What does Genesis 49:6 mean?Genesis 49 is an oracle—a prophecy—given by Jacob on his deathbed. In it, he describes aspects of what will become of each of his sons and their descendants in the future (Genesis 49:1–2).
In the previous verse, Jacob began a condemnation of his second- and third-born sons: Simeon and Levi. This criticism is directly tied to their violence (Genesis 49:5). Though he doesn't mention it by name, Jacob seems to be describing how Simeon and Levi led their brothers in the massacre of all the men of Shechem (Genesis 34:13–15, 24–29). This was in retaliation for the rape of their sister, Dinah, by the son of Shechem's leader. Jacob condemns them for pursuing a bloody and brutal revenge, going far beyond the crime that was committed. More than just punishing the guilty man, or his subjects, Levi and Simeon killed other men and looted the town.
This verse also contains a reference to these brothers deliberately crippling animals. Scripture is unclear as to when Simeon and Levi might have done this. It might have been during the incident with Shechem, or a pattern of animal abuse. Either way, Jacob holds it up as another example of their stubborn, unnecessary acts of rage.
As with Reuben (Genesis 35:22; 49:3–4), Scripture does not mention what—if any—immediate consequences were suffered by the sons in the aftermath of their crimes. Even if steps were taken, long-term effects are now being felt. Jacob goes so far as to say he shuns these sons; he doesn't want to be with them. Worse, Jacob doesn't want his own glory to be associated with them.
Simeon and Levi lose their good standing in Israel's inner circle. Sins of anger and violence often lead to loss of meaningful relationships. For the peoples to come—the descendants of Simeon and Levi—it will lead to loss of standing, as well. Simeon's tribe will practically dissolve (Joshua 19:1). Levi will become tied to the priesthood (Numbers 3:6), which also means a lack of land for their tribe (Deuteronomy 18:1–2).