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bourhood, we may safely conjecture that it may signify the beautiful animal known as the Oryx (Oryx leucoryx), an animal which has a tolerably wide range, and is even now found on the borders of the Holy Land. It is a large and powerful antelope, and is remarkable for its beautiful horns, which sometimes exceed a yard in length, and sweep in a most graceful curve over the back.
Sharp as they are, and evidently formidable weapons, the manner in which they are set on the head renders them apparently unserviceable for combat. When, however, the Oryx is brought to bay, or wishes to fight, it stoops its head until the nose is close to the ground, the points of the horns being thus brought to the front. As the head is swung from side to side, the curved horns sweep through a considerable space, and are so formidable that even the lion is chary of attacking their owner. Indeed, instances are known where the lion has been transfixed and killed by the horns of the Oryx. Sometimes the animal is not content with merely standing to repel the attacks of its adversaries, but suddenly charges forward with astonishing rapidity, and strikes upwards with its horns as it makes the leap.
But these horns, which can be used with such terrible effect in battle, are worse than useless when the animal is hampered in the net. In vain does the Oryx attempt its usual defence : the curved horns get more and more entangled in the elastic meshes, and become a source of weakness rather than strength. We see now how singularly appropriate is the passage, “ Thy sons lie at the heads of all the streets, as a wild bull (or Oryx) in a net," and how completely the force of the metaphor is lost without a knowledge of the precise mode of fixing the nets, of driving the animals into them, and of the manner in which they render even the large and powerful animals helpless.
The height of the Oryx at the shoulder is between three and four feet, and its colour is greyish white, mottled profusely with black and brown in bold patches. It is plentiful in Northern Africa, and, like many other antelopes, lives in herds, so that it is peculiarly suited to that mode of hunting which consists in surrounding a number of animals, and driving them into a trap of some kind, whether a fenced enclosure, a pitfall, or a net.
There is, by the way, the term "snare,” which is specially used with especial reference to catching the foot as distinguished
from the net which enveloped the whole body. For example, in Job xviii. 8, “ He is cast into a net, he walketh on a snare, where a bold distinction is drawn between the two and their mode of action. And in ver. 10, “ The snare is laid for him in the ground.” Though I would not state definitely that such is the case, I believe that the snare which is here mentioned is one which is still used in several parts of the world.
It is simply a hoop, to the inner edge of which are fastened a number of elastic spikes, the points being directed towards the centre. This is merely laid in the path which the animal will take, and is tied by a short cord to a log of wood. As the deer or antelope treads on the snare, the foot passes easily through the elastic spikes, but, when the foot is raised, the spikes run into the joint and hold the hoop upon the limb. Terrified by the check and the sudden pang, the animal tries to run away, but, by the united influence of sharp spikes and the heavy log, it is soon forced to halt, and so becomes an easy prey to its pursuers.
THE REÊM, OR “ UNICORN” OF SCRIPTURE.
The Reêm evidently known to the Jews—Various theories concerning the Uni
corn-Supposed identity with the Indian Rhinoceros - Passages of Scripture alluding to the strength, violent and intractable temper of the Reêm – The Reêm a two-horned animal-Its evident connection with the Ox tribe-Its presumed identity with the now extinct Urus—Mr. Dawkins' treatise on the Urus—Enormous size and dangerous character of the Urus-Rabbinical legend of the Reêm-Identity of the Urus with the modern varieties of cattle—The Bull hunts of Nineveh.
THERE are many animals mentioned in the Scriptures which cannot be identified with any certainty, partly because their names occur only once or twice in the sacred writings, and partly because, when they are mentioned, the context affords no clue to their identity by giving any hint as to their appearance or habits.
In such cases, although the translators would have done better if they had simply given the Hebrew word without endeavouring to identify it with any known animal, they may be excused for committing errors in their nomenclature. There
is one animal, however, for which no such excuse can be found, and this is the Reêm of Scripture, translated as Unicorn in the authorized version.
