“Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” – Genesis 49:5-7
Jacob is referring here to the incident described in Genesis 33, when Simeon and his brother Levi, tricked the male inhabitants of Shechem into undergoing circumcision in order to massacre them while they were recuperating. This was done to avenge their sister’s rape, but it much displeased their father, Jacob, and he recounts it on his deathbed.
The bowl is 17 inches in diameter and 9 inches high. The traditional symbols of this tribe include a sword and often a wall or gate. The image of a lion goring an ox is from an ancient marble sarcophagus found in the city of Ashkelon, Israel. “They gored an ox” is an alternative translation to “they digged down a wall,” and is found in some versions of the Bible. The Hebrew text under the image of two men fighting (from the same sarcophagus, reads: “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them is Israel.” This is an example of the Biblical Hebrew poetic device of parallelism. The other two images inside the bowl are of columns and the base of a Corinthian column, both from among the ruins of Ashkelon. The interior walls of the bowl signify a broken wall. The exterior walls (see exterior view in the final illustration) contain design elements from the Corinthian column base impressed into the clay and also a repetitive image of a sealed gate.