Meet Simeon the Just
There are some misconceptions concerning Simeon.
This is particularly due to a misunderstanding of the grammar in the text of Luke’s account.
When Luke quotes Simeon as saying in chapter 2:29-30 “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,” an assumption of old age is made, thinking the speaker is ready to die.
I see that he is saying, God has fulfilled the promise that he would live to see the promised One.
In this setting, where Herod had slaughtered a majority of the leaders of the Hasmonean family, of which he was a member, it was always a possibility that he could die an early death. Simeon was noted as one who was highly regarded, obviously prominent in society and one who was a true worshipper of God.
He was known for his devotion to the things of God and was in a position of power to dispense Justice.
Adam Clarke comments: “Several learned men are of the opinion that he was son to the famous Hillel, one of the most celebrated doctors and philosophers which had ever appeared in the Jewish nation since the time of Moses. Simeon is supposed also to have been the Ab or president of the grand Sanhedrin”.
When the Wise Men from the East arrived in Jerusalem, looking for the new born King.
Herod, being an Idumean, and not a Jew, called for the Chief Priests and the Scribes for an opinion on where the Messiah would be born.
Dr. Lightfoot offers, “We may therefore guess, and that no improbable conjecture, that, in this assembly, called together by Herod, these were present, among others:-1. Hillel, the president. 2. Shammai, vice-president. 3. The sons of Betira, Judah, and Joshua. 4. Bava Ben Buta. 5. Jonathan the son of Uzziel, the Chaldee paraphrast. 6. Simeon, the son of Hillel”.
From Lightfoot’s calculations Simeon would be about 27 years of age at the time of the dedication of Baby Jesus.
In his role of leadership, he hears from the Holy Spirit that he is to go to the Nicanor gate in the Temple, and there he finds Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus. Luke 2:27-28 shows Simeon, a priest, later the president of the Sanhedrin, performing the ‘Taharat Hamishpachah’ Purification of the Parents, and the dedication of the Baby.
In the Hebraic tradition, both the parents had to go through the ‘Mikveh’ or Baptism of purification, after the birth of a child. Once they had gone through the Mikveh, they were considered ritually clean, the seperatenes, of ‘Niddah’ was gone, and she was no longer ‘Tumah’ or unclean. Now they could offer the sacrifice and be blessed by the Priest.
Rivkah Slonim in her article on the Jewish Woman, explains this:
“The status of a Jew — whether he or she was ritually pure or impure — was at the very core of Jewish living; it dictated and regulated a person’s involvement in all areas of ritual. Most notably, tumah made entrance into the Holy Temple impossible and thus sacrificial offering inaccessible”.
This was the ceremony which Simeon performed, ending with his prophecy about both Jesus and Mary.
Simeon had a son, who rose to prominence, and while we hear no more of Simeon, his son, Gamaliel became the next leader and teacher of the Law, under whose tutelage Saul of Tarsus and Caiaphas, the High Priest, figure in the writings of Luke in the New Testament.