(zim' rai) HEBREW: ZIMRI
possibly "my song" or "mountain sheep"

1. Zimri's death ended a plague among the Israelites of the Exodus and made a hero of Aaron's grandson, a priest named Phinehas. God had sent the plague because the Israelites allowed the women of Moab to lure them into fertility rites and into eating meals associated with the worship of Baal. Moses ordered the offending Israelites executed. But in blatant defiance, Zimri, the head of an extended family in the tribe of Simeon, walked a Moabite princess right past Moses and into the tent of meeting. Phinehas picked up a spear and followed. With a single thrust, he "pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through her body" (Num. 25:8). This ended a plague that had killed 24,000.

2. No king of Israel served a shorter term that did Zimri. The commander of half the nation's chariot forces lasted only seven days on the throne before burning himself to death in the palace.

Most of the army was laying siege to Gibbethon, a Philistine border town some 40 miles away from Tirzah, where King Elah was laying siege to the wine supply in the home of a palace official. Zimri came into the house, murdered the drunken king, then proceeded to kill every male heir of Elah. This fulfilled an oracle of the prophet Jehu against the family of Baasha, Elah's father: "I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house" (1 Kg. 16:3). When the army heard what had happened, the troops appointed their commander, Omri, as king. Omri immediately marched his forces to Tirzah. After the city fell, Zimri "went into the citadel of the king's house, and burned the king's house over him with fire, and died" (1 Kg. 16:18).

Zimri's name became an expression of contempt. Ironically, it was used by Jezebel, Omri's daughter-in-law, to revile the man who had assassinated her son Jehoram. "You Zimri, murderer of your master" (2 Kg. 9:31), she cried out from her palace window when the usurper Jehu rode into the city of Jezreel.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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