Unicorns in the Bible
May 21, 2016
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He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn. (Ps. 29:6, KJV)
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil. (Ps. 92:10, KJV)
Wow, who knew there were unicorns mentioned in the Bible? This is just one of the many surprises you’ll come across if you start comparing various translations. But what should we make of this unicorn business? Well, these unicorns are not the magical creatures with wings and super powers that are popularized today. But could they have been actual horses with horns? Sure, why not? The original meaning of the Hebrew word which we find translated as unicorns in certain Bible translations is unknown, but it could easily refer to an animal which is now extinct. In some passages, the NAS translates the same word as wild ox. The DYB says buffalo. The DRA says rhinoceros. The bottom line is that we don’t know, nor does it matter. The context of the unicorn verses makes it clear enough what’s being said.
Because our Gods love variety, They are constantly coming up with new species and driving others into extinction. Today we act like the death of a species is a terrible thing without appreciating the fact that our Gods want things to be in a constant state of flux. Yes, we’re being stupid and short sighted when we hunt animals into extinction and mass slaughter them without any respect for the role they are playing in their environments. But even if we left all of the animals alone, species would still die off and new ones would be created because this is the way our Gods like it.
In the Bible, we find references to several animals that no longer exist today, such as unicorns, leviathan, and behemoths. As is the case in every culture, the ancient Jews chose to focus on some animals more than others. While the ancient Egyptians worshiped cats, the ancient Jews spoke a lot about lions and dogs. Some animals were associated with positive attributes like strength, agility and power. Other animals–like vultures and jackals–were associated with devastation and carnage. Animals with super impressive abilities–like the fire breathing leviathan–were greatly feared and many legends became associated with them. The ancient Jews even associated the formidable leviathan with Satan–does that mean we should do the same today? Of course not. There are no leviathans today, and there’s no need for us to keep circulating ancient metaphors. In ancient times, the horns of animals were used as instruments and also as metaphors for power. In modern America, we don’t talk about “lifting up our horns.” We talk about pumping iron. Today, if we want to describe the creepy atmosphere of a deserted town, we might say, “It was like a ghost town.” We wouldn’t say “It had been turned into a haunt for jackals and owls.” The ancient Jews had different sayings than we do, and they had some different animals romping about in their world.
What kind of animal was Leviathan?