Genesis 49:7
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Cursed . . . —Jacob condemns Simeon and Levi not because they were angry, but because they vented their anger in a perfidious and violent manner. The next sentence literally is, And their rage, for it was hard. The indignation at Joseph’s dreams, told them by him innocently, led them to an act harsh and in human (see Genesis 42:21).

I will divide them . . . —This prediction was equally fulfilled in the fact that neither of the tribes of Simeon and Levi possessed any political importance in Israel. The brothers had banded together to oppress their kindred; their descendants were powerless. But in every other respect the fulfilment was utterly diverse. In the wilderness the Simeonites dwindled from 59,300 to 22,200 men (Numbers 1:23; Numbers 26:14); and after the conquest of Canaan, were so feeble as to have only fifteen towns assigned them, scattered about in the territory of Judah. And there they melted away, being either absorbed into the tribe among whom they dwelt, crwithdrawing to wander as nomads in the wilderness of Paran. In Levi’s case the curse was changed into a blessing by the faithfulness of the tribe upon a very trying occasion (Exodus 32:26-28); and we learn from it the great lesson that the Divine rewards and punishments, even when specified in prophecy, are nevertheless conditional upon human conduct. Of this diversity of fulfilment there is not the slightest indication in Jacob’s blessing, while in that of Moses the lot of Levi is described in terms of the highest praise, and that of Simeon is passed over in inglorious silence.

Genesis 49:7. Cursed be their anger — Not their persons. We ought always, in the expressions of our zeal, carefully to distinguish between the sinner and the sin, so as not to love or bless the sin for the sake of the person, nor to hate or curse the person for the sake of the sin. I will divide them — The Levites were scattered throughout all the tribes, and Simeon’s lot lay not together, and was so strait that many of that tribe were forced to disperse themselves in quest of settlements and subsistence. This curse was afterward turned into a blessing to the Levites; but the Simeonites, for Zimri’s sin, Numbers 25., had it bound on.

49:3-7 Reuben was the first-born; but by gross sin, he forfeited the birthright. The character of Reuben is, that he was unstable as water. Men do not thrive, because they do not fix. Reuben's sin left a lasting infamy upon his family. Let us never do evil, then we need not fear being told of it. Simeon and Levi were passionate and revengeful. The murder of the Shechemites is a proof of this. Jacob protested against that barbarous act. Our soul is our honour; by its powers we are distinguished from, and raised above, the beasts that perish. We ought, from our hearts, to abhor all bloody and mischievous men. Cursed be their anger. Jacob does not curse their persons, but their lusts. I will divide them. The sentence as it respects Levi was turned into a blessing. This tribe performed an acceptable service in their zeal against the worshippers of the golden calf, Ex 32. Being set apart to God as priests, they were in that character scattered through the nation of Israel."Simon and Levi are brethren," by temper as well as by birth. Their weapons. This word is rendered plans, devices, by some. But the present rendering agrees best with the context. Weapons may be properly called instruments of violence; but not so plots. "Habitations" requires the preposition in before it, which is not in the original, and is not to be supplied without necessity. "Into their counsel." This refers to the plot they formed for the destruction of the inhabitants of Shekem. "They houghed an ox." The singular of the original is to be understood as a plural denoting the kind of acts to which they were prompted in their passion for revenge. Jacob pronounces a curse upon their anger, not because indignation against sin is unwarrantable in itself, but because their wrath was marked by deeds of fierceness and cruelty. "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." He does not cut them off from any part in the promised inheritance; but he divides and scatters them.

Accordingly they are divided from one another in their after history, the tribe of Simon being settled in the southwest corner of the territory of Judah, and Levi having no connected territory, but occupying certain cities and their suburbs which were assigned to his descendants in the various provinces of the land. They were also scattered in Israel. For Simon is the weakest of all the tribes at the close of their sojourn in the wilderness Numbers 26:14; he is altogether omitted in the blessing of Moses Deuteronomy 33, and hence, obtains no distinct territory, but only a part of that of Judah Joshua 19:1-9; and he subsequently sends out two colonies, which are separated from the parent stock, and from one another 1 Chronicles 4:24-43. And Levi received forty-eight towns in the various districts of the land, in which his descendants dwelt, far separated from one another. This prediction was therefore, fulfilled to the letter in the history of these brothers. Their classification under one head is a hint that they will yet count but as one tribe.

