The unicorn is a mythical creature that has been a part of culture for the entirety of human civilization, and quite possibly before. It has appeared in many different stories, myths, legends, and religious texts, including the Bible. In the King James Version of the Bible, there are eight explicit references to the unicorn and one implicit reference to the unicorn. In this post, we will explore each of these references and the context in which they appear.
- Numbers 23:22 "God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn."
In this passage, the unicorn is used as a symbol of strength. The Israelites had just escaped from Egypt, and God is praised for his strength in helping them. The unicorn is used as a comparison to emphasize God's power.
- 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."
This passage is similar to the previous one. It again compares God's strength to that of the unicorn. However, this time it also mentions God's ability to defeat his enemies. The unicorn is used to symbolize the power and strength that God has to overcome any obstacle.
- 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."
In this passage, God's transcendent strength, the strength to achieve the seemingly impossible, is compared to the same transcendent strength possessed by the unicorn's horn. Specifically, the reference is used in the context of describing the strength and power of the tribe of Joseph. The unicorn is used to emphasize the might of Joseph's descendants.
- Job 39:9-12 "Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?"
This passage is the most detailed reference to the unicorn in the Bible. It is part of a series of questions that God asks Job to prove his point that humans cannot control the natural world. The unicorn is used as an example of an animal that cannot be tamed or controlled. The passage emphasizes the unicorn's wild and untamable nature.
- Psalm 22:21 "Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns."
In this passage, the unicorn is used as a symbol of protection. The Psalmist is asking God to protect him from danger, and he uses the image of the unicorn's horn as a source of refuge.
- Psalm 29:6 "He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn."
In this passage, the unicorn is used as a metaphor for strength and agility. The reference is used to describe the mountains of Lebanon and Sirion as jumping like a young unicorn. The image emphasizes the idea of these mountains as powerful and alive.
- Psalm 92:10 "But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil."
In this passage, the unicorn is used as a symbol of power and honor. The Psalmist is asking God to lift him up and give him power and strength, like the horn of a unicorn.
- 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."
In this passage, the unicorn is used as a symbol of destruction against evil individuals.
- Daniel 8:5 "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."
In this passage, some scholars believe this oblique reference to the unicorn is a prophecy of the rise and fall of Alexander the Great and his Macedonian Greek empire. Interestingly, Alexander the Great (i.e. Iskandar) is often connected to the unicorn in Persian lore.
If you would like to learn more about the unicorn in the Bible and other religious texts, read The Book of the Magical Mythical Unicorn.