From Bible Encyclopedia
(1) A son of Salu who was a Simeonite prince (Numbers 25:14; 1 Maccabees 2:26), slain by Phinehas (the son of Eleazar, and Aaron's grandson), because of his wickedness in bringing a Midianitish woman into his tent (Numbers 25:6-15). Numbers 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” (Numbers 25:2), i.e. as explained by Numbers 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 (Numbers 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 ḳubbāh, where he slays the two together, and thus the plague is stayed (Numbers 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 Numbers 25:8 f is not previously referred to, although it seems clear that the plague is the cause of the weeping in Numbers 25:6. The sequel, Numbers 25:16-18, makes the second paragraph have something to do with Baal-Peor. Critics assign Numbers 25:1-5 to J-E, Numbers 25:6-18 to P.
It seems, however, that the two accounts refer to similar circumstances. This is evident if the meaning of ḳubbāh in Numbers 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 (Numbers 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 YHWH” (Numbers 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 Numbers 31:8, where he is said to have been slain along with the kings of Midian. See further Deuteronomy 4:3, and Driver's note on the verse.
(2) A king of Israel (1 Kings 16:8-20). See special article Zimri (2).
(5) In Jeremiah 25:25, where “all the kings of Zimri” are mentioned along with those of Arabia (Jeremiah 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 Genesis 25:2.
(זמרי, zimrī; Septuagint Ζαμβρεί, Zambreí, Ζαμβρί, Zambrí):
The 5th king of Israel who murdered Elah at Tirzah, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel (1 Kings 16:8-10)., but who occupied the throne only seven days (1 Kings 16:9-20). He reigned only seven days, for Omri, whom the army elected as king, laid siege to Tirzah, whereupon Zimri set fire to the palace and perished amid its ruins (1 Kings 16:11-20). Omri succeeded to the throne only after four years of fierce war with Tibni, another claimant to the throne.
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?” (2 Kings 9:31). The historian too, in the closing formula of the reign, specially mentions “his treason that he worked.”