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In Bereshis 46:10 among the sons of Shimon there is listed one וְשָׁאוּל, בֶּן-הַכְּנַעֲנִית. I have seen various explanations for who this person is.

  1. He is the son of Shimon and Dina. He is referred to as בֶּן-הַכְּנַעֲנִית either because Dina was raped by Shechem who lived in Canaan. (Rashi ad loc)
  2. He is the son of an actual Canaanite woman whom Shimon married. He is being branded as such because marrying women from Canaan has been a big no-no since the says of Avraham (Ibn Ezra ad loc.)
  3. He is Zimri the eventual prince of shevet Shimon (Sanhedrin 82b)

The problem I have with each of these explanations is

  1. Why would the pasuk go out of its way to refer to Dina in this way? We seem to be insulting her because she was raped? Furthermore, does this imply that all other sons of Shimon were from another woman?
  2. Now we seem to be insulting Shimon! Why would he have married a Canaanite woman if it was such a big no-no? Furthermore, why didn't his kids die as Yehuda's did for the same infraction (see continuation of Ibn Ezra ad loc). And, similar to above, why is this title only applied to one of the sons and not the others?
  3. This would imply that Zimri was at least 250 years old when he took Kozbi, this seems hard to imagine. Furthermore Zimri is never referred to as the son of Shimon. Lastly, why would we bring up Zimri's eventual infraction here in the listing of the sons of the tribes? It seems conceptually out of place and intentionally confusing

Hence, I would like to know there are either other explanations for who שָׁאוּל, בֶּן-הַכְּנַעֲנִית was or if there is a commentator who addresses any of these problems.

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With regards to point 1, the emphasis is on the second half of Rashi, "Dinah did not want to leave until Simeon swore to her that he would marry her". Why did Shimon marry Dinah, his sister? Because of what a Canaanit did to her. –  Menachem Jan 1 at 8:03
    
BTW, Rav S.R. Hirsh suggest Saul was the son of Dinah by Shechem, and was adopted by Shimon. –  J. C. Salomon Jan 3 at 4:29

1 Answer 1

To address some of the points that you raised:

2) The Radak explains that since Avraham had commanded Eliezer not to take a wife for Yitzchok from the Canaanites, all the sons of Yaakov were also careful not to do so. (My understanding is that they themselves were not forbidden to do so, but they understood that it was something they should also not do). Shimon himself was also careful about this, but after he married his first wife and had children from her, he married a second, Canaanite women who gave birth to Shaul. Therefore, the Torah publicised it.

The sefer Ohel Yosef explains that the reason why Er and Onan died and not their brother Shelah was because they were wicked in and of themselves, whereas Shaul and Shelah were not even though they were the offspring of Canaanite women. (Since he appears to be defending the Ibn Ezra there, I think he means that Er and Onan died because of the two factors together - that they were the offspring of a Canaanite woman and they also were wicked. And from this we can understand a little why Avraham was careful about this matter when he took a wife for Yitzchok).

(This information was taken from footnotes in the sefer חוקקי יהודח here).

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