Animals

Are unicorns in the bible?

I literally just thought about this a few days ago. I was watching the first Harry Potter film and anyone who’s seen the film, knows what I’m referring to.

Some people (such as myself) believe the Bible is a book of fairy tales, so in saying that, I thought to myself: Could there be unicorns in the bible? However, from what I’ve read, the biblical unicorn was a real animal, not an imaginary creature. The Bible refers to the unicorn in the context of familiar animals, such as peacocks, lambs, lions, bullocks, goats, donkeys, horses, dogs, eagles, and calves (Job 39:9–12.) In Job 38–41, God reminded Job of the characteristics of a variety of impressive animals he had created, showing Job that God was far above man in power and strength. 

So in a way, the answer to this blog is yes.

But if I could dig deeper into this for a second…

Modern readers have trouble with the Bible’s unicorns because we forget that a single-horned feature is not uncommon on God’s menu for animal design. (Consider the rhinoceros and narwhal.) The Bible describes unicorns skipping like calves (Psalm 29:6), traveling like bullocks, and bleeding when they die (Isaiah 34:7). The presence of a very strong horn on this powerful, independent-minded creature is intended to make readers think of strength.

Now again, just because this is in the bible, doesn’t make it real, at least not to me. Although there are similar animals (that actually existed) that this idea could have came from. I mean eighteenth century reports from southern Africa described rock drawings and eyewitness accounts of fierce, single-horned, equine-like animals. One such report describes “a single horn, directly in front, about as long as one’s arm, and at the base about as thick . . . . [It] had a sharp point; it was not attached to the bone of the forehead, but fixed only in the skin.”

The elasmotherium, an extinct giant rhinoceros, provides another possibility for a unicorn-like identity. The elasmotherium’s 33-inch-long skull had a huge bony protuberance on the frontal bone consistent with the support structure for a massive horn. In fact, archaeologist Austen Henry Layard, in his 1849 book Nineveh and Its Remains, sketched a single-horned creature from an obelisk in company with two-horned bovine animals; he identified the single-horned animal as an Indian rhinoceros.

But back to the blog, as I said before, unicorns are in the bible. They’re mentioned in the King James version of the Bible 9 times, in 5 different books, by at least 5 different authors: by Balaam, Moses, David, Isaiah, and even God himself in the book of Job (as I stated earlier). These are the verses that mention unicorns, let me know if I missed any:

Numbers 23:22    “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   “Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib?”

Job 39:10    “Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?”

Psalms 29:6     “He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.”

Psalms 92:10    “But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.”

Deuteronomy 33:17    “His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.”

Psalms 22:21    “Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.”

Isaiah 34:7     “And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”

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