So something came to my attention recently that took me off guard big time. There are unicorns in the Bible! Ya know, those beautiful majestic horses of legend with one gigantic horn sticking out of their heads. There in the Bible! What? Where? Deuteronomy 33:17, Numbers 23:22, 24:8, Job 39:9-12, Psalm 22:21, 29:6, 92:10, and Isaiah 34:7. Yikes!
Skeptics often use these verses referring to a mythical animal to further support their claims that the Bible is just a book of legends or made up mythology. But after some thorough research I found these claims to be unwarranted. The first thing we must address is the word unicorn. It is found in these verses in the early King James Version of the Bible, but not in newer versions like the NLT, NKJV or NIV. These versions instead say Wild Ox, not Unicorn. Why would the newer translations say Wild Ox, when the older translation says unicorn?
Well don’t jump to the conclusion that it was altered to make the Bible appear more legit, because this is not the case. The original Hebrew scripture uses the word re’em. So what does re’em mean? Well the exact meaning isn’t 100% clear, and scholars still debate its exact meaning to this day. The word has been translated to mean wild ox and in some cases einhorn or eenhorn, which means “one horn.” Though we do know why the word was translated as such.
The translation of re’em to wild ox comes from the bible’s usage of the word. Every time the re’em is mentioned in the Bible, it is referred to as a horned animal that was large, powerful, and untamable. Furthermore, the word re’em also resembles the ancient Assyrian word rimu. Assyrian Archaeologists know that the rimu was a wild ox, now extinct, that we now refer to as Aurochs. Aurochs were incredibly large oxen. There are many ancient writings about from the Assyrians and Romans which described them as slightly smaller than elephants but very fast and powerful. Most importantly, Aurochs had symmetrical horns. Their horns were so symmetrical that when viewed from the side the aurochs appeared to have one single horn, this made them highly prized in the ancient world and could be where the single horn of the unicorn stems from. Although the words re’em and rimu appear similar, this is only after it’s anglicanized translation into English. Yet the Auroch fits the bible’s description and usage for re’em, so that is why you see “wild ox” in newer Bible translations.
The Auroch brings up an important topic in this discussion though. The Auroch is now extinct, and has been since 1627. When most of us think of animals in existence we tend to limit our thinking to animals that are alive today, and completely overlook the fact that vast types of animals that once lived on earth are now extinct, including animals that were well known and alive during the time the Bible was written. Extinction happens every day to this day for many animal species. So the next question is, if the re’em in the Bible really was a unicorn, were unicorns once in existence, but now extinct? Well, not exactly.
If when you think of a unicorn, do you think of a white horse with a twisty horn on its head? That’ not necessarily correct. A unicorn is simply an animal with one horn. It being a horse comes from European legends. But the legend of unicorns can be found all over the world from China to India, and guess what, in some cultures it is a sheep, goat or in one culture a rabbit. So if we identify unicorns as just one horned animals then it’s not so crazy is it? Especially when we consider extinct animals. Take the male Narwhal for example, though not a land animal, has one large horn. The Indian Rhino has one large horn as well and could fit the Biblical description. The extinct elasmotherium, had one large massive horn on top of its head. The elasmotherium was basically a large rhino, which would fit perfectly with the Bible’s description of a large, powerful, wild beast as well.
So in conclusion, though we don’t know exactly without a doubt what the word re’em in the Bible means, it is more accurate to say it is pertaining to an Auroch, or at the very least a Elasmotherium, not a mythical horse that was conjured up as a legend hundreds of years after these books in the Bible were written. The Bible gives no reason to speculate the re’em is a mythical animal, and therefore we should not think of it as such.
 Brittanica Concise Encyclopedia, 2007, s.v. “Aurochs.”