruler of that area (Genesis 34:2). When Jacob and his sons learned of this they did the following.. “And the sons of Jacob came out of the field when they heard it: and the men were grieved, and they were very wroth, because he had wrought folly in Israel in lying with Jacob’s daughter: which thing ought not to be done.” Genesis 34:7
All the brothers conspired to initiate a plan to establish a false treaty with Hamor’s family (Genesis 34:13). The treaty involved all the men of the city being circumcised (verse 15). But, instead of the family of Jacob and the family of Hamor living peacefully together as Hamor was led to believe (Genesis 34:21), the sons of Jacob, including Simeon, sought to avenge their sister. “And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.” Genesis 34:25–26
Jacob rebuked Simeon and Levi for their bloody act: “And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.” Genesis 34:30
Later, as Jacob was nearing death, he gave his sons a patriarchal blessing. At that time, he remembered the sins of Simeon and Levi..“Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” Genesis 49:5–7
Jacob’s words came to pass as, centuries later, after the conquest of the Promised Land, the tribe of Simeon was small and was forced to share territory with Judah, a larger and more powerful tribe (Joshua 19:1–9). The curse on Simeon reminds us that vengeance belongs only to God (Genesis 4:15; Psalm 38:20; 1 Peter 3:9).
The Biblical accounts also show that Simeon was a man of envy and hatred. He and his brothers were jealous of their father’s love for Joseph and angered by Joseph’s dreams that the brothers construed as arrogance, so they sold Joseph into slavery (Genesis 37). Simeon was then complicit in leading their father to believe that Joseph had been killed by a fierce animal. Later, Joseph, as vizier of Egypt, tested his brothers and imprisoned Simeon until his brothers returned from Canaan (Genesis 42:18–19, 24).
Despite Simeon’s wrongdoing, we see God’s love and grace. Simeon was justly rebuked and cursed by his father, but he was also honored by Jacob as recorded in two special moments. The first occurs when Jacob, still grieving the supposed death of Joseph, is presented with the possibility that he might lose Simeon as well and equates Simeon with his two favorite children, Joseph and Benjamin:
“And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” Genesis 42:36
We also see Jacob’s grace when he recognizes Joseph’s sons as being equal to Reuben and Simeon, his first and second born. In this blessing of his grandchildren, Jacob, despite Simeon’s prior violence, murder, and lies, recognizes Simeon’s rightful place in the family.
In Revelation 7:7 the tribe of Simeon is listed in a place of honor, among the twelve tribes of Israel who are sealed by God’s protection in the tribulation, for this reason the tribe of Simeon is NOT a lost tribe of Israel. Simeon, son of Jacob, is referenced throughout the Pentateuch and seven times in the book of Joshua. Simeon and/or the tribe that bears his name is also mentioned in the historical records of 1 and 2 Chronicles and in the book of Ezekiel.