Yes, unicorns are in the Bible, according to the King James Version, and yes, unicorns do exist. But before you consider me a crack-pot, let’s investigate the true meaning of the word “unicorn.”
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Excavating the Bible Newsletter #009

Greetings Excavators:

Jeff A. Benner There are many strange creatures found in the Bible. We have previously looked at the behemoth, and now, we are going to investigate unicorns. Yes, unicorns are in the Bible, according to the King James Version, and yes, unicorns do exist. But before you consider me a crack-pot, let’s investigate the true meaning of the word “unicorn.”

Book Project: Monsters, Myths and Mysteries in the Bible

Heading: Unicorn

God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. (Numbers 23:22, KJV)

The word “unicorn” is a combination of two latin words, uni meaning “one,” and cornu meaning “horn”—One horn. The scientific name for the “real” unicorn, is Rhinoceros unicorni. The common name for this creature is the Indian Rhinoceros, but is also known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros.

A one-horned Rhinoceros
Image created by Sanjay Ach

However, just because the King James Translation is, most likely, referring to a rhinoceros, this does not mean this is the creature meant by the original author in the Bible. The Hebrew word behind the English is re’em, which Strong’s dictionary defines as; “probably the great aurochs or wild bulls which are now extinct. The exact meaning is not known.

While it may surprise some that there are words in the Bible whose meaning is unknown, the reality is that there are many Hebrew words in the Bible that are of an unknown meaning, especially when it comes to the names of animals.

The only clue that we have for the meaning of the word re’em is in its etymology. Re’em is a masculine noun derived from the verbal root word ra’am, whose meaning we do know, and means “to be high,” “elevated” or “lifted up.” The feminine noun derived from this verbal root is ra’mah. Again, we are not exactly sure of the meaning of this word, but it is used in conjunction with words meaning jewels, pearls and rubies. Therefore, we can assume that the word ra’mah is something “high” in value.

Whatever the re’em is, it is most likely, a creature “high” in stature or “high” in value. Other translations have translated this word as “aurochs,” “oryx,” “wild ox” or “wild bull.”

How unicorns went extinct

Jeff A. BennerJeff A. Benner
Excavating the Bible
December 4, 2023

I invite you to join me on a journey as we walk through A Cultural and Linguistic Excavation of the Bible. We will dig deep into the history of the Bible, its people, their culture and their language, and uncover hidden truths that have been lost through centuries of mistranslations, misinterpretations and textual manipulation.

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