What message is being conveyed in Gen 46:10 when it says of one of Simeon's sons: "Shaul the son of a Canaanitish woman" (KJV)?

Judah also had three sons by a Canaanite woman (Gen 38:2-5), Er, Onan, and Shelah, yet this is left unmentioned in the text of Gen 46:12.

Additionally, though I am not familiar with the historical traditions of who the various sons married, I tend to assume that all the brothers married woman of the land of Canaan, other than Joseph, who married an Egyptian (Gen 41:45). So they likely married Canaanites in the broad sense of the term as those dwelling in that land (whatever ethnicity), but also possibly in the narrow sense as well of ethnically. Why?

  1. There is nothing in the text of Scripture that I am aware of that indicated the brothers went out of country (like Jacob) to find wives. Since they lived within Canaan, it would seem most likely that is where most, if not all, their wives came from, just as Judah is explicitly noted to have done.

    • it seems highly unlikely that Jacob would have sent any of his sons back to Laban's people, given his experiences there; and the sons are indicated to have been not yet married at the time they left there (Gen 32:11; 33:1, 5-7); Reuben would have been at most about 12-13 years old (born 1st year of marriage to Leah, with 7 years time serving for Rachel the 2nd time [Gen 29:26], and then 6 years of serving for flocks [Gen 30:27-30, 31:38]).
    • it is possible they married from other relatives of Abraham (daughters related to Ishmael or the sons of Keturah), but such would have also likely required going outside of Canaan. This is because Abraham explicitly tried to keep those people separate, sending Ishmael away (Gen 21:14, 21) and the sons of Keturah away (Gen 25:6). They became many of the nations surrounding Canaan.
    • it is possible they married cousins, Esau's daughters (Gen 36:6). But (a) Esau was also removed from Canaan, by his own will, to separate from Jacob (Gen 36:6-8), (b) given the strained relations between Esau and Jacob, it seems unlikely Jacob would have desired his sons marrying any of Esau's daughters, (c) given the attention to Esau's genealogy in Genesis 36, any marriage of a daughter to Jacob's sons would likely have been noted somewhere in Scripture.
  2. When Levi and Simeon smote the men of Shechem (Gen 34:25), those men had already fulfilled their circumcision (Gen 34:24), and so part of the promise made to the men for such an act was that "then we [Jacob's sons] will give our daughters to you [Dinah being the first], and we [Jacob's sons] will take your daughters to us; and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people." After they killed the men, it says "All their [the city of Shechem's] little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses." This is strong circumstantial evidence that a number of the brothers took wives of either the former wives of the men of Shechem, or more likely, of their daughters (as promised). Those people were almost certainly Hivites, as Hamor and Shechem were (Gen 34:2), which were ethnically Canaanite (Gen 10:15-18, emphasis added):

    15 Canaan begot Sidon his firstborn, and Heth; 16 the Jebusite, the Amorite, and the Girgashite; 17 the Hivite, the Arkite, and the Sinite; 18 the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. Afterward the families of the Canaanites were dispersed.

    Additionally, the area of Shechem remained a major base of operations for the family's flocks, as it is where the brothers had originally went to tend to the flocks when Joseph went in search of them (Gen 37:12). This seems to indicate a certain "settling in" of that area, which would be expected if town had been cleared of the men and the families taken captive and assimilated into Jacob's family via marriage to the brothers.

So we are left with these points:

  1. FACT: Judah married a Canaanite, but such was not mentioned in his bio in Gen 46.
  2. PROBABLE SPECULATION: At least some of the other brothers also married Canaanite women, but such was not specifically mentioned in their bio's, though the Genesis 34 account alludes to the high probability of such.

The fact of #1 alone is enough to question why the mention in Gen 46:10 of Simeon's son Shaul is significant—what is being communicated distinct from Judah? But it has even more force if #2 is true as well, that the other brother's married daughters of the city of Shechem or other Canaanite women.

I have at least two speculations on the special calling out of this fact of Shaul:

  1. Simeon had two wives, one non-Canaanite, one that was, so the phrase is just to distinguish the sons' mothers.
  2. "Canaanitish" was used here as a euphemization for a "son of a woman playing prostitute like a Canaanite," which could mean:
    • (a) an out of wedlock son of Simeon's with a prostitute, or
    • (b) an out of wedlock son of Simeon's wife who played the prostitute, who Simeon nonetheless adopted as his own

Somewhat against #1 is the fact that Judah had offspring from two women (his wife and Tamar), but that is not distinguished in his bio in Gen 46:12. So why distinguish that for Simeon? It is plausible, however, that the account in Genesis 38 is enough to account for the absence of mention in Genesis 46.

In contextual support of #2, the Canaanite religion included sacred prostitution, like so many other religions of the time:

Ironically, the goddesses were considered sacred prostitutes and as such were called the “holy ones.” Idols representing the goddesses were often nude and sometimes had exaggerated sexual features. In what circumstances early cultic prostitution was practiced is a matter of some debate, but there is no doubt that both male and female temple prostitutes were used in the cult of Canaanite religion (Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988], 412).

