As a follow-up to When Did Israel First Expect Deliverance from Egypt?, I would like to add:

In Gen 42:25, we read (regarding Joseph)---

And taking Simeon, and binding him in their presence, he commanded his servants to fill their sacks with wheat, and to put every man's money again in their sacks, and to give them besides provisions for the way: and they did so. (Douay-Rheims)

Do we know why Joseph specifically chose Simeon (from among the ten) to be bound as a hostage until his brothers made their return to Egypt with Benjamin?

  • We are not told so we do not know. Perhaps it was for Simeon's part in the massacre of the men as recorded in Gen 34. However, we do not know.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 21:52
  • Simeon was held hostage until the brothers returned with Benjamin. Simeon was the second son of Leah. Benjamin was the second son of Rachel. Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


The only brother who wanted to save Joseph when he was placed in the pit was Ruben. His main motivation must have been that, as the firstborn, he was responsible for his younger siblings.

Genesis 37:18-22

18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. 19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. 22 “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

Genesis 37:29

When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes.

Joseph was not aware of that fact until his brothers came to Egypt. It was then that he heard that Ruben wanted to save him.

Genesis 42:22-24

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter. 24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

Simeon was the eldest of the conspiring brothers, and that was the reason he was imprisoned.

  • 2
    As one commentator noted, we don't know for sure. But your well thought out answer seems quite plausible. Thank you.
    – DDS
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 11:55

Perhaps because, according to Genesis ch29 vv31-35, Simeon was the second-eldest of the twelve sons. Reuben is the eldest, so he is permitted to continue leading them on the journey back to Jacob.


I would suggest that it was because of the meaning of his name. Reuben and Simeon were both sons of Leah. They would have known how, when she gave birth to Simeon, she "...said, 'Because the LORD has heard [שָׁמַע] that I am hated...' (Gen. 29:33a, ESV)"

Simeon's name שִׁמְעוֹן is derived from a verb meaning to hear. It is Joseph's clever way of making his brothers realize that God has heard his own affliction.

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