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Posts Tagged ‘Genesis 49’

Twelve Tribes of IsraelA friend of mine is taking Dr Douglas Stuart’s OT Survey course at Gordon-Conwell right now and is studying for the final (you can actually access these lectures for free here).  One of the questions on the final is regarding the allotments of land for each tribe.  My friend’s question was regarding whether Benjamin is considered a southern or northern tribe (I vote south, since that’s where they ended up in the split- 1 Kings 12:21-24).  But then he brought up the tribe of Simeon, who geographically is in the southern portion of Israel, but seemed to end up siding with the north in the split.

So then, what happened to them?  Clearly they couldn’t takes sides with the north but keep their land in the middle of Judah, the powerful tribe of the south.  I think the answer can be seen in 2 Chronicles 15:9, when it says Asa, King of Judah, “assembled all Judah and Benjamain and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him” (TNIV).  This implies that the people of Simeon probably relocated to the north when the 12 tribes split into 2 kingdoms.  Some of those people came back when they realized they were on the wrong side.

If we were paying attention back when we were reading Genesis, we may have forseen something like this.  Before Jacob died, he “called for his sons and said: ‘Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come'” (Gen 49:1).  Here are the appropriate verses for our topic (vv5-7):

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 Jacob predicted these tribes would be dispersed, but this was fulfilled in different ways.  For Levi, his descendents became the priests of Israel.  Levi wasn’t alloted a specific plot of land, but cities throughout the land from which to minister.  Simeon, on the other hand, was alloted a plot of land in the middle of the tribe of Judah.  Some might consider that a fulfillment of Jacob’s words, but I think there’s more to it than that.  The tribe of Simeon, as implied by the 2 Chronicles passage mentioned above, seemed to scatter themselves by leaving their land and joining the northern tribes.

For me, checking into this was a good reminder of the coherence of the Old Testament.  It also reminds me of how Jacob’s prophesies in Genesis 49 sets the stage for some of what happens in the rest of the Old Testament narrative, but that’s another post for another day.

Note: I got the picture from eBibleteacher.com, which offers up images for free.  I checked the site to make sure I could use it, but it was hard to find that kind of info on the site.  At any rate, the site offers free images; I highly recommend checking it out.

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