These prostitutes may be related to who Judah thought he was dealing with when he had relations with Tamar, so Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch mention in commentary on Dt 23:17-18 in a note regarding Gen 38:21 (Commentary on the Old Testament [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996], 1:949).

I was leaning toward a #2 answer (specifically 2b for other reasons), but I am unsure if there is any other support than the logic I have already noted to take the meaning as that.

So I am interested in knowing:

  1. what historical interpretations there have been about the significance of the passage, including that the brothers all married non-Canaanites otherwise, and then any other idea I did not think of, and
  2. whether there is any other support or not for a reading such as #2 (in either form), since at present I acknowledge it is purely speculation on my part. I'm seeking to know if such speculation is otherwise justified. Using a term for a euphemization by default is not a common usage of a term, so I obviously would not expect it to be in the dictionaries (and it is not), but might expect if such a usage is plausible, that other Hebrew (or ancient near eastern cultures) writings used the term for Canaanite in such a way.
  • Regarding my (2) possible condition for the reward, I commented about that proposal, but I would desire further information of others who see it as such.
    – ScottS
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 17:48
  • There were some comments that led to some revision of the question for clarity that can be found here if anyone is interested.
    – ScottS
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 22:02
  • I just wanted to mention that because it is noted that Judah had three sons by a Canaanite woman in Gen 38:2-5 there is no need to mention it in Genesis 46:12. The author has already told us that, so there is no need to repeat himself. Obviously you provide additional evidence for your point, but I felt this worth noting. Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 19:58
  • @JamesShewey Yes, I mentioned that "the account in Genesis 38 is enough to account for the absence of mention in Genesis 46" for Judah's sons. What is interesting, though, is that Shaul continues to be referenced by this fact in later accounts as well, while the others are not specifically so.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 20:01
  • Read the book of Jasher, chapter 45. It has the background of most of the sons wives.
    – Christine
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 8:54

5 Answers 5


Rashi cites the Midrash Bereshit Rabba (80:11) as saying that this was a son of Simeon with his sister Dena.

the son of the Canaanitess: The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite. When they killed Shechem, Dinah did not want to leave until Simeon swore to her that he would marry her -[Gen. Rabbah (80:11)].

The Midrash Bereshit Rabba cites a few answers to the same question, but I can't translate them perfectly so I will leave it untranslated:

:‏אמר רבי הונא
?‏אמרה: ואני אנה הוליך את חרפתי
.‏ עד שנשבע לה שמעון, שהוא נוטלה, הה"ד: (שם מז) ושאול בן הכנענית, בן דינה שנבעלה לכנעני

ר' יהודה ור' נחמיה ורבנן
:‏ר' יהודה אמר
.‏שעשה כמעשה כנענים

:‏ר' נחמיה אמר
.‏שנבעלה מחוי, שהוא בכלל כנענים

:‏ורבנן אמרין
:‏נטלה שמעון וקברה בארץ כנען

  • So as I understand the statement, the son might be Shechem's, by Dinah, which son was adopted by Simeon through a marriage to his full blood sister? And Dinah is being referred to as a Canaanitess (and not by name for what reason...?) because she had been joined to the Canaanite Shechem in marriage, correct? In other words, she became a Canaanitess through that marriage. If I've understood correctly, it is an interesting find, so +1 for that at least.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 19:30
  • I don't think it implies that the child is Shechem's. In terms of calling her a Canaanite, it is sort of what you are saying, but specifically because she had been violated (נבעלה) by a Canaanite, not married. Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 19:36
  • 1
    I've always taken Gen 34:12 to be Shechem's proposal to take Dinah as a wife, v.15 to be the conditions the brothers would allow that (circumcision), v.24 the fulfillment of the conditions, and v.26 confirmation that the brothers had in fact given Dinah to be Shechem's wife, since she was taken from his house three days (v.25) after the circumcision event--which implies to me that on the day of circumcision Shechem took her to his house as his wife. So while she was violated initially, I don't see anything to indicate she was also not married to him for those three days.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 3, 2015 at 21:47
  • Interesting point Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 6:26
  • 1
    I found some further discussion of this passage in this blog post which also referenced a quote from the Jewish Encyclopedia that states "When she [Dinah] died, Simeon buried her in the land of Canann. She is therefore referred to as 'the Canaanitish woman' (Gen. xlvi. 10). Shaul (ib.) was her son by Shechem (Gen. R. l.c.)." It is this last statement that most interests me, but I would not have found it without your post.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 4, 2015 at 14:14

The Son of a ‘Canaanitish’ Woman

The list of Simeon’s sons in Gen.46:10 states that the last named son, Shaul (or Saul), was “the son of a Canaanite woman”. Shaul’s designation is unique among Simeon’s sons whose mothers are not otherwise identified, unique even among Jacob’s 12 sons and many grandsons named in the family record as they arrived in Egypt (Gen.46:8-27). Exodus 6 repeats part of Jacob’s family tree and lists Shaul, again uniquely, in the same way (Ex.6:15). Nu.26:12-14 and 1Ch.4:24-43 (discussed below) also name Shaul – and the Shaulites – among Simeon’s descendents, though without the added comment about his mother. These are the only mentions of Simeon's son or the Shaulites in the Hebrew Bible.

