Simeon, Symeon [Sĭm'eon]—hearing, hears and obeys or hearing with acceptance.
1. The second son of Jacob by Leah (Gen. 29:33).
It is not easy to deal with Simeon alone, since he is always associated with his brother, Levi. “Simeon and Levi are brethren” (Gen. 49:5). Of Simeon’s personal history we know little. His name implies hearing with obedience, but Simeon was deaf in the day he should have heard, and disobedient and irresponsive when his lot hung in balance.
The first thing recorded about Simeon is that with Levi his brother, he drew the sword in treachery against the Shechemites and slew all the males. When rebuked by their father, they upheld indignantly their right to act as they did. Both acted “in their selfwill” (Gen. 49:6), which means they took malicious delight in their gross crime.
Simeon next appears in the story of Joseph, who felt it would be better to retain Simeon until Benjamin had been brought to the palace. Joseph felt with his father Jacob that Simeon and Levi would be best apart. In fact, Simeon had no blessing while joined with Levi and no prosperity while he was with Reuben. When separated, Simeon, at first, did not multiply (1 Chron. 4:24-27). During the forty years in the wilderness the decrease of Simeon was remarkable. Because of the idolatry of the tribe, thousands were slain.
In the land of Canaan, Simeon joined with Judah, and this association marked a turning point in the history of the tribe. Judah and Simeon went up together to Canaan (Judg. 1:1-3). Simeon means “obedient hearing,” and Judah, “praise.” The absorption of Simeon into the inheritance of Judah gave Simeon a place and work in Israel. In the final division of the land, foretold by Ezekiel, between Benjamin and Issachar, there is a portion for Simeon.
Over the gate to the Golden City, Simeon’s name is inscribed—“Of the tribe of Simeon were sealed 12,000”—a way for even Simeon to enter the city of God above. From the time the Simeonites became aware of what God had done for them there was no more curse and no more captivity for them. Hitherto instruments of cruelty, they became instruments of warfare against the enemies of the Lord, ultimately earning the right to be included among the number eternally sealed (Rev. 7:7).
Self-will fittingly describes Simeon’s career until he was separated from Levi. God hates self-will for He knows how it accounts for uncontrolled passions, and the failure to respond to higher appeals. Because of their self-will God, in His governmental dealings, scattered and impoverished the Simeonites. May we not come nigh their dwelling but ever seek to learn, prove and obey “that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
2. A just and devout man in Jerusalem who awaited the coming of Jesus, the Messiah (Luke 2:25-34).
The adoration and prophecy of Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel and blessed the Consoler when He appeared, is rich in spiritual suggestion. This spectator of the most significant birth of all history, endued with a prophetic spirit, kept the lamp of prophecy burning when religion was at a low ebb in Israel. Simeon means “one who hears and obeys” and this saintly Simeon knew the voice speaking in the prophets of old, and obeyed the light he saw. Coming into the Temple, he took the Babe in his arms and blessed God. What a wonderful benediction his was!
At last faith had been justified and Simeon could die without fear. Have our eyes seen the salvation of the Lord? Can we die in peace? In his swan song, Simeon was not ashamed to declare that the One born in the city of David was the Saviour of the world. This was more than the letter-learned scribes of his times had discerned. These were the men who looked upon Christ as a sign to be spoken against and to whom He would become a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.
With godly Simeon it was different, for he was Spirit-taught and knew that Mary’s Child was the One through whom the world was to be blessed. As he eagerly anticipated Christ’s first advent, are we found patiently awaiting His second advent? When He does appear and we see Him as He is, ours will be the thrill Simeon experienced as He gazed upon the Lord’s Christ.
3. An ancestor of Jesus (Luke 3:30).
4. A disciple and prophet at Antioch, surnamed Niger (Acts 13:1).
Devotional content drawn from All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer. Used with permission.