You might expect to see a unicorn make an appearance in a schoolgirl’s notebook, in a trash collector’s commercial, or as a marshmallow shape in your breakfast cereal. However, most people would be surprised to find unicorns in their history books or even in their Holy Bible.
The North Korean Central News Agency reported that archaeologists recently discovered an actual unicorn lair which proves that King Tongmyong once rode a unicorn there. Their proof is a carving on an ancient rock that says “Unicorn Lair.” This does seem reasonable, as I’ve never seen a unicorn lair without a “Unicorn Lair” sign out front.
North Korean state media have a history of attributing mythic status to their leaders. Kim Jong Il had five holes in one in a single round of golf and he invented the hamburger (though sadly not on the same day). Ascribing supernatural powers and portents to North Korean leaders has proven to be a potent way of impressing the gullible masses.
Which brings us to the Bible.
Less well known than the newly discovered unicorn’s lair is the fact that the word “unicorn(s)” appears in the King James version of the Bible a total of eight times. If you want to stir up some controversy the next time you talk to your religious friends, ask them which is mentioned more often in the Bible: a cat or a unicorn. You will find the word unicorn on average appearing once in every 3,456 words in the King James Bible and the word cat mentioned exactly never.
Here are few examples of unicorns running wild throughout the Bible:
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn. —Psalms 92:10
I’ve never had anyone exalt my horn, no matter how nicely I ask. I must be doing something wrong.
And the unicorns shall go down with them, and the bulls with the mighty. Their land shall be soaked with blood, and their ground with the fat of fat ones. —Isaiah 34:7
Fat soaked land is evidently something you want to avoid.
Modern translators have decided that the unicorn is too fantastical a creature to mention in modern holy scriptures (unlike talking donkeys and snakes), so various alternate translations have been offered:
Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee?
—King James Version —Job 39:9
Will the wild ox be content to serve you?
—World English Bible
Shall the rhinoceros be willing to serve thee?
Is a reem willing to serve thee?
—Young’s Literal Translation
Will the buffalo be willing to serve thee?
Will the ox of the mountains be your servant?
—Bible in Basic English
And finally, my favorite:
God brought him forth out of Egypt. He hath as it were the strength of a unicorn. —Numbers 24:8
Now all of this is a bit of an embarrassment to Bible literalists (the main target of this blog, in case you hadn’t noticed). The King James Version, the most revered translation of all, likens God to a mythical creature that people used to think existed, but now we know is not real. Back then, people wanted to believe in something supernaturally powerful, but when they finally realized there was no evidence of its existence, they marked it down as fantasy and moved on to dealing with the real world. Well, most of us moved on anyway; there are still North Korean archaeologist types who won’t give up on the fantasy because they are either eager to mislead others or have a deep desire to hold to unfounded beliefs.