At the end of Moses’ life, he offers a blessing to the tribes of Israel. He says of them these things:
- Reuben – Let him life and not die even though his people become few
- Judah – Help him against his foes
- Levi – Bless his possession and accept the work of his hands. Deliver him from his enemies so that his adversaries cannot rise again
- Benjamin – The Lord’s beloved rests on Him and He shields them all day long
- Joseph – May his land be blessed with the best of everything
- Zebulun – Rejoice in your journies, drawing the wealth from the seas
- Issachar – Rejoice in your tents, drawing hidden treasures of the sand
- Gad – A ruler’s portion was assigned there for him
- Dan – He is a young lion leaping out of Bashan
- Naphtali – Enjoying approval, full of the LORD’s blessing
- Asher – May he be the most blessed of the sons and the most favored of his brothers
These all sound sweet and happy, until you realize and count the list up. There are only 11 sons listed. Which one is missing? A quick head count lets us know:
What about the tribe and people of Simeon? Why didn’t they make the blessing list?
An Unpleasant History
In Gen 34 we read that when the sister of the brothers, Dinah, was raped, that Simeon and Levi acted treacherously against the people and took revenge. They slaughtered the whole town.
Their father Israel (Jacob) was angry with them:
“You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed” (Genesis 34:30).
Furthermore it appears that these two brothers were always violent. The best “blessing” Jacob gave him at the time of his death was this:
“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.” (Gen 49:5-7).
And that is what happened. Except that it appears that the tribe of Levi repented. When Moses asked who would follow him when all the other Israelites were following the calf gods at Sinai, it was the Levites who responded. Thus Moses blessed them (Ex 32:27-29). Because of this their tribe persisted.
But Simeon seemed not to have changed. By the time Moses took the census, the tribe of Simeon was the smallest and weakest with only 22,000 men left (Num 26:14). Eventually the tribe of Simeon was absorbed into the tribe of Judah (Josh 19:1,9).
The Truth of the Matter
The Lord brought judgment on both the tribes, and yet one of the tribes repented. They began to fear the Lord and the Lord actually raised them up as a special tribe to himself. The were the tribe that ministered before Him night and day. What mercy and grace!
But the other tribe just received the judgment of God and did nothing. And because of that their judgment was fulfilled. They were scattered in Jacob and dispersed in Israel.
Even in judgment, God is longing for repentance.