ASKING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS: You Can Find Unicorns in Frappuccinos, but What About in the Bible? Scripture mentions strange visions of nameless single-horned beasts. But what did the ancient word translated as 'unicorn' really mean?
(Ilan Gilad, Haaretz).
With Starbucks’s release of its new “Unicorn Frappuccino” Wednesday, the latest in a growing trend of bright multi-colored foods, we thought it an opportune moment to answer the question on everyone’s minds: are there unicorns in the Bible?
Only one creature is explicitly described in the Bible as having a single horn, and can thus be said to be a unicorn. It is nameless and is a figment of the Prophet Daniel’s imagination: “And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes” (Daniel 8:5). Later in the chapter this goat-unicorn fights a ram, beats it, and then things really get crazy.
This goat-unicorn was not a real unicorn, though. It was just something Daniel possibly hallucinated. But are there any real unicorns in the Bible?
I never thought of the beast in Daniel as a unicorn, but I suppose that could work. Incidentally, in Daniel's vision the one-horned he-goat from the west represents Alexander the Great.
In what follows the article gives good coverage of the usual suspects: the re'em
(via the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and the King James Bible) and the takhash
, along with some Talmudic traditions about both. The latter are worth quoting:
According to [Rabbah bar bar Hana of Babylonia] this strangest of Talmudic rabbis, the re’em is a mountain-sized creature, of which only two exist in the world at any given period, a male and a female, each at an opposite side of the world. Every 70 years, the two meet, mate, and then the female kills the male. After an 11-year pregnancy, two re’emim are born, a male and a female. The mother re’em dies, and the two offspring go to opposite sides of the world, where they bide their time for their incestuous rendezvous 70 years later. The rabbi doesn’t say whether or not they have a single horn.
According to Rabbi Meir, a takhash was a unicorn that appeared during the time of Moses, who killed it, skinned it, and used its hide to build the Tabernacle, the mobile Temple of the Israelites during their travels from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. So if Rabbi Meir is correct, there was one unicorn in the Bible and Moses killed it.
Modern biblical scholars have rather different understandings of the two animals.
Also, before this I didn't know what takhash
meant in Modern Hebrew.
Past posts on unicorns in the Bible are here
(although more on unicorns in Montana), here
(briefly mentioned), here
, and here