Gen.46 and Ex.6 are also the only two occurrences in the entire Hebrew Bible of the phrase ‘son of a Canaanite woman’, though the Bible tells of others who are such. As the OP rightly points out, the Gen.46 family tree omits mention of Judah’s three oldest sons who also had a Canaanite mother (Gen.38:2-5), as well as the many other men who very likely had Canaanite mothers (cf. Gen.34:27-29). This inconsistency suggests the authors had a purpose in uniquely labeling Shaul in this way beyond that of simply documenting his parentage.

It’s unclear from these few texts, however, what that purpose might have been. No evidence suggests ‘Canaanite woman’ functions here as an idiom or euphemism. The words only appear together in these two verses, so there is insufficient context to draw wider inferences. Neither passage mentions or implies zanah (‘prostitute’) or qĕdeshah (‘female temple prostitute’), Hebrew vocabulary found earlier in Genesis and therefore available had it been relevant. Other than the negative connotation associated with ‘Canaanite’ centuries later (discussed below), neither verse implies anything else untoward. The texts simply describe Shaul as the son of a Canaanite woman: nothing more can be inferred from the immediate texts themselves.


There may be cultural reasons, however, for thinking Shaul's special designation less than benign, likely not during his time but much later. Gen.24:3 describes Abraham’s intention that his son, Isaac, not take a wife from among ‘the daughters of the Canaanites’ but from his own family (repeated in v.37-38). A rationale was not given, and this intention was not repeated for other sons and grandsons. Intermarriage was actually common in the Bible’s telling of early Hebrew history (e.g. Judah, Joseph, Moses, Samson), and it may have been typical for later kings of Israel and Judah.

But with the introduction of the Deuteronomic Code and history – which most biblical scholars date to the 7th to 5th centuries BCE – intermarriage with seven particular Canaanite tribes was forbidden, and for this reason: “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods” (Deut.7:4). The Canaanites and their religion came to be clearly seen as enemies, and their rival and inferior status was memorialized in Judah’s founding mythology (cf. Gen.9-24-27), as was that of Judah's other neighbors). When Judah’s elite returned from exile in Babylon, Ezra expanded the law to prohibit all marriage outside their own tribe. He even enforced the law retroactively, excommunicating those who would not comply. Importantly, this is the period during which the texts of Genesis and Chronicles were likely finalized.

The Tribe of Simeon/Shaul

This last reference, 1Ch.4:24-43, includes several anecdotes of Shaulite history. The Chronicler represents Simeon’s entire lineage, from the time of the patriarch through to King David, only through the line of Shaul, suggesting any other descendents did not survive or were not included in the Israelite confederation. The Shaulites (i.e. Simeonites) were allotted a small fringe of land just north of the southern desert and, according to tradition, distinguished themselves as Bedouin-type warriors, “mighty men of valor for war” (1Ch.12:25).

Even so, the Simeonites do not survive as an identifiable people in the biblical record. According to the Deuteronomistic history, the tribe of Simeon dwindled in size and eventually scattered. It was completely unmentioned in Deut.33’s ‘blessing of Moses,’ and its cities were instead described as belonging to Judah. The writers of Genesis have this fate being foretold in Jacob’s ‘blessing’ of the original tribes (Gen.49:5-7):

     “Simeon and Levi are brothers; 
        Their swords are implements of violence. 
     Let my soul not enter into their council; 
        Let not my glory be united with their assembly; 
     Because in their anger they slew men, 
        And in their self-will they lamed oxen. 
     Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; 
        And their wrath, for it is cruel. 
     I will disperse them in Jacob, 
        And scatter them in Israel.”


It may be, then, that the biblical writers didn’t consider the Shaulites descendent of a ‘son of a Canaanite woman’ because the clan was literally “of notoriously impure stock” (as the ISBE put it in 1939). Shaul and his tribe might instead have been cast from the beginning as almost outsiders, on the fringe, as never really belonging. While the Chronicler's tradition included stories of the tribe’s valor, the priestly writers of Gen.46 felt it important to signal again, in this small way, suspicion about the tribe's future. The Shaulites, descendants of Shaul, son of Simeon, were apparently never fully Hebrew. They must have been, metaphorically, Canaanitish (KJV).

  • While I disagree with both the textual and Israelite history used as the basis for some of this answer, some of the textual observations you offer are interesting and useful (so +1 for that). However, my main question is with respect to "historical interpretations": Do you have sources you can cite that were perhaps the foundation for the ISBE summary of "notoriously impure stock" for Shaul's line? I.E. Jewish or Christian commentators that explore that aspect in their commentaries?
    – ScottS
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 17:27
  • I'm not sure what 'textual history' you disagree with (translations?), but I'm aware some people attempt to interpret on the basis of the historical story told in the Bible rather than the actual history of the text. Even so, the history of interpretation may be interesting to some. The ISBE offers no sources or logic, so perhaps it's conjecture, more midrash. My interest is more strictly exegetical, trying to understand the intention of the actual writers. Good luck with the other!
    – Schuh
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 23:47
  • I hold a traditional view that Moses essentially wrote Deuteronomy, not a "Deuteronomist," so that is what I refer to. It changes the time frame significantly (as I'm sure you know). And I tend to interpret off both the historical story told in the Bible and the textual history.
    – ScottS
    Commented Jan 30, 2016 at 0:37
  • I'm choosing to award my bounty to you. Though I would have liked more information on "historical interpretations" of the passage, your answer did at least include the ISBE note, and it provided some food for thought.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 19:14
  • There's just so little in the text itself that commentators who bother to note the phrase can't add anything to it ... leaving us to brainstorm and sift the possibilities. Thanks for the discussion, and the points!
    – Schuh
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 22:12

In the Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 2: Genesis 16-50 by Dr. Gordon J. Wenham, the author notes:

“Shaul” is the name of another man in 36:37–38.

