Unicorn

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Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros woodcut 1515
Albrecht Dürer's Rhinoceros woodcut 1515

Unicorn in the King James Version is not a mythical creature as many have falsely assumed, but is most probably a Rhinoceros (or a similar creature) as stated in the margin of the original 1611 King James Bible in Isaiah 34:7 where it reads: “And the unicorns shall come down with them.” In the margin it says; "or Rhinocerots" which was the exact term for the Rhinoceros in 1611, derived from the Latin unicornis and the Greek monokeros, both meaning one-horned, and both referring emphatically to the Rhinoceros.

Contents

Indian Rhinoceros

Rhinoceros Unicornis is the scientific name for the Indian Rhinoceros or the Great One-horned Rhinoceros or the Asian One-horned Rhinoceros which is is a large mammal found in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and in Assam, India. It is confined to the tall grasslands and forests in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Indian Rhinoceros can run at speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h) for short periods of time and is also an excellent swimmer. It has excellent senses of hearing and smell, but relatively poor eyesight.

Elasmotherium

Elasmotherium sibiricum

The now extinct Elasmotherium (Elasmotherium sibiricum), "Giant Unicorn", had many features of a modern rhinoceros except it grew up up 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) high and 6 metres (20 ft) long and was very woolly. The animal may have weighed up to 7 tonnes (7.7 short tons). Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were designed for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait. It was probably a fast runner, in spite of its size. Its teeth were similar to those of horses, and it probably grazed low herbs.

While many evolutionists parrot Darwins false claims that man did not walk with dinosaurs, the bible and archaeology easily disprove this.


Karkadann

Another similar option is the the Karkadann (English: Rhinoceros, Persian: كرگدن "Lord of the Desert") which was a mythical unicorn-like creature said to live on the grassy plains of India, Persia and North Africa. The creature was quite similar to a rhinoceros. Upon its horn was an engraving with the head of a man.

Ibn Battuta in his travelogue, calls the rhinoceros he saw in India karkadann. The karkadann was an extremely ferocious beast, driving away from its territory animals as big as the elephant. It is said it would fight an elephant and kill it. It would then hoist it above its head in triumph using its horn, before going blind as the elephant's fat flowed into its eyes as it melted in the sun.

The name karkadann is a variation of the Sanskrit kartajan, which means "lord of the desert". Other spellings and pronunciations include karkadan, kargadan, karmadan, and Cartazoon.

Unicorn in the KJV

Isaiah 34:7 includes a footnote in the original King James Version of 1611 which says "Or, Rhinocerots" The two slashes in front of the word Unicorns are known as a siglum, and the 1611 edition makes use of sigla throughout
Isaiah 34:7 includes a footnote in the original King James Version of 1611 which says "Or, Rhinocerots" The two slashes in front of the word Unicorns are known as a siglum, and the 1611 edition makes use of sigla throughout

The Word Unicorn(s) appears 9 times in the KJV:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Psalm 22:21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
  • Psalm 29:6 He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn.

Besides the King James Version the following also use the word Unicorn or a foreign language equivilant.

Jerome in the 4th century translated the Hebrew word Reem as Rhinocerotis five times and Unicornis four times. Jerome studied Hebrew under the Jews before he began his translation of the OT, thus it is from the Jews directly that Jerome derived his definitions.

Correct Definitions

An English Dictionary - E. Coles 1717

Unicornus, L. of one horn

Daniel Webster’s Dictionary of 1828

n. L. unicornis; unus, one, and cornu, horn.]
1. an animal with one horn; the monoceros. this name is often applied to the rhinoceros.
2. The sea unicorn is a fish of the whale kind, called narwal, remarkable for a horn growing out at his nose.
3. A fowl. fossil unicorn, or fossil unicorn's horn, a substance used in medicine, a terrene crustaceous spar.

Pliny the Elder (First century AD)

“an exceedingly wild beast called the Monoceros (one - horned)...It makes a deep lowing noise, and one black horn two cubits long projects from the middle of its forehead. This animal, they say, cannot be taken alive.”

Aristotle

“I have found that wild asses as large as horses are to be found in India. It has a horn on the brow, about one cubit and a half in length..”

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

"The Reem, most probably denotes the Rhinoceros, so called from the horn on its nose. In size he is only exceeded by the elephant; and in strength and power inferior to none. He is at least twelve feet in length, from the snout to the tail; six or seven feet in height; and the circumference of the body is nearly equal to his length. He is particularly distinguished from all other animals by the remarkable and offensive weapon he carries on his nose; which is very hard horn, solid throughout, directed forward."

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown

"Israel is not as they were at the Exodus, a horde of poor, feeble, spiritless people, but powerful and invincible as a Reem - that is, a Rhinoceros."

Wesley's Notes

Numbers 23:22 Out of Egypt - Namely, by a strong hand, and in spite of all their enemies, and therefore it is in vain to seek or hope to overcome them. He - Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt, such change of numbers being very common in the Hebrew language. The sense is, Israel is not now what he was in Egypt, a poor, weak, dispirited, unarmed people, but high and strong and invincible. An unicorn - The word may mean either a rhinoceros, or a strong and fierce kind of wild goat. But such a creature as an unicorn, as commonly painted, has no existence in nature.

Incorrect Definitions

Defined King James Bible

The Defined King James Bible by D. A. Waite, included in its note concerning "unicorns" at Deuteronomy 33:17 the following:

"Heb probably the great aurochs or wild bulls which are now extinct" (p. 315).

