Zimri

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ZIMRI

ZIMRI (Heb. זִמְרִי; "my strength or protection [is the Deity]"), son of Salu, chieftain of a Simeonite ancestral house (Num. 25:14). The Israelites profaned themselves at Shittim by whoring with the Moabite women and by joining them in sacrifices to their god Baal-peor (Num. 25:1–2). Incensed, the Lord let loose a plague upon Israel (see Rashi, Num. 25:3) and ordered Moses to execute the ringleaders publicly (Num. 25:4). The earlier offense was further aggravated by Zimri, who brought a Midianite woman into his household (cf. Ibn Ezra, Num. 25:6) in full view of Moses and the assembled community who were bemoaning the plague. In an act of zeal for the Lord which became legendary (see i Macc. 2:26; iv Macc. 18:12), Phinehas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest killed both Zimri and the Midianite woman, Cozbi daughter of Zur, of a noble Midianite family. It was his action that turned away the wrath of God from the children of Israel. The plague ceased, but its victims numbered 24,000.

In the Aggadah

In midrashic literature the biblical events are further dramatized in that Zimri openly challenged Moses' leadership and the validity of the Torah. Zimri shamed Moses into silence by reminding him of the non-Israelite origin of his own wife Zipporah (although this was not really a sin since he had married her before the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai). It was Phinehas who prevented complete disaster. He remembered a law which Moses had forgotten in his confusion – that at that time an Israelite caught in the act of openly consorting with a foreign woman was liable to immediate execution by zealots. Advised by Moses to carry out this law, Phinehas executed Zimri and Cozbi, and the threat was ended (Sanh. 82a). In Josephus' amplified version of the story, Moses feared an open confrontation with the rebels and merely exhorted the people to remain faithful to God. Encouraged by his weak reaction, Zimri denounced the law as a tyrannical limitation of man's ability to act according to his own will. The quick action of Phinehas put an end to the rebellion (Jos., Ant., 4:141–56). Phinehas became a symbol for zealous action for the Lord, while Zimri became a symbol for the worst rebellion against God and his Torah: "Fear neither the Pharisees nor those who are not Pharisees, but those hypocrites who resemble Pharisees whose deeds are like the deeds of Zimri, yet they demand the reward of Phinehas" (Sot. 22b).

bibliography:

G. B. Gray, Numbers (icc, 1912), 386–7; em, 2 (1954), 931; Ginzberg, Legends, index; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 144.

[Gershon Bacon]

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ZIMRI

ZIMRI (d. 885/4 b.c.e.), king of Israel. When Baasha's son *Elah had reigned only a few months, he was slain by Zimri, commander of half of the chariots. Upon taking power, Zimri executed all the males among the relatives and admirers of Baasha (i Kings 16:11), thus fulfilling the words of the prophet Jehu (i Kings 16:11–14). However, Zimri reigned only seven days, for *Omri, who was in command of the force that was laying siege to the Philistine town of Gibbethon, was proclaimed king by his men. He marched with them to *Tirzah, the royal residence of those days, which he captured without much difficulty. Before Omri reached the citadel in which the royal palace was situated, Zimri set fire to the palace over himself (i Kings 16:8–18). Though his reign was short, Zimri became a symbol of the slave who turns against his master. A generation later, when *Jehu assassinated *Jehoram, the last king of the House of Omri, the dowager queen *Jezebel mockingly addressed him as "Zimri, slayer of his master" (ii Kings 9:30–31).

bibliography:

em, 2 (1954), 932–3, incl. bibl.

[Gershon Bacon]

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Zimri in the Bible, (1 Kings) Zimri is a captain who kills the king of Israel and makes himself king; he himself in turn is defeated and killed. In Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel, the name is given to Buckingham.

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Zimri (zĬm´rī), in the Bible, king of Israel for a few days. He was one of Elah's generals; he killed the king and held the throne until Omri rebelled.