And, indeed, Genesis 36:37-3 states in a list of "kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king ruled over the Israelites" (Genesis 36:31):

When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the River reigned in his place. When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan the son of Achbor reigned in his place.

Wenham's note provides an important clue as to why the author of Genesis may be noting that this Shaul is son of the Caananite woman: to distinguish between the two Shauls and prevent the reader form thinking these two individuals are the same person.

The NRSV however translates this as:

Samlah died, and Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates succeeded him as king.

Wenham states of Rehoboth on the River however:

The location of “Rehobot-hannahar” (“open spaces of the river”) is uncertain.

And indeed, Eerdman's Bible Dictionary concurs with Wenham on page 1116, but goes on to provide some additional information:

Rehoboth ha-Nahar (rehobot hannahar, "Rehoboth on the river"), the home of Shaul, one of the early kings of Edom (Gen. 36:37; 1 Chr. 1:48). The location is uncertain. "The river" has been assumed to describe the Euphrates (NRSV), but in this context it may refer to a location in Edom.

The reason this is significant, is that Edom is located in the land of Caanan:

enter image description here

Therefore, if Shaul is from a Rehoboth in Edom, it isn't at all clear that the two mentions of Shaul are distinct individuals and we are back to the original question. If, on the other hand, they are distinct individuals, then this parenthetical note in Genesis 46:10 indicates that the translators of the NRSV likely made the correct translation.

The note that Shaul was the son of a Caananite woman lends creedence to the NRSV translation as it would be out of place otherwise, but to further bolster this belief one need only look at the usage of נָהָר (nahar - river) as outlined by Concordances. This shows that in the overwhelming majority of cases, this word refers to a large river - either the Nile, Tigris or Euphrates. In some cases, it is even directly translated as Euphrates and we are certain that the usage of נָהָר (nahar) in other passages where it is translated as Euphrates is correct based on context.

The last thing to note is that Rehoboth is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:48:

When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the River succeeded him.

According to Chronicles, Rehoboth on the River (or Aram-Beth-Rehob in Chronicles) was the capital of the Aramaean kingdom, Aram-Naharaim. For example the Pulpet Commentary states,

The parallel place has Aram-beth-rehob, instead of our Aram-naharaim ("Syria of the Two Rivers," i.e. Tigris and Euphrates; Authorized Version, "Mesopotamia"). From comparing this verso with ver. 16, it may seem probable that those strictly called "of Mesopotamia" lent either no aid at first or but very partial. It is observable that the numbers of men supplied by Beth-rehob, Zobah, and Ishtob in the parallel place (viz. thirty-two thousand) agree with the numbers of this verse, from which we may conclude that, whatever Aram-beth-rehob (probably either Reho-both on the Euphrates, or Rehob last of Lebanon)

Thus, most of the commentators on Chronicles/Samuel note that either 1) this is not the same Rehoboth on the River as mentioned in Genesis, or that the Rehoboth on the River mentioned in Genesis must be located on the Euphrates and not in Edom otherwise, it would be located outside of the area of "Syria of the Two Rivers. Though some scholars have suggested that perhaps the territory simply extended that far west, but most scholars reject this idea.

When combined with the OP's observation that Shaul was the son of the Caananite woman is out of place (unless this geography is correct, I would add), this puts the final nail in the coffin for the idea that Shaul mentioned in Genesis 36:37-38 was from the Euphrates and not Edom and this note in Genesis 46:10 is to distinguish between two different individuals named Shaul.

