Around the 3rd Century BC, one King Ptolemy II of Egypt enlisted the help of seventy or seventy two scholars (sources vary on the exact amount) of Jewish descent to produce a Greek translation of the Old Testament, funnily enough, the word unicorn came into the bible quite by accident, of translation that is. Now what made the Kings request odd was that he ordered the translation to be done in seventy (or seventy two) days, to achieve this he would be ensconcing them for the duration of the period to the island of Pharos just off Alexandria, this was known as the Septuagint and was the basis for most subsequent translations of the Christian Bible. Usually when something comes with divine authority, it spreads faster than wildfire, as was the case of the word unicorn, the aforementioned scholars were stumped when they encountered the Hebrew word re’em, it referred to a wild intractable beast, yet they did not know which one, they settled for the word monoceros which they probably did while thinking of a rhino, but this became translated into Greek as unicorn and quickly became popular with the full weight of divine authority behind it.
The re’em they were referring to is believed to be a giant wild ox that supposedly died out in the region long before the formation of the Septuagint translation. These species known as the Aurochs or Bos Primogenius have ancient fossils that reveal much about their characteristics, some up to ten feet tall at the shoulder, fifteen feet in length and sometimes closer to six feet tall at the shoulder. The various sub-species of this beast were the ancestors of all modern domestic cattle and the last true aurochs died out in Poland in the 17th Century.
Indeed the only definite unicorn can be attributed to the prophet Daniel. For in the 8th chapter of his first book he describes –
in his vision he found himself in the palace at Susa in Persia by the river Ulai. Across the river he saw a great ram with two horns that ranged irresistibly to the north and west and south. Then from the west came charging another great ram with a single horn which attacked the first, broke its two horns and trampled it to the ground. For a while this unicorn ram reigned supreme, till its great horn broke and four smaller ones sprang up in its place.The Prophet Daniel
If you find that confusing, don’t worry, so did Daniel so he had an Angel explain it to him, how nice eh? If only we all had angel to explain things to us when we found ourselves staring at random goats. Now the explanation is also a bit of a stretch so bear with the angel on this one….
the first rams two horns stood for the kings of Media and Persia, whose joint empire was then supreme in the region. The single horn of the second ram stood for the Greek king (Alexander The Great) who overthrew them, and the four smaller horns were the four kings who carved up his vast empire after Alexanders’ early demise – Ptolemy of Egypt , Seleucis of Persia, Antigonus of Greece and Macedonia and Antiochus (the rest, including north west India)Explanatory Angel
It should be noted that the book of Daniel was written well after the conquest of Persia making it a more poetic description of the events with the benefit of hindsight rather than true prophecy, though it tells us much of the significance of symbolism and the awe the horns inspired.
As always I encourage you to check out these other previous pieces to further your reading if this one sparked your interest.
See them below