on Genesis 49 :5
Simeon and Levi are brethren - Not only springing from the same parents, but they have the same kind or disposition, head-strong, deceitful, vindictive, and cruel.
They have accomplished, etc. - Our margin has it, Their swords are weapons of violence, i. e., Their swords, which they should have used in defense of their persons or the honorable protection of their families, they have employed in the base and dastardly murder of an innocent people.
The Septuagint gives a different turn to this line from our translation, and confirms the translation given above: Συνετελεσαν αδικια εξαιρεσεως αυτων· They have accomplished the iniquity of their purpose; with which the Samaritan Version agrees. In the Samaritan text we read calu, they have accomplished, instead of the Hebrew כלי keley, weapons or instruments, which reading most critics prefer: and as to מכרתיהם mecherotheyhem, translated above their fraudulent purposes, and which our translation on almost no authority renders their habitations, it must either come from the Ethiopic מכר macar, he counselled, devised stratagems, etc., (see Castel), or from the Arabic macara, he deceived, practiced deceit, plotted, etc., which is nearly of the same import. This gives not only a consistent but evidently the true sense.
on Genesis 49 :5
"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.
on Genesis 49 :5
49:5 Simeon and Levi are brethren - Brethren in disposition, but unlike their father: they were passionate and revengeful, fierce and wilful; their swords, that 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.