  • +1 for finding a source that has this take on the significance of the passage. However, I find Wenham's conclusion for the reason of the inclusion extremely weak. Shaul in Gen 46 is clearly Shaul, son of Simeon, son of Israel (in context), and so "son of a Canaanite" is at best wholly unnecessary, and more likely completely irrelevant for distinguishing the Gen 36 reference. Clearly the grandson of Israel was not a king in Edom before "any king reigned over the children of Israel" (Gen 36:1), as he would (cont.)
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 21:27
  • (1) at least be reigning over his own immediate family (which is part of Israel), which family, (2) did not yet exist when they went to Egypt, as no great grandsons or wives of them except from Judah, Hezron and Hamul (Gen 46:12), went, (3) he is father to those in captivity in Egypt, so he did not leave Egypt to rule (Num 26:13). Other points could be made, but it makes no sense to see the reference as Wenham notes as adding any clarity with the Gen 36 reference, since simply being the son of Simeon in the context is enough clarity to not confuse them.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 21:38
  • Let me not misrepresent Wenham - Wenham only notes that there was another Shaul. He does not conclude that this is the reason for the inclusion of the parenthetical note - I was the one who made this connection. I fail to see how it is clear that Shaul could not have been a king in the land of Edom. This is different then saying he was king of the Edomites. One could just as easily say Shaul "was king in the land of Judah before any king ruled over the Israelites" and he may have ruled over more than just his family. Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 23:03
  • @ScottS - Near as I can tell, there is nothing to give a sense of time to the king list, so for all we know, the list could begin with reigns that pre-date Abraham. There is nothing to place these individuals as descendants of Esau as near as I can tell. I actually don't find any names of kings which appear in the lineage of Esau which would tend to indicate that the kings listed were not Edomites. Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 23:05
  • Thanks for clarifying. To summarize against Shaul = King in Edom; Shaul went to Egypt young enough to have no children, but remained to father descendants there. Yet, if I grant an equation, "son of a Canaanitess" does not disqualify him being "of Rehoboth by the river." One associates to a location, the other to genealogy. Shaul could be of Simeon, by Canaanite woman descent, being either born at Rehoboth (wherever it is) or became famous there before ruling in Edom. Without mutual exclusion, the Gen 46 ref. is irrelevant to distinguish from Gen 36, any more than son of Simeon distinguishes.
    – ScottS
    Commented Feb 1, 2016 at 23:49

I did not get much information regarding the historical interpretations that I was seeking, so I chose to do some research myself.

Itemization of Historical Interpretations

NOTE: I have not discovered anything that directly warrants a support for my conjectures about "Canaanitish woman" being a reference to acting like a prostitute.1

What I have found is that there appear to be primarily three types of interpretations:

  1. That Simeon married (or at least had procreative relations with) a Canaanite woman. The purpose of "Canaanite woman" being noted is generally believed to imply that the other brothers had not had such relations (Judah is noted as another exception however).2
  2. That Simeon married his sister Dinah, who he helped make a widow by killing her Canaanite husband Shechem, and Shaul was the product of this incestuous union. The purpose of "Canaanite woman" here is to allude obliquely to Dinah, possibly to avoid noting directly the incest, while truthfully noting she had been married to a Canaanite.3
  3. That Simeon adopted a Canaanite boy into his family. This was articulated in two different ways:
    • (a) merely as a straight adoption notation, the Canaanite woman being unknown, but her son was Shaul and his descendants of Canaanite stock4
    • (b) as a variant to the #2 story, Shaul is Dinah's son by Shechem, who is adopted by Simeon as part of his helping her since she is now a widow (and possibly remained so) by the actions he had done (see section below for source information).

#1: Intended to Call Simeon out as having a child by a Canaanite?

#1 is a common idea, as evidenced by the many commentaries that note it. But it suffers from not explaining well the barrage of points against it made in my original question as well as one other point noted here:

  • Judah married a Canaanite and fathered sons by her (however, they all died).
  • Most, if not nearly all the other brothers most likely married Canaanite women also (per the points noted in the question). Joseph married and Egyptian (Gen 41:45; though if one traces it out, some Jewish scholars consider her to be Dinah!), but otherwise, little is known of the wives beyond the hints noted.
  • Most significant, Tamar (Gen 38:6) was highly likely a Canaanite as well, meaning that the surviving line of Judah is of Canaanite motherly descent, and yet this does not get mentioned in Genesis 46.5

#2: Intended to Convey Shaul is product of Incest?

The author of Genesis had no issues elsewhere in conveying more explicitly incest relations, even in the line of Israel with Abraham:

  • Lot with his daughters (Gen 19:30-38), which produced Moab (though the author of Genesis would not know the full significance of that in relation to Ruth in the line of David).
  • Abraham with his half-sister Sarai (Gen 20:12).

This casts some doubt on using the term as a euphemism to simply hide Dinah's identity for purposes of this son's mother. However, the idea that it is a term to refer to Dinah shows the potential for such an identification in Jewish thought—i.e., that because Dinah was "possessed" by ("copulated" with) a Canaanite, and likely actually married him, that the term "Canaanitess" can be applied to her. She became one of the Canaanites by marrying one.6

#3(a) and (b): Intended to Convey Shaul is not of Simeon's Bloodline?

As to (a), that has little attestation and it does not make much sense that Simeon adopted a Canaanite tribe.

But (b) has a number of streams of evidence that converge to make a reasonably strong case for Shaul's parentage as a whole (to both a different father and mother) being the intention of the addition of the qualifying phrase "son of a Canaanite woman," indicating the adoptive status as a son of Simeon.

One source explicitly notes this relationship, the Jewish Encyclopedia, which entry states of "Rabbinical Literature" (accessed 2/6/2016; bold added):

When she [Dinah] died, Simeon buried her in the land of Canann [sic; the scanned version has the proper spelling of Canaan]. She is therefore referred to as "the Canaanitish woman" (Gen. xlvi. 10). Shaul (ib.) was her son by Shechem (Gen. R. l.c. [in context, location cited note refers to Gen. R. lxxx.]).