Ge 49:5-7. Simeon and Levi were associate in wickedness, and the same prediction would be equally applicable to both their tribes. Levi had cities allotted to them (Jos 21:1-45) in every tribe. On account of their zeal against idolatry, they were honorably "divided in Jacob"; whereas the tribe of Simeon, which was guilty of the grossest idolatry and the vices inseparable from it, were ignominiously "scattered." Cursed be their anger, or, cursed was. It was execrable and abominable both before God and men; such as deserved and brought the curse of God upon themselves, which I, as God’s instrument, am now to pronounce against them.

I do here declare, in the name of God, that they shall be divided and dispersed

in Jacob, & c.; that is, among the children or tribes of Jacob or Israel. Prophets are said to do what they foretell that God will do, as Jeremiah is said to root out and pull down kingdoms, Jeremiah 1:10, and Ezekiel to destroy the city, Ezekiel 43:3. Add Hosea 6:5. Note here how suitable their punishment was to their crime. They sinned by conspiracy and confederation in the counsel and action, and they are punished with division or separation, not only of the two brethren and their tribes, but of the children and families of the several tribes, one from another. This was eminently fulfilled in the tribe of Levi, which had no proper portion or inheritance, but was scattered among all the tribes, Joshua 18:7, though afterwards God turned this curse into a blessing. And for Simeon, he had no part of his own in the division of the land; but the portion of Judah being too large for that tribe, he was taken into that lot, and was as an inmate to them, Joshua 19:1,2,9, and afterwards part of them were forced to seek new seats, and so were divided from the rest of their brethren, 1 Chronicles 4:27,39,42. And moreover, the Jewish doctors write, that that tribe was so straitened in their habitations and conveniences, that a very great number of them were forced to scatter themselves amongst the other tribes to get a subsistence by teaching their children.

Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce,.... It was sinful anger in the nature of it, and so criminal and detestable; it was strong, fierce, and furious in its operation and effects, and so justly cursed; not their persons, but their passions:

and their wrath, for it was cruel; it issued in the cruel and barbarous slaughter of the inhabitants of Shechem; the same thing as before in other words repeated, to express his great abhorrence of their wrath and rage. Aben Ezra thinks that the words may be considered either as a prophecy or a prayer, that their anger might cease: what follows is certainly a prophecy:

I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel; which he is said to do, because he foretold it would be done; as Jeremiah is said to root out and pull down kingdoms, because he prophesied thereof, Jeremiah 1:10 and this was fulfilled in the tribes of Simeon and Levi; as for the tribe of Simeon, that had not a distinct part by itself in the land of Canaan, but had their inheritance out of the portion, and within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, Joshua 19:1 and their cities did not join to one another, as Aben Ezra observes, but lay scattered up and down in the tribe of Judah; and when they were increased and straitened for room, many of them went without the land, to the entrance of Gedor, where they of Ham, or the Egyptians, had dwelt, and others to Mount Seir in Edom, 1 Chronicles 4:39 and it is a notion which prevails with the Jews, and which Jarchi takes notice of, that a great many of this tribe were scribes and teachers of the law, and even teachers of children, and by which they lived among the several tribes; and so the Jerusalem Targum,"I will divide the tribe of Simeon, that they may be scribes and teachers of the law in the congregation of Jacob.''And as for the tribe of Levi, it is well known that they had no inheritance in the land of Canaan, but had forty eight cities assigned them in the several tribes here and there; and thus Jacob's prophecy had an exact accomplishment.

Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will {f} divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

(f) For Levi had no part, and Simeon was under Judah, Jos 19:1 till God gave them the place of the Amalekites, 1Ch 4:43.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. In the curse here pronounced upon Simeon and Levi, no mention is made of the Levitical priesthood. Nevertheless, the patriarch’s curse is evidently assumed to have produced its effect upon the two tribes. One (Levi) was scattered up and down Palestine without territorial possession; and the other (Simeon) occupied territory in a limited area, enclosed within the tribe of Judah. Cf. Joshua 19:1-9; 1 Chronicles 4:24-39. In the Song of Moses, Simeon is not even mentioned. Levi, on the other hand, is blessed, as the tribe of the priesthood, Deuteronomy 33:8-11.

in Jacob … Israel] See note on Genesis 49:2.

