The Testament of Simeon

Just as in the other Testaments of the Twelve, the writer expands on the biblical story considerably. Simeon was blessed with strength and courage, which he used in the raid on Shechem (Genesis 37:25-28, T.Simeon 1-2). He was, however, envious of Joseph (who was nothing evil resided in Joseph; he was attractive in appearance and handsome to behold). The Prince of Error, therefore, tempted Simeon to kill Joseph. When Judah sold Joseph into slavery, Simeon wanted to kill Judah instead, but the Lord was bound to prevent him from this sin, and his hand was withered for seven days. He was only restored after he prayed for forgiveness.

Testament of Simeon

Simeon, therefore, warns his children of the dangers of envy (chapter 3). “Beware of the spirit of deceit and envy,” Simeon warns, because “envy dominates the whole of man’s mind and does not permit him to eat or drink or to do anything good. Rather it keeps prodding him to destroy the one whom he envies” (3:1-3). Simeon can only overcome his envy of Joseph after two years of fasting. Rather than envy, one ought to have compassion (3:6, cf.  Phil. 2:1-4, which contrasts compassion with envy).

Simeon claims to have seen a copy of the Book of Enoch, although the Testament of Simeon 5:4-5 does not allude to any known Enochian text. In what is likely a Christian interpolation, Simeon looks forward to a time in the future when Canaan will be destroyed (along with other enemies of the Patriarchs and, curiously, the Cappadocians). The text indicates the descendants of Shem will be exalted, and Simeon himself will rise again to bless God.

Testament of Simeon 6:3-6 Shem will be glorified because God the Lord, the Great One in Israel, will be manifest upon the earth [as a man]. By himself will he save Adam. Then all the spirits of error shall be given over to being trampled underfoot. And men will have mastery over the evil spirits. Then I shall arise in gladness and I shall bless the Most High for his marvels, [because God has taken a body, eats with human beings, and saves human beings].

Perhaps the most tantalizing lines in the Testament are 7:1-2. The section begins with an exhortation to “be obedient to Levi and to Judah. Do not exalt yourselves above these two tribes, [because from them will arise the Savior come from God].” The problem is the status of the last phrase: is this a Christian adaptation of a Jewish original or wholly Christian? The idea that two messiahs will come to Israel is found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (a messiah of David and Aaron). This reflects a coming military savior (like David, from the tribe of Judah) but also a messiah who functions in some ways like a priest from the tribe of Levi.

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