Such a view is also expressed in part of the Wikipedia article on Dinah:

Simeon's children include "Saul, the son of the Canaanite woman."3 The medieval French rabbi Rashi hypothesized that this Saul was Dinah's son by Shechem.3 He suggests that after the brothers killed all the men in the city, including Shechem and his father, Dinah refused to leave the palace unless Simeon agreed to marry her3 and remove her shame (according to Nachmanides, she only lived in his house and did not have sex with him). Therefore, Dinah's son is counted among Simeon's progeny, and he received a portion of land in Israel in the time of Joshua.

The superscript 3 notes are all to "Bereishit - Chapter 46 - Genesis at chabad.org"

The challenge, however, is whether the sources that either of those sources list actually backs up their statement about Rabbinical views. The commentary by Rashi (1st Hebrew ed., A.D. 1475) on the chabad.org site states the following (the same quote given by the answer in support of the n.3 possiblity):

the son of the Canaanitess: The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite. When they killed Shechem, Dinah did not want to leave until Simeon swore to her that he would marry her - [Gen. Rabbah (80:11)]

Apparently some have inferred from his statement that "The son of Dinah, who had been possessed by a Canaanite" refers to Shaul being fathered by Shechem through that possession, and the marriage reference was for Simeon to support Dinah as a widow with a son (making Simeon to be Shaul's stepfather). Others have inferred that the son came from Dinah through the marriage to Simeon, (as my #2 and n.3). If there is any truth to this tradition of relationship between Simeon and Dinah, it would seem more likely that Simeon cared for his sister and her son from Shechem (whether Simeon and Dinah married or not) as a help for having made her a widow; and less likely that Simeon incestuously procreated with her because of the incident.

Rashi is a bit vague as to the fathering of Shaul. The commentary of the Bereishit Rabbah on 80:11 gives the opinion of Rabbi Nechemia (translation again helped by this answer) in support of the Dinah/Shechem relation:

שנבעלה מחוי, שהוא בכלל כנענים [= she copulated with a Hivite, who are considered Canaanites (see Gen 10:15 and 17)]

The date of the Genesis Rabbah is not certain, apparently sometime as early as 4th c. A.D., but with possible later additions. Still, this constitutes the earliest expression I am aware of as viewing the woman (Dinah, here) as a Canaanitess because of her copulating with a Canaanite. Rashi uses "possessed" (שנבעלה), which indicates aligning himself with Nechemia's view of Dinah/Shechem parentage.

The opinions noted are not explicit still as to who the father of Shaul may be, but the emphasis on the sexual relation Dinah had with Shechem is why some might infer that the meaning is to express Shaul is Shechem's son by Dinah, who is now considered a Canaanitess. A later explicit statement of such possibility comes from Rabbi Hirsch in his commentary on this passage in Genesis (ca. 1867-1878), copied from the Hebrew and translation given in this answer (emphasis added):

ושאול בן הכנענית. אם "כנענית" זו היא דינה, שנישאה לשמעון (עי' בראשית רבה פ, י), הרי אפשר ששאול איננו בן שמעון, אלא הבן שיולד לדינה משכם; אם כך, הרי גם בן זה לא התנכר למשפחת יעקב. היא נקראת "כנענית", שכן בנה - מבחינה גופנית - היה בן של כנעני. נמצא אפוא שכבר אז נהג הכלל, כי בהתחבר בת יעקב עם כנעני - הולד הולך אחר האם (עי' יבמות מה ע"ב).‏

If the "Canaanite" here is Dinah, who married Shimon (see Bereshit Raba 80, 10), it is possible that Shaul isn't Shimon's son, but rather a son born to Dinah from Shechem. If so, even this son did not estrange himself from Jacob's family. She is called "Canaanite" because her son, biologically, was the son of a Canaanite (man). Therefore we can conclude that even then, when a daughter of Jacob marries a Canaanite, the newborn's identity is considered based on his/her mother (see Yevamot 45b).

I disagree with Hirsch's final point, that identity is typically based off the mother rather than the father in Hebrew genealogy. If the Gen 46:10 is relaying this type of situation of Shaul being Shechem/Dinah's son, it seems to be making explicit that Shaul is considered a son of Israel because of Simeon's adopting of Shaul, since it is Simeon's family he is associate to.


That something significant is being noted in Gen 46:10 is clear. Given the points noted against #1, #2, and #3(a), the most likely significance appear to me to be that Shaul was adopted and cared for by Simeon, being the son born of Dinah, perceived now as a Canaanitess; a son born after the incident with Shechem, but in which Shechem is the true biological father.

This idea has one further line of evidence and implication that is of primary significance, but which I will follow in an answer to another question.


1 If the phrase was an intended euphemization, there is no other support for that to match my conjecture. There is some support for it to be a different figurative use. According to the Rabbi Yehuda's comment from the Genesis (or Bereshit) Rabbah 80:11 (help in translating found in this answer):

שעשה כמעשה כנענים [= He has acted like the Canaanites]

So the opinion is saying "son of a Canaanite woman" is referring simply to Shaul himself as acting like a Canaanite, which would be a figurative use as a derogatory statement via pure metaphor; i.e., that Shaul's mother was not really a Canaanite (so figurative use), but he acted as if he came from the Canaanites.

