Zimri (prince)

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Zimri and Kozbi portrayed as having sex in a regular tent when Phinehas kills them (1700).[note 1]
Painting by Jeremias van Winghe of Phinehas slaying Zimri and Kozbi

Zimri (Hebrew: זִמְרִי, Zīmrī; lit. “praiseworthy”) son of Salu was the prince or leader of a family within the Tribe of Simeon during the time of the IsraelitesExodus in the wilderness at the time when they were approaching the Promised Land. The Book of Numbers in the Hebrew Bible describes how, at Abila or Shittim, he took part in the Heresy of Peor, taking as a paramour a Midianite woman, Cozbi. For this sin, Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, killed them both by impaling them on a spear as they had sex (Numbers 25:6–15).

The incident was then taken by the Israelites as a pretext for the War against the Midianites in Numbers 31.[1]



According to a midrash (Tanhuma Pinhas 2.1; Sanhedrin 82b), Zimri was the same person as Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai.[2][3]


In Islam, Zimri appears under the name as-Sāmirī (الـسّٰامِرِي). Islam also assigns to him a major role in the earlier affair of the Golden Calf, which is not attested in the Bible, although this is only one of several theories for the man’s identity.[4] The Islamic account attributes to Zimri/Samiri many of the actions which the Hebrew Bible assigns to Aaron - thus exonerating the latter, Islam's prophet Harun, from involvement in the sinful worship of the Calf.[citation needed]


According to the Revelations of Saint Bridget, after his death, Zimri's soul was condemned to hell (Book 7, Chapter 19).[5]

Later influence[edit]

In the deutero-canonical First Book of Maccabees, the zeal of Mattathias, leader of the Maccabean revolt, is said to be inspired by the zeal shown by Phinehas:

Thus he showed his zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu. Then Mattathias cried out in the city, "Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow me!"[6]

The Phineas Priests, a modern-day U.S. terrorist movement, believe the story of Phinehas and Zimri provides a divine mandate for committing atrocities against mixed-race couples; despite (argues Rees 2013[page needed]) the previous divine rebuke of Miriam in Numbers 12, for criticising Moses for marrying a “Cushite woman,” which confounds this reading.[7]


  1. ^ In this interpretation of Numbers 25, Phinehas killed the Israelite man Zimri and the Midianite princess Kozbi (verse 7–8) as they were having sex in an ordinary tent in the Israelite military camp (verse 6) at Shittim near Mount Peor (verses 1–3). Outside the tents, people lay dead; apparently these are Israelites struck by the plague (verses 8–9). On the edge of the camp, soldiers stand on guard. Just outside the camp, a number of people are impaled (verse 4–5): the chiefs of the Israelite men, who engaged in sexual immorality with Moabite women and worshipped their gods (verse 1–3); this last act appears to be shown in the far background, with people on a mountain gathering around a pole, perhaps a Moabite godly idol. Engraving from Historie des Ouden en Nieuwen Testaments : verrykt met meer dan vierhonderd printverbeeldingen in koper gesneeden) ("History of the Old and New Testaments: enriched with more than four hundred printed illustrations cut in copper") (1700), published by David Martin in Amsterdam.


  1. ^ Shectman, Sarah (2009). Women in the Pentateuch: A Feminist and Source-critical Analysis. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press. p. 165. ISBN 9781906055721. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  2. ^ Masada: Hebrew fragments from Masada. Israel Exploration Society, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 1999. p. 35. ISBN 978-965-221-034-0..
  3. ^ Peretz Rodman, "Shelumiel — The First Schlemiel?", The Forward, 26 May 2006.
  4. ^ Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202.
  5. ^ Saint Bridget of Sweden (2012). The Prophecies and Revelations of Saint Bridget of Sweden. Jazzybee Verlag. p. 829. ISBN 978-3-8496-2254-1.
  6. ^ 1 Maccabees 2:26–27: New American Bible, Revised Edition
  7. ^ Anthony Rees, (Re)Reading Again: A Mosaic Reading of Numbers 25, (2013 dissertation), pp. 126–130, citing T.K. Beal, "The White Supremacist Bible and the Phineas Priesthood." In: Jonneke Bekkenkamp and Yvonne Sherwood, (eds.), Sanctified Aggression: Legacies of Biblical and Post Biblical Vocabularies of Violence (2003), pp. 120–131.