As the forefathers of the 12
tribes, the lives and personalities of each of the sons of Jacob impacted upon
the history and behavior of the tribe that was to descend from them.

The descendants of Simeon shared their forefather’s zealous spirit…a character
trait that did not always lead them down the right path. The Torah describes
one incident, in particular, that highlights this aspect of Simeon’s nature:

While encamped in Shittim, some of the Israelite men were seduced by the women
of Moab, who came out specifically to lure them into sin and weaken their camp.
Not only did these women act as harlots, but they also enticed the wayward
Israelites to make sacrifices to their pagan god, Ba’alpeor. Before commanding
Moses to publicly hang the leaders of the sinning Israelites, God struck the
people with a plague. When Moses instructed the tribal leaders to “slay
every one of your men who are worshiping Ba’alpeor,” Zimri the son of
Salu, a prince in the tribe of Simeon, refused to slay his own men. Instead he
took Cozbi, a Midianite princess, and committed public harlotry with her in
front of Moses. Irate at Zimri’s flagrant disregard for authority, Pinchas, the
grandson of Aaron, slew them both (Numbers 25:1-15).

Zimri had good reason to not want to punish those that were sinning…after
all, most of the people were his brethren from the tribe of Simeon. In the
census taken in Numbers 1, the tribe of Simeon has a population of 59,300. In
the census taken in Numbers 26, however, the population of Simeon decreased to
22,200, demonstrating that the tribe of Simeon suffered greater losses than any
other, during the plague in chapter 25.

When Jacob blessed his children, he had forewarned that Simeon (and Levi) would
be dispersed among Israel (Genesis 49:7), as indeed they were. In Joshua 19,
when the newly conquered land of Canaan was divided, Simeon was not given his
own portion, but rather resided together with Judah in Judah’s tribal portion.

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