I point this out only to indicate that Jewish thought has conceived of the term as being figurative of an individual. Which means theoretically it could be conceived as figurative of the mother, rather than as Rabbi Yehuda's opinion, figurative of the son.

But such figurative uses, by their nature, can be unique uses of language to soften one's wording in a given context (so euphemization) or express a connection that might only be clear to the original audience that knows the true circumstances of the situation. So even though there is still a trace of possibility for my conjecture that the mother "acted like a Canaanitess" metaphorically, my principles of interpretation do not warrant pushing such beyond merely mentioning it still as possible. More research has lead me to no longer need to explore that route further.

2 Of marriage to a Canaanite, this is promoted in the following quotes from commentaries on Gen 46:10 (any emphases are in original).

John Calvin, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, vol. 2, trans. and ed. John King (orig. French ed., 1554; trans. ed., 1847; repr., Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 329:

When Moses declares that Shaul, one of the sons of Simeon, was born of a Canaanitish woman, while he does not even mention the mothers of the other sons, his intention, I doubt not, is to fix a mark of dishonour on his race. For the holy Fathers were on their guard, not to mix in marriage with that nation, from which they were separated by the decree of heaven.

Matthew Poole, Matthew Poole's Commentary (orig. ca. 1685) http://biblehub.com/commentaries/poole/genesis/46.htm (accessed 2/4/2016)

The son of a Canaanitish woman; which is here mentioned as a brand upon him, and as an intimation that the rest of them, except Judah, married to persons of a better race.

Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament [online link not the version referenced], vol. 1 (orig. German, 1861; English ed., 1866; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 238:

It is merely casually that one of the sons of Simeon is called the son of a Canaanitish woman (v. 10); from which it may be inferred that it was quite an exceptional thing for the sons of Jacob to take their wives from among the Canaanites, and that as a rule they were chosen from their paternal relations in Mesopotamia; besides whom, there were also their other relations, the families of Ishmael, Keturah, and Edom.

John Peter Lange A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Genesis, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. Tayler Lewis and A. Gosman (orig. German ed., 1864; trans. ed., 1868; repr., Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 631:

The fact that a son of Simeon is specially mentioned as the son of a Canaanitish woman, shows that it was the rule in Jacob’s house to avoid Canaanitish marriages, though the “Ishmaelitish, Keturian, and Edomitic relationship still stood open to them.” Keil. The ancient connection, however, with Mesopotamia, Laban had impaired, if not entirely interrupted.

Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament (orig. 1884), http://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/genesis/46.htm (accessed 2/4/2016):

"Son of a Kenaanitess." This implies that intermarriage with the Kenaanites was the exception to the rule in the family of Jacob. Wives might have been obtained from Hebrew, Aramaic, or at all events Shemite tribes who were living in their vicinity

H. D. M Spence-Jones, ed., Genesis [online link not the version referenced], The Pulpit Commentary (London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 502:

Shaul,—“Asked for” (Gesenius)—the son of a Canaanitish woman. The wives of the other sons, except Judah, were probably from Mesopotamia

K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 830:

Simeon followed the objectionable practice of Judah by marrying a Canaanite who bore the last-listed son.

3 Of marriage to Dinah, see this answer here, where it notes Midrash Bereshit Rabba (80:11) takes them to have married and Shaul to therefore be the son of that marriage. But see n.4 below for an alternate interpretation.

4 Of adopting from some unknown Canaanite woman, I only found one vague reference in one source, the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges notes on v.10 (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/cambridge/genesis/46.htm; accessed 2/4/2016)

the son of a Canaanitish woman] A note recording the tradition of a well-known case, in which the tribe of Simeon had assimilated a Canaanite clan.

5 Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987) states of her:

A Canaanite woman who became the wife of Judah’s eldest son, Er.

No other dictionaries make that statement, and Scripture is not explicitly clear what her ancestry is; but circumstantial evidence does point to her being Canaanite also:

  • Judah had taken a Canaanite woman to wife (Gen 38:2), so it would not be exceptional that he got a Canaanite for his son Er (Gen 38:6).
  • She lived near enough to Timnah, well within Canaan, to go there alone to meet Judah (Gen 38:13-14).
  • The book of Ruth hints that Tamar may be exceptional in a way parallel to Ruth (who was a non-Israelite, a Moabitess), as the people put a blessing on Boaz by referencing Tamar's relation to Judah (Ruth 4:12).

Some have recognized her being Canaanite as vital to the point of Genesis 38. Steven D. Mathewson, “An Exegetical Study of Genesis 38,” Bibliotheca Sacra 146 (1989), p.390:

This chapter [Genesis 38] teaches that Yahweh would accomplish His purpose, even if He had to use a Canaanite woman to do it.

Mathewson is citing for support of his statement this quote that comes from W. Gunther Plaut, Genesis, (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1974), p. 376:

"In this story, Tamar is His unlikely tool. She is a Canaanite, a daughter of the very people against whom Abraham had warned and whom the children of Israel would later displace."

Keil and Delitzsch say Tamar was "probably a Canaanite" in Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), Gen 38:6ff.

