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ZIMRI (zĭm'rī, Heb. zimrî)

ZIMRI zĭm’ rī זִמְרִ֖י; LXX Ζαμβρι (“older vocalization,” Montgomery p. 289); perhaps short for Zimri-el, on the analogy of Zimriilim in Hammurabi tablets (Parrot, Syria [1937], 74f. [1939], 97ff.), Zimrijah on a seal from Jerusalem (Diringer, Iscrizzioni Ant. Ebr., 25, 43 n. 17, 211); possibly my protection, cf. S Arab. root dmr “protect” (Aram. “admire”), BDB zmr III; Noth, Israelitische Personennamen pp. 175f., my song, but this should be zimrāti, and no masc. segholate form is known; J. Gray, p. 328, thinks the ending -i might indicate a nickname; G. B. Gray, Studies in Hebrew Names [1896] suggests mountain sheep from zmrn; cf. zemer, Deuteronomy 14:5, also Zimran son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen 25:2, 1 Chron 1:32). 1. A Simeonite elder, killed by Phinehas for his open adultery with a Moabite princess (Num 25:14); the incident is recalled in 1 Maccabees 2:26.

2. Ancestor of a Judahite clan (1 Chron 2:6). The context suggests that he was identical with either Carmi or Zabdi of Joshua 7:1, 17, 18.

3. A descendant of Saul through Jonathan and Meribaal (Mephibosheth) (1 Chron 8:36; 9:42).

4. Name of a tribe or district in an Arabian Mesopotamian context (Jer 25:25).

5. A “servant” or retainer of King Elah, whom he assassinated, briefly usurping the royal power (1 Kings 16:9-20). Elah was carousing at Tirzah, while the main army was besieging Gibbethon; its reaction, under Omri’s leadership, was so swift that Zimri had only seven days to live. Raising the siege, Omri brought the army to the capital; Zimri, who had perhaps relied on his chariot force, could not hold it. As the troops entered, he retired to the palace and burned it over his own head (’armon normally means “residence” but here, in the construct, the “private apartments”; Ginsberg JBL 62 [1943], 113f., renders “fortress”).

These events took place in Asa’s twenty-seventh year (16:10). Assuming the synchronism, from an Israelite source, to be based on ante-dating (with no accession-year), and reckoning 911/10 b.c. as Asa’s first year, Thiele deduces that Zimri reigned in 885/4 b.c. Albright holds the synchronism to be secondary (see Omri), and dates the rebellion about the thirty-eighth of Asa (876 b.c. by his chronology; see Asa). The synchronism is indeed omitted from the LXX; Thiele regards this as a form of harmonization.

Despite his very short reign, Zimri is said to have “sat on his throne,” implying a form of valid recognition without the national assembly; this must have depended on being in the capital. The note of his contribution to Israel’s apostasy (16:19) may mean that he formally affirmed his adherence to the religious policy of Jeroboam.


W. F. Albright, BASOR 100 (1945), 16-22; J. Montgomery, Kings (ICC) (1951); Y. Yadin, Art of Warfare (Eng., 1963), 301; J. Gray, Kings (1964); E. Thiele, Mysterious Numbers2 (1965), 62; J. Miller, JBL 86 (1967), 282-284.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(zimri, "wild sheep" or "wild goat"; in 1 Maccabees, with the King James Version, has Zambri; Codex Sinaiticus has Zambrei):

(1) A Simeonite prince (Nu 25:14; 1 Macc 2:26), slain by Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson. Nu 25:1-5 records how the Israelites, while they were at Shittim, began to consort with Moabite women and "they (i.e. the Moabite women) called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods" (25:2), i.e. as explained by 25:5 to take part in the immoral rites of the god Baal-peor. Moses is bidden to have the offenders punished. The next paragraph (25:6-9) relates how the people engage in public mourning; but while they do this Zimri brings in among his brethren a Midianitess. Phinehas sees this and goes after Zimri into the qubbah, where he slays the two together, and thus the plague is stayed (25:6-9).

The connection between these two paragraphs is difficult; Moabite women are mentioned in the first, a Midianitess in the second; the plague of Nu 25:8 f is not previously referred to, although it seems clear that the plague is the cause of the weeping in 25:6. The sequel, 25:16-18, makes the second paragraph have something to do with Baal-peor. Critics assign 25:1-5 to J-E, 25:6-18 to P.

It seems, however, that the two accounts refer to similar circumstances. This is evident if the meaning of qubbah in Nu 25:8 be as the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) renders it, lupinar, "a house of ill-repute." The difficulty is that the word only occurs here in the Old Testament, but it has that meaning in New Heb (see Gray, Nu, 385; BDB, however, translates it "a large vaulted tent." While one narrative says the women were Moabitesses and the other Midianitesses, the latter section presupposes something like the account in the former; and the point is that Zimri, at the very time that the rest of the people publicly mourned because of a plague that was due to their own dealings with foreign women, brought a Midianite woman among the people, possibly to be his wife, for he was a prince or chief, and she was the daughter of a Midianite chief. It may be urged that if this be the case, there was nothing wrong in it; but according to Hebrew ideas there was, and we only need to remember the evil influence of such marriages as those entered into by Solomon, or especially that of Ahab with Jezebel, to see at any rate a Hebrew justification for Zimri’s death.

Numbers 31 describes the extermination of the Midianites at the bidding of Moses. All the males are slain by the Israelites (31:7), but the women are spared. Moses is angry at this: "Have ye saved all the women alive? Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of Yahweh" (31:15 f). Here we find, although the chapter is a Midrash (see Gray, Numbers, 417 ff), that the Hebrews themselves connected the two events of Numbers 25, but in addition the name of Balaam is also introduced, as again in 31:8, where he is said to have been slain along with the kings of Midian. See further De 4:3, and Driver’s note on the verse.

See Baal-peor; Balaam; PEOR.

(2) A king of Israel (1Ki 16:8-20). See special article.

(3) A Judahite "son" of Zerah (1Ch 2:6) = "Zabdi" of Jos 7:1,17 f.

See Zabdi, (1).

(4) A Benjamite, descendant of King Saul (1Ch 8:36; 9:42).

(5) In Jer 25:25, where "all the kings of Zimri" are mentioned along with those of Arabia (25:24) and Elam and the Medes. The name is as yet unidentified, although thought to be that of a people called ZIMRAN (which see) in Ge 25:2.

The 5th king of Israel, but who occupied the throne only seven days (1Ki 16:9-20). Zimri had been captain of half the chariots under Elah, and, as it seems, made use of his position to conspire against his master. The occasion for his crime was furnished by the absence of the army, which, under the direction of Omri, was engaged in the siege of the Philistine town Gibbethon. While Elah was in a drunken debauch in the house of his steward Arza, who may have been an accomplice in the plot, he was foully murdered by Zimri, who ascended the throne and put the remnant of Elah’s family to death, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Jehu concerning the house of Baasha. However, the conspiracy lacked the support of the people, for word of the crime no sooner reached Gibbethon, than the army raised Omri to the throne of Israel. Omri at once hastened to Tirzah and captured the place, which as it seems offered little resistance. Zimri resolved to die as king, and accordingly set fire to the palace with his own hands, and perished in the flames that he had kindled. Thus came to an ignominious end the short reign which remained as a blot even upon the blood-stained record of the deeds of violence that ushered in the change of dynasties in the Northern Kingdom, for the foul crime was abhorred even among arch plotters. When Jehu entered Jezreel he was met with Jezebel’s bitter taunt, "Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master’s murderer?" (2Ki 9:31). The historian too, in the closing formula of the reign, specially mentions "his treason that he worked."