We hear from the skeptics so often, that the Bible can’t be trusted because it talks about “unicorns.” The word “unicorn” comes from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) rendering the Hebrew word raeim as monokeros, meaning “one horn.” And, of course, it is a lightning rod for those who fancy themselves as intellectuals, yet are too smart for their own good. Various translations over the years have rendered it in many different ways:
- Unicorn (Bishop’s Bible, Geneva Bible, KJV)
- Wild ox (NKJV, ESV)
- Rhinoceros (Dhouey-Rheims)
- Buffalo (Darby)
At any rate, let’s take a look at just what a “unicorn” is. He is found 9 times in Scripture. Here are 4 of those times:
Numbers 23:21-22—He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
Numbers 24:8—God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.
Job 39:9-10—Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he [plow] the valleys after thee?
Psalm 92:9-10—For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
So from these words we can see the following about this “unicorn”:
- He was strong
- He is untamed
- He is capable of plowing large areas
- His horn must have also been rather large
Keil and Delitzch–whose commentaries on the Hebrew of the Old Testament (written in the 1800’s) would be a great help to any who use them–contend that the refernce is to an oryx. Of this oryx they say:
The oryx also appears on Egyptian monuments sometimes with two horns, but mostly with one variously curled; and both Aristotle (Note: Vid., Sundevall, Die Thierarten des Aristoteles (Stockholm, 1863), S. 64f.) and Pliny describe it as a one-horned cloven-hoof; so that one must assent to the supposition of a one-horned variety of the oryx (although as a fact of natural history it is not yet fully established), as then there is really tolerably certain information of a one-horned antelope both in Upper Asia and in Central Africa.
Not to sound like I know more than these gentlemen, but–well, like one fellow I know puts it, give science enough time and they will catch up with the Bible. Keep reading and you’ll understand what I’m getting at. Anyway, if you’ve ever seen pictures of an oryx–well, does this look like a huge beast with great strength capable of plowing an entire valley:
Yeah, it’s a good-sized animal. And it does tend to fit the description of the animal referred to in Psalm 29:5-6—The voice of the LORD breaketh the cedars; yea, the LORD breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. But does it look like something that fits the descriptions listed in the other Scriptures? Not quite. It certainly doesn’t look like an animal one would use to plow an entire valley with (a small plot of land, maybe, but not a whole valley).