6 A somewhat parallel passage to this idea is Lev 24:10-12 (NKJV):

10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.

Here, the woman has retained being called "an Israelite," so does this argue against Dinah being called a Canaanitess for her possible relation to Shechem? No, not necessarily, for two reasons:

  1. Egyptians were not a people Israel was to avoid, so it could be that such an association as Lev 24 notes did not "cut" her off from Israel in the normal way it might have.
  2. It seems likely Dinah married Shechem (see my comments here), whereas here in Leviticus, it is unclear if this was a marriage relation to an Egyptian or not. The father, other than mentioned as the father, does not seem present in this case, so he may have remained in Egypt. Thus it may be that marriage at the time of the Exodus was what makes an Israelite woman become a Canaanite (or a member of whatever people).
  • I do not understand why you chose the Rabbinic interpretation despite the verse clearly stating otherwise--that he was the son of a Canaanite woman (not a man)! I would rather choose (a) that Saul the son of a Canaanite was adopted by Simeon and was not of pure origin as Schuh already pointed out. I actually like that very much.
    – bach
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 1:04
  • @Bach: The main reason I rejected 3(a) was lack of evidence that it is taken that way. As I stated in footnote 4 on that view, I only found one vague reference in a Bible commentary millennia removed (published 1921) from the events and culture, which itself had no earlier sources to back up that commentary's statement as a valid view. What is clear from the Rabbinic views is that culturally, the Hebrew people considered Dinah to have become a Canaanite for either (a) marrying or (b) simply having had sexual relations with a Canaanite man.
    – ScottS
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:15

You have to note also there has been some monkey business with the Family Tables this is probably why Paul said not to pay attention to fables and needless geneologies in 1 Timothy 1:4

Septuagint Genesis 10:24 And Arphaxad begot Cainan, and Cainan begot Sala. And Sala begot Heber.

Masoretic Genesis 10:24 And Arphaxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber.

Genesis 46: 10 10 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jachin, Zohar, and Shaul, the son of a Canaanite woman. (Canaanite woman has to do with Prostitution and is pointing you to the prostitution of Shaul in the NT)

He was a king of Edom. His name literally means, "From Shaol " The Invisiable state of the Dead" in Hebrew in Greek it is Strongs 4569 Saulos from 4550 sapros from 4595 which means rotten ie worthless either literally or morally bad or corrupt.

Genesis 49: 1, 5-7 1 And Jacob calleth unto his sons and saith, `Be gathered together, and I declare to you that which doth happen with you in the latter end of the days.

5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. 6 Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. 7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

All this is a foreshadow to the Benjamin prophecy

Paul to the Ephesians: "I am an apostle of Yeshua" Eps 1:1, Col 1:1, 1 Tim 1:1, 2 Timothy 1: 11, The Ephesians to Paul: "No you're not." Acts 19, Yeshua to the Ephesians: "Well done!" Rev 2: 2.

Read your prophecies. Paul is the Ravening Wolf from the Tribe of Benjamin Genesis 49:1 (Last days)Genesis 49:27, Daniel 8: 25-27, Philippians 3:5-9, John 5:43, John 8:44, Acts 7:54-8:2, Isaiah 42:23-25, Ezek. 22:26-32, Matthew 7:15-23, John 5:43, Rev 2:2, Zephaniah 3:3, Jeremiah 5:6, Habakkuk 1:8)

Daniel 8:25-27

25 “Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule;[a] And he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; But he shall be broken without human means.[b] 26👉 “And the vision of the evenings and mornings Which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future.”👈

Genesis 49:27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; 👉In the morning he shall devour the prey, And at night he shall divide the spoil.”👈

Zephaniah 3:3 Her princes within her are roaring lions, Her judges are wolves at evening; They leave nothing for the morning.

Jeremiah 5:6 Therefore * a lion from the forest will slay them, A wolf of the deserts will destroy them, A leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces Because their transgressions are many, Their apostasies are numerous.

Habakkuk 1:8 "Their horses are swifter than leopards And keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping, Their horsemen come from afar; They fly like an eagle swooping down to devour. This was very shocking for me when I discovered it and is still troubling but it is a test from YHWH to see if we will follow Paul or His Son.

John 10: 10- 18 10 The thief does not come except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly. 11 I am the Good Shepherd! The Good Shepherd lays down His life on behalf of the sheep. 12 But the hireling, not even being a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and forsakes the sheep and flees. And the wolf seizes them, and scatters the sheep. 13 But the hireling flees because he is a hireling, and there is not a care to him concerning the sheep. 14 I am the Good Shepherd, and I know those that are Mine, and I am known by the ones that are Mine. 15 Even as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And I also have other sheep, those who were not from this sheepfold. And also them, It is necessary for me to bring them and they will hear my voice and all the flocks will become one. And there will be One Shepherd. 17 For this reason My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it up again. 18 No man takes it from Me but I lay it down by My own will. For I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again, for this commandment I have received from my Father.

Isaiah 17:11-14 11 In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and 👉 in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish 👈: but 👉 the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. 👈 12 Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! 13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. 14 And behold 👉 at eveningtide trouble 👈; and before the morning he is not. This is the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.

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