When we were in Paris just before Christmas, we got to attend a special exhibit at the Cluny Museum on unicorns. The Cluny is a museum of all things medieval and my favorite museum in Paris.
On display were unicorn horns, unicorn poo (yes, I am serious – picture below), and all kinds of medieval unicorn art. The Old Testament mentions unicorns nine times so people believed they were real. Pliny the Elder wrote in his very serious Natural History Book way back in the first century: “the unicorn is the fiercest animal, and it is said that it is impossible to capture one alive. It has the body of a horse, the head of a stag, the feet of an elephant, the tail of a boar, and a single black horn three feet long in the middle of its forehead and its cry is a deep bellow.”
There are many theories about what animal scripture was actually speaking about, but many believed that the unicorn signified Christ. The fierce wildness of the animal showed the inability of hell to hold Christ. The single horn represented the unity of God and Christ.
The original King James translation of the Bible, which is actually a remarkably good translation, mentions unicorns nine times. In Hebrew, the word translated unicorn is re’em.
- Numbers 23:22 and 24:8: God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.
- 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 . . .
- 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.
- Psalm 92:10 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
- Isaiah 34:7 And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.