(re'em): The word "unicorn" occurs in the King James Version in Nu 23:22; 24:8; De 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Ps 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isa 34:7 (the King James Version margin "rhinoceros"). the Revised Version (British and American) has everywhere "wild-ox" (margin "ox-antelope," Nu 23:22). The Septuagint has monokeros, "one-horned," except in Isa 34:7, where we find hoi hadroi, "the large ones," "the bulky ones." In this passage also the Septuagint has hoi krioi, "the rams," instead of English Versions of the Bible "bullocks." Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) has rhinoceros in Nu 23:22; 24:8; De 33:17; Job 39:9,10; and unicornis in Ps 22:21 (21:22); 29:6 (28:6); 92:10 (91:11); Isa 34:7.

As stated in the articles on ANTELOPE and CATTLE, re'em and te'o (De 14:5; Isa 51:20) may both be the Arabian oryx (Oryx beatrix), of which the common vernacular name means "wild-ox." It may be presumed that "ox-antelope" of Nu 23:22 the Revised Version margin is meant to indicate this animal, which is swift and fierce, and has a pair of very long, sharp and nearly straight horns. The writer feels, however, that more consideration should be given to the view of Tristram (Natural History of the Bible) that re'em is the urus or aurochs, the primitive Bos taurus, which seems to be depicted in Assyrian monuments and referred to as remu (BDB). The etymology of re'em is uncertain, but the word may be from a root signifying "to rise" or "to be high." At any rate, there is no etymological warrant for the assumption that it was a one-horned creature. The Arabic raim, is used of a light-colored gazelle. The great strength and fierceness implied in most of the references suit the wild-ox better than the oryx. On the other hand, Edom (Isa 34:7) was adjacent to the present home of the oryx, while there is no reason to suppose that the wild-ox came nearer than Northern Assyria. There is possibly a reference to the long horns of the oryx in "But my horn hast thou exalted like the horn of the wild-ox" (Ps 92:10). For te'o, The Septuagint has orux, in De 14:5 (but seutlion hemiephthon, "half-boiled beet" (!) in Isa 51:20). Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) has oryx in both passages. While we admit that both re'em and te'o may be the oryx, it is perhaps best to follow the Revised Version margin, rendering re'em "wild-ox." The rendering of "antelope" (Revised Version) for te'o is defensible, but "oryx" would be better, because the oryx is the only antelope that could possibly be meant, it and the gazelle (tsebhi), already mentioned in De 14:5, being the only antelopes known to occur in Palestine and Arabia. In Isa 34:7 it seems to be implied that the re'em might be used in sacrifice.

Figurative: The wild-ox is used as a symbol of the strength of Israel: "He hath as it were the strength of the wild-ox". (Nu 23:22; 24:8). In the blessing of the children of Israel by Moses it is said of Joseph:

"And his horns are the horns of the wild-ox:

With them he shall push the peoples all of them,

even the ends of the earth" (De 33:17).

The Psalmist (Ps 29:5,6) in describing the power of Yahweh says:

"Yea, Yahweh breaketh in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

He maketh them also to skip like a calf;

Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild-ox."

Again, in praise for Yahweh's goodness (Ps 92:10): "But my horn hast thou exalted like the horn of the wildox."

In Job 39:9-12 the subduing and training of the wild-ox are cited among the things beyond man's power and understanding.


Alfred Ely Day

© Levend Water