Genesis 49:7"Simeon and Levi are brethren:" emphatically brethren in the full sense of the word; not merely as having the same parents, but in their modes of thought and action. "Weapons of wickedness are their swords." The ἅπαξ lec. מכרת is rendered by Luther, etc., weapons or swords, from כּוּר equals כּרה, to dig, dig through, pierce: not connected with μάχαιρα. L. de Dieu and others follow the Arabic and Aethiopic versions: "plans;" but חמס כּלי, utensils, or instruments, of wickedness, does not accord with this. Such wickedness had the two brothers committed upon the inhabitants of Shechem (Genesis 34:25.), that Jacob would have no fellowship with it. "Into their counsel come not, my soul; with their assembly let not my honour unite." סוד, a council, or deliberative consensus. תּחד, imperf. of יחד; כּבודי, like Psalm 7:6; Psalm 16:9, etc., of the soul as the noblest part of man, the centre of his personality as the image of God. "For in their wrath have they slain men, and in their wantonness houghed oxen." The singular nouns אישׁ and שׁור, in the sense of indefinite generality, are to be regarded as general rather than singular, especially as the plural form of both is rarely met with; of אישׁ, only in Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4, and Isaiah 53:3; of שׁור־שׁור, only in Hosea 12:12. רצון: inclination, here in a bad sense, wantonness. עקּר: νευροκοπεῖν, to sever the houghs (tendons of the hind feet), - a process by which animals were not merely lamed, but rendered useless, since the tendon once severed could never be healed again, whilst as a rule the arteries were not cut so as to cause the animal to bleed to death (cf. Joshua 11:6, Joshua 11:9; 2 Samuel 8:4). In Genesis 34:28 it is merely stated that the cattle of the Shechemites were carried off, not that they were lamed. But the one is so far from excluding the other, that it rather includes it in such a case as this, where the sons of Jacob were more concerned about revenge than booty. Jacob mentions the latter only, because it was this which most strikingly displayed their criminal wantonness. On this reckless revenge Jacob pronounces the curse, "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I shall divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." They had joined together to commit this crime, and as a punishment they should be divided or scattered in the nation of Israel, should form no independent or compact tribes. This sentence of the patriarch was so fulfilled when Canaan was conquered, that on the second numbering under Moses, Simeon had become the weakest of all the tribes (Numbers 26:14); in Moses' blessing (Deuteronomy 33) it was entirely passed over; and it received no separate assignment of territory as an inheritance, but merely a number of cities within the limits of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9). Its possessions, therefore, became an insignificant appendage to those of Judah, into which they were eventually absorbed, as most of the families of Simeon increased but little (1 Chronicles 4:27); and those which increased the most emigrated in two detachments, and sought out settlements for themselves and pasture for their cattle outside the limits of the promised land (1 Chronicles 4:38-43). Levi also received no separate inheritance in the land, but merely a number of cities to dwell in, scattered throughout the possessions of his brethren (Joshua 21:1-40). But the scattering of Levi in Israel was changed into a blessing for the other tribes through its election to the priesthood. Of this transformation of the curse into a blessing, there is not the slightest intimation in Jacob's address; and in this we have a strong proof of its genuineness. After this honourable change had taken place under Moses, it would never have occurred to any one to cast such a reproach upon the forefather of the Levites. How different is the blessing pronounced by Moses upon Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8.)! But though Jacob withdrew the rights of primogeniture from Reuben, and pronounced a curse upon the crime of Simeon and Levi, he deprived none of them of their share in the promised inheritance. They were merely put into the background because of their sins, but they were not excluded from the fellowship and call of Israel, and did not lose the blessing of Abraham, so that their father's utterances with regard to them might still be regarded as the bestowal of a blessing (Genesis 49:28).
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