Why are unicorns mentioned in the Bible?
Anita, a good friend, pointed out to me the presence in the Bible of a curious fantasy animal that we all like even though none of us, in real life, has seen one: unicorns. And, usually, none of us has seen them because they are considered to belong to the world of legend and fantasy. So when we discover them in the Bible, the question naturally arises, what are all these unicorns doing in the Bible?.
Let us try to find out
Right Answers to Right Questions
Before we rush to claim that “the Bible says there are unicorns,” we must review the entire context and understand why the Bible speaks of unicorns. Sometimes the question is not what they do there, but how they got there, that is, were they there from the beginning, when the Bible emerged from the pen of the inspired writers or did they slip through the cracks afterwards? Let’s review what the case is with our unicorn friends.
This is our list of biblical unicorns, take a good look at them (as they look at you), because this is our study material:
Verses of unicorns in the Bible (where the unicorn bible speaks)
- Numbers 23:22 God has brought them out of Egypt; It has forces like a unicorn.
- Numbers 24: 8 God brought him out of Egypt; it has forces like a unicorn; He will eat his enemies to the nations, and will crush his bones, and roast with his arrows.
- Deuteronomy 33:17 His glory is like that of his bull’s firstborn, and his horns, unicorn horns; with them, he will accord the peoples together until the ends of the earth; and these are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and these are the thousands of Manasseh.
- Job 39: 9 Will the unicorn want to serve you, or remain in your manger?
- Job 39:10 Will you bind the unicorn with a joint for the furrow? Will the valleys work after you?
- Psalm 22:21 Save me from the lion’s mouth because you have delivered me from the horns of unicorns.
- Psalm 29: 6 Makes them jump like calves; to Lebanon and Sirion as a unicorn brood.
- Psalm 92:10 But you will exalt my horn like that of the unicorn; I will be anointed with fresh oil.
- Isaiah 34: 7 And with them will fall unicorns, and bulls with calves; and his land shall be drunk with blood, and his dust shall be greased with fat.
Characteristics of biblical unicorns
The above list helps us identify where unicorns are mentioned in the Bible. Just by looking at these grouped verses, we learn some important things about the unicorns mentioned in the Bible:
- The animal we were looking for was known in the times of Abraham, Job, David and Isaiah.
- It is an animal recognized for its strength, wild, untamed and wild nature, impossible to tame.
- Inhabits herds and takes care of their young.
Now that we have already identified our little zoo of unicorns in the Bible and their characteristics, we have to know where they come from. Are they in the original Hebrew?
interlinear version of the Hebrew original that can give us a clue. Let’s see it:
We found up to 9 unicorns in the King James Version of the Bible. The interlinear version is a pimp because it puts you Hebrew side by side with English. Let me show you how each of these nine verses appears in Hebrew and English.
All this exercise has served to show you that the original word of Hebrew is being used consistently and that the unicorns in the Bible are always the same. We also note that our BYU friends have added notes to tell us that this word is translated instead as “bison,” “buffalo” or “wild ox.” But, if so, if this is a bison or wild ox, how did unicorns get to our Bibles?
How a common animal became a unicorn
You will see, between the Old and New Testaments, the period we call intertestamental, the Jews were very much in touch with Greek culture. It was then that they decided that a translation of the sacred books from Hebrew into Greek should be made. Seventy experts set out to do it, so this is the translation we know as the Septuagint.
The Septuagint is essential to us as a reference for many things, but this time the Jewish experts saw the term reem there. They did not know what to attribute it to, so they translated it, unfortunately, as Monoceros (a single-horn animal). Anyway, the best hunter has a hare. Perhaps they linked this wild and untamed animal to the rhinoceros, which is the only land Monoceros. Indeed, the rhino is robust, unruly and difficult to tame. Unicorns are mentioned in the Bible, then, thanks to the translators of the Septuagint.
But in their analysis, they did not realize that there is a passage in Psalms and another in Deuteronomy where there is talk of “horns” and not a single horn. Clarke extends on this point: “That the reem of Moses is not a single-horn animal is sufficiently evident from the fact that Moses, speaking of the tribe of Joseph, says,” has HORNS of a unicorn, “or reem, where horns are mentioned in the plural, [while] the animal is mentioned in the singular ».
That is, unicorns in the Bible have more than one horn. Then they are no longer unicorns.
Well, no way, to our courageous friends who sent us the Septuagint this hare went away. They left.
Most biblical scholars conclude that it is a bison or wild ox. The LDS Bible dictionary, in English, even ventures the species, as we will see below:
An ancient error in the translation of the Bible
“Unicorn. A wild ox, the Bos primigenius, now extinct, but once common in Syria. The translation put into the KJV (King James Version) is unfortunate, since the animal spoken of has two horns.
If you were an observer, you would have noticed that there are two of the nine passages that speak of “horns” instead of “horn.” The passage in Deuteronomy 33 is particularly remarkable because it describes a bull first and then the action of “coining” the herd to group it, which is precisely what bulls or wild oxen do. There is, then, a loss of congruence between the first mention of the verse (the bull) and the second (the unicorn). For the verse to remain congruent, the two animals should be the same. It is an animal with “horns,” and it is a bull or ox.
The emblem of the tribe of Joseph
That verse is of particular importance because the emblem of the tribe of Joseph has come out of it. The emblem should be a wild ox, but due to the translation error in the Septuagint, it passed to us like a unicorn. The illustrators have taken, alternatively, one or the other symbol, according to the edition of the Bible they have consulted.
In some Bibles, the error of the unicorn is preserved. In other Bibles, the translation error is corrected. So, yes, it is true, unicorns are mentioned in the Bible, in some verses, but not in all versions and editions. It was a bull or wild ox. We may be certain that, in reality, unicorns never existed and that unicorns in the Bible are only the result of a translation error.
Conclusion: Errors in the translation of the Bible
The analysis we have done today shows that the Bible has not always been translated correctly. There are small translation errors here and there, like this one, which suddenly turns a real animal into a fantastic unicorn.
Although most of these translation errors are irrelevant and the topic we have presented today is, at most, interesting, there are others, particularly those that deal with the ordinances, prophecies and covenants of God with men, which strongly influence the correct interpretation of the doctrine.