Waite quotes the O.E.D. p. 3512 definition 1.b. Used in Middle English versions of the OT. to render the Vulgate unicornis or rhinoceros (Gr. monoceros) and retained in various later versions. Waite adds this note at Deuteronomy 33:17; The exact meaning is not known. (This quote may be from an old version of the DKJB)

Trinitarian Bible Society

The Trinitarian Bible Society has published "A Bible Word List" which "gives brief explanations of words in the Authorised Version describing unfamiliar objects, animals and plants, weights, measures and money, and words no longer in everyday use, or now used with a different meaning." Under Unicorn it has:

unicorn* – wild bull: Nu. 23.22; Job 39.10

Strong's Concordance

or rieym {reh-ame'}; or reym {rame}; or rem {rame}; from 'ra'am' (7213); a wild bull (from its conspicuousness):--unicorn.

Easton's Bible Dictionary

Described as an animal of great ferocity and strength (Numbers 23:22, R.V., "wild ox, " marg., "ox-antelope;24:8; Isaiah 34:7, R.V., "wild oxen"), and untamable (Job 39:9). It was in reality a two-horned animal; but the exact reference of the word so rendered (reem) is doubtful. Some have supposed it to be the buffalo; others, the white antelope, called by the Arabs rim. Most probably, however, the word denotes the Bos primigenius ("primitive ox"), which is now extinct all over the world. This was the auerochs of the Germans, and the urus described by Caesar (Galatians Bel., vi.28) as inhabiting the Hercynian forest. The word thus rendered has been found in an Assyrian inscription written over the wild ox or bison, which some also suppose to be the animal intended (Comp. Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 22:21; 29:6; 92:10).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

u'-ni-korn (re'em (Numbers 23:22; Numbers 24:8 Deuteronomy 33:17 Job 39:9-10, Psalm 22:21; Psalm 29:6; Psalm 92:10 Isaiah 34:7)): "Unicorn" occurs in the King James Version in the passages cited, where the Revised Version (British and American) has "wild-ox" (which see).

Henry Morris

“The Hebrew word translated unicorn is believed by most Hebrew scholars to refer to the huge and fierce aurochs, or wild ox now extinct.”

W. L. Alexander (Pulpit Commentary)

“the reem is supposed to be the aurochs, an animal of the bovine species, allied to the buffalo, now extinct.”

Charles Spurgeon

“The unicorn may have been some gigantic ox or buffalo now unknown and perhaps extinct.”

William Houghon

“we think that there can be no doubt that some species of wild ox is intended.”

Scofield Reference Notes

for Numbers 23:22 Margin “unicorn i.e. the aurochs, or wild ox.”

Jay P. Green

Jay P. Green's A CONCISE LEXICON TO THE BIBLICAL LANGUAGES gave the meaning of this Hebrew word as "wild ox" (p. 213).


Smith's Bible Dictionary

the rendering of the Authorized Version of the Hebrew reem, a word which occurs seven times in the Old Testament as the name of some large wild animal. The reem of the Hebrew Bible, however, has nothing at all to do with the one-horned animal of the Greek and Roman writers, as is evident from De 33:17 where in the blessing of Joseph it is said; "his glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of a unicorn;" not, as the text of the Authorized Version renders it, "the horns of unicorns." The two horns of the ram are "the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh." This text puts a one-horned animal entirely out of the question. Considering that the reem is spoken of as a two-horned animal of great strength and ferocity, that it was evidently well known and often seen by the Jews, that it is mentioned as an animal fit for sacrificial purposes, and that it is frequently associated with bulls and oxen we think there can be no doubt that, some species of wild ox is intended. The allusion in Ps 92:10 "But thou shalt lift up, as a reeym, my horn," seems to point to the mode in which the Bovidae use their horns, lowering the head and then tossing it up. But it is impossible to determine what particular species of wild ox is signified probably some gigantic urus is intended. (It is probable that it was the gigantic Bos primigeniua, or aurochs, now extinct, but of which Caesar says, "These uri are scarcely less than elephants in size, but in their nature, color and form are bulls. Great is their strength and great their speed; they spare neither man nor beast when once; they have caught sight of them" --Bell. Gall. vi. 20.- ED.)

Fausset's Bible Dictionary

reem. In Deuteronomy 33:17, "his (Joseph's) horns are like the horns of an unicorn" (so margin rightly, not "unicorns"); "the ten thousands of Ephraim and the thousands of Manasseh," two tribes sprung from the one Joseph, are the two horns from one head. Therefore the unicorn was not as is represented a one-horned animal, but some species of urns or wild ox. The rhinoceros does not "skip" as the young unicorn is represented to do (Psalm 29:6). The unicorn's characteristics are: (1) great strength, Numbers 23:22; Job 39:11; (2) two horns, Deuteronomy 33:17; (3) fierceness, Psalm 22:21; (4) untameableness, Job 39:9-11, where the unicorn, probably the wild bison, buffalo, ox, or urus (now only found in Lithuania, but then spread over northern temperate climes, Bashan, etc., and in the Hercynian forest, described by Caesar as almost the size of an elephant, fierce, sparing neither man nor beast) stands in contrast to the tame ox used in plowing, Job 39:11-12; (5) playfulness of its young, Psalm 29:6; (6) association with "bullocks and bulls" for sacrifice, Isaiah 34:6-7; (7) lifting up the horn, Psalm 92:10, as bovine animals lower the head and toss up the horn.

Foreign Language

The Spanish RV 1909, has "unicorn" in Deuteronomy 14:5 where the KJV has "Pygarg". All 9 other verses above also have unicorns in the Spanish RV 1909.

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Critical of the KJV

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