Genesis 49:5
Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
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(5) Simeon and Levi are brethren.—That is, they are alike in character and disposition. Despising the feeble Reuben, they seem to have been close friends and allies, and probably tried to exercise a tyrannical authority over their younger brethren, Judah being the only one near them in age.

Their habitations.—This translation is universally abandoned, but there is much difference of opinion as to the real meaning of the word. The most probable explanation is that given by Jerome and Rashi, who render it swords. Apparently it is the Greek word machaera, a knife; and as neither the Hebrews nor the Canaanites were metallurgists, such articles·were imported by merchants from Ionia. Long before the days of Jacob, caravans of traders traversed the whole country, and the goods which they brought would carry with them their own foreign names. The sentence, therefore, should be translated, “weapons of violence are their knives.” The other meaning given by some competent critics, namely, compacts, if the word could be formed at all from the supposed root, would mean marriage contracts, and this gives no intelligible sense.

Genesis 49:5. Simeon and Levi are brethren — In disposition, but unlike their father: they were passionate and revengeful, fierce and wilful; instruments of cruelty are in their inhabitations, or, as מכרתיהםmecherotheihem rather signifies, their counsels, or compacts, alluding to their treacherous agreement with the Shechemites: their swords, which should have been only weapons of defence, were (as the margin reads it) weapons of violence, to do wrong to others, not to save themselves from wrong.

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." Simeon and Levi are brethren; not only by nature, but in iniquity; of like cruel and bloody disposition, confederate in the same wicked design, Genesis 34:25. So the word brother is elsewhere used, for him that agrees much with another in his temper, or employment, or designs, as Job 30:29 Proverbs 18:9, &c.

Their bloody swords are yet in their dwellings, to bear witness against them for their barbarous cruelty. But these words may be, and are by some both ancient and later interpreters, rendered otherwise. For the Hebrew word mecheroth, here rendered habitations, is never so used, nor indeed is found elsewhere in Scripture. Nor doth that signification agree with the Hebrew root from whence this comes, which is machar, and signifies to bargain, or sell, or exchange. And accordingly this word is by the Samaritan translator, and by other learned interpreters, rendered, their conventions, or compacts, or civil contracts, or agreements. And, which is more, the Chaldee verb mechar, from whence this word may very well be deduced, signifies to espouse; and the noun mechirah, derived from it, signifies a spouse. And so the words may be rendered thus, their contracts, or agreements, ( or their nuptial contracts, ) were instruments of cruelty. Which translation seems better than the other,

1. Because it keeps closest to the words of the text, and leaves out that particle in, which is not in the Hebrew text, but was added by our translators to complete the sense.

2. Because this best agrees with the history recorded, Genesis 34:1-31, where we read that they did cover their bloody design with a pretence of an agreement and nuptial contract with the Shechemites, which was a great aggravation of their villany, that those things which to others are bonds of love and peace, were made by them instruments of cruelty.

Simeon and Levi are brothers,.... Not because they were so in a natural sense, being brethren both by father and mother's side, for there were others so besides them; but because they were of like tempers, dispositions, and manners (f), bold, wrathful, cruel, revengeful, and deceitful, and joined together in their evil counsels and evil actions, and so are joined together in the evils predicted of them:

instruments of cruelty are in their habitations: or vessels, utensils, household goods gotten by violence and rapine, and through the cruel usage of the Shechemites; these were in their dwellings, their houses were full of such mammon of unrighteousness, or spoil; or, as others, "instruments of cruelty" are "their swords" (g); what they should only have used in their own defence, with these they shed the blood of the Shechemites very barbarously, Genesis 34:25. Some think the word here used is the Greek word for a sword; and the Jews say (h) that Jacob cursed the swords of Simeon and Levi in the Greek tongue; and others say it is Persic, being used by Xenophon for Persian swords; but neither of them seems probable: rather this word was originally Hebrew, and so passed from thence into other languages; but perhaps the sense of it, which Aben Ezra gives, may be most agreeable, if the first sense is not admitted, that it signifies covenants, compacts, agreements (i), such as these men made with the Shechemites, even nuptial contracts; for the root of the word, in the Chaldee language, signifies to espouse (k); and these they abused to cruelty, bloodshed, and slaughter, in a most deceitful manner: in the Ethiopic language, the word signifies counsels; so De Dieu takes it here.

(f) "--------par nobile fratrum Nequitia et nugis pravorum et amore gemellum." Horat. Sermon. l. 2. Satyr. 3.((g) "Machaerae eorum", Montanus, Tigurine version, Schmidt; and so R. Sol. Urbin Ohel Moed, fol. 31. 2.((h) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (i) So Castell. Lexic. col. 2058. Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (k) Chald. & Syr. "despondit", "desponsavit", Schindler. Lex. col. 998.

Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.
5. Simeon and Levi] These two brothers were associated in the massacre of the Shechemites, to which reference is possibly here made in language of indignation. (See ch. Genesis 34:25; Genesis 34:30.)

swords] The Hebrew word (m’khêrâh) occurs only here. Its similarity in sound to the Greek μάχαιρα, “a sword,” has suggested the English rendering. If it be rightly derived from a root meaning “to dig,” possibly the traditional rendering denoting “a weapon” is correct. The R.V. marg., compacts, gives another conjecture. Driver (Add. xl.) says the word “must come from karar, prob. to turn round; hence Dillm. suggests a curved knife, or sabre.” The obscurity accounts for the following variant renderings: LXX συνετέλεσαν ἀδικίαν ἐξ αἱρέσεως αὐτῶν; Lat. vasa iniquitatis bellantia; Targ. Onkelos, “mighty men in the land they dwelled in, they did a mighty deed”; Spurrell, “weapons of violence are their shepherds’ staves”; Gunkel, “deceit and violence are their pitfalls.”

Verses 5-7. - Simeon and Levi are brethren (not in parentage alone, but also in their deeds; e.g. their massacre of the Shechemites (Genesis 34:25), to which undoubtedly the next words allude); instruments of cruelty are in their habitations - literally, instruments of violence their מְכֵדֹת, a ἅπαξ λεγόμ. which has been variously rendered

(1) their dwellings, or habitations (Kimchi, A. V., Calvin, Ainsworth), in the land of their sojourning (Onkelos), for which, however, there does not seem to be much authority;

(2) their machinations or wicked counsels, deriving from מָכַר, to string together, to take in a net, to ensnare (Nahum 3:4), the cognate Arabic root signifying to deceive or practice stratagems (De Dieu, Schultens, Castelli, Tayler Lewis, and others);

(3) their betrothals, or compacts of marriage, connecting with the same root as the preceding in the sense of "binding together" (Dathius, Clericus, Michaelis, Knobel, Furst, et alii);

(4) their rage, as suggested by the unused root כִּיד, to boil or seethe (Kalisch);

(5) their swords, from כּוּר = כָּרָה to dig or pierce through, cf. μάχαιρα (Vulgate, Luther, Gesenius, Rosenmüller, Keil, Murphy, and others). The preponderance of authority appears to be in favor of this last. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; literally, into their council or assembly (סוד, from יָסַד, to set or sit) come not, my soul, or my soul shall not come (cf. Proverbs 1:15, 16) - unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: - literally, with or in their assembly or congregation (קָהֵל from קָהַל, to call together: cf. Genesis 28:3; Genesis 35:11; Genesis 48:4), mine honor or glory (i.e. the soul as being the noblest part of man: Psalm 16:9; Psalm 57:9; Psalm 108:2 - the term כְּבֹדִי is parallel with the preceding נַפְשִׁי), do not join (Keil), or shall not join (Kalisch) - for in their anger they slew a man, - literally, man, a collective, singular for "men," the plural form of XXX occurring rarely; only in Psalm 141:4; Proverbs 8:4; and Isaiah 53:3 - and in their self will they digged down a wall - literally, they houghed ox (LXX., Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Lange, Gerlach, T. Lewis, Murphy, &c., &e.), the singular שׁור, the plural of which is only found once, in Hosea 12:12, being retained here to correspond with אִישׁ. The received rendering, which is not without sanction (Onkelos, Targnm of Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila, Symmachus, Vulgate, Dathius, Calvin), reads שׁוּר instead of שׁור, and takes עָקַרin the primary sense of destruere, evertexe. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: - the second synonym "wrath," literally, outpourings, indicates the fullness and intensity of the tide of fury which by Simeon and Levi was let loose upon the unsuspecting Shechemites - I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel. While for the sin (the deed, not the doers) Jacob has a curse, for the sinners themselves he has a well-merited chastisement. They had been confederate in their wickedness, they should in future, when returning to occupy their God. assigned inheritance, be disjoined. That this prediction was exactly fulfilled Scripture testifies. At the second census in the wilderness, shortly before the conquest, the tribe of Simeon had become so reduced in its numbers (reckoning only 22,000 as against 76,500 in Judah) as to be the smallest of the twelve (Numbers 26:14); to be passed over entirely in the last blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33.); to be accorded no independent allotment of territory in Canaan on the completion of the conquest, having only a few cities granted to it within the borders of Judah (Joshua 19:1-9); and to be ultimately absorbed in the more powerful and distinguished tribe under whose protection and tutelage, so to speak, it had been placed (1 Chronicles 4:27). The tribe of Levi also was deprived of a separate inheritance, receiving only a number of cities scattered here and there among the possessions of their brethren (Joshua 21:1, 40); and, though by its election to the priesthood the curse may be said to have been turned into a blessing, yet of this signal honor which was waiting Levi Jacob was completely silent, showing both that no prophecy was of any private interpretation (the seer seeing no further than the Holy Spirit helped him), and that Jacob spoke before the days of Moses. It is almost incredible that a late writer would have omitted to forecast the latter-day glory of the tribe of Levi; and this opinion is confirmed by observing the very different strain in which, after Levi s calling had been revealed, the benediction of Moses himself proceeds (Deuteronomy 33:8-11). Genesis 49:5"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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