Now the word Reêm is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament, and is found, not in one, but several books, showing that it was an animal perfectly well known to those for whom the sacred books were written. It is twice mentioned in the Pentateuch, several times in the Psalms, once in the book of Job, once by Isaiah, and reference is once made to it in the historical books. In these various passages, abundant details are given of its aspect and habits, so that there is very little doubt as to the identity of the animal.
The Septuagint translates Reêm by the word Monoceros, or the One-horned, which has been transferred to the Vulgate by the term Unicornis, a word having the same signification,
In an age when scientific investigation was utterly neglected, such a translation would readily be accepted without cavil, and there is no doubt that the generality of those who read the passages in question accepted them as referring to the Unicorn of heraldry with which we, as Englishmen, are so familiar. I may perhaps mention briefly that such an animal is a physiological impossibility, and that the Unicorn of the fables was a mere compound of an antelope, a horse, and a narwhal. The tusks or teeth of the narwhal were in former days exhibited as horns of the Unicorn, and so precious were they that one of them was laid up
in the cathedral of St. Denis, and two in the treasury of St. Mark's at Venice, all of which were exhibited in the year 1658 as veritable Unicorns' horns.
The physiological difficulty above mentioned seems to have troubled the minds of the old writers, who saw that an ivory horn had no business to grow upon the junction of the two bones of the skull, and yet felt themselves bound to acknowledge that such an animal did really exist. They therefore put themselves to vast trouble in accounting for such a phenomenon, and, in their determination to believe in the animal, invented theories nearly as wonderful as the existence of the Unicorn itself,
One of these theories, arguing that the two horns may be as easily fused together as the hoofs, is stated as follows. “Because
“ the middle is equally distant from both the extremes; and the
; hoof of this beast may be well said to be cloven and whole,
because the horn is of the substance of the hoof, and the hoof of the substance of the horn, and therefore the horn is whole and the hoof cloven ; for the cleaving either of the horn or of the hoof cometh from the defect of nature, and therefore God hath given to horses and asses whole hoofs, because there is greatest use of their legs, but unto Unicorns a whole and entire horn, that, as the ease of man is procured by the help of horses, so the health of them is procured by the horn of the Unicorn.”
This last sentence refers to the then universal belief, that the horn of the Unicorn was a panacea for all illness and an antidote to all poisons. It was thought to be so sensitive, that if a poisoned cup were but brought near it a thick moisture would exude from its surface, and if fragments were thrown into the cup they would cause the liquid to swell and bubble, and at last to boil over. This supposed virtue forms the basis of an argument used by one of the writers on the subject, and, as the passage affords a good example of theological argument in 1658, it will be given entire.
After enumerating various animals (and, by the way, once actually hitting upon the “ fish called Monoceros,” i.e. the narwhal), the writer proceeds as follows, in the quaint and nervous English of his time: “Now our discourse of the Unicorn is of none of these beasts, for there is not any virtue attributed to their horns, and therefore the vulgar sort of infidel people, which scarcely believe any herb but such as they see in their own gardens, or any beast but such as is in their own flocks, or any knowledge but such as is bred in their own brains, or any birds which are not hatched in their own nests, have never inade question of these ; but of the true Unicorn, whereof there were more proofs in the world, because of the nobleness of his horn, they have ever been in doubt. By which distinction it appeareth unto me that there is some secret enemy in the inward degenerate nature of man, which continually blindeth the eyes of God His people, from beholding and believing the greatness of God His works.
“But to the purpose: that there is such a beast, the Scripture itself witnesseth, for David thus speaketh in the 92d Psalm, Et erigetur cornu meus tanquam Monocerotis. That is, 'My horn shall be lifted up like the horn of a Unicorn.' Whereupon all divines that ever wrote have not only collected that there is a
Unicorn, but also affirm the similitude to be betwixt the kingdom of David and the horn of the Unicorn, that as the horn of the Unicorn is wholesome to all beasts and creatures, so should be the kingdom of David to the generation of Christ.
“ And do we think that David would compare the vertue of his kingdom and the powerful redemption of the world, unto a thing that is not, or is uncertain, or is fantastical ? God forbid that ever any man should so do despight to the Holy Ghost. For this cause we read also in Suidas, that good men who worship God and follow His laws are compared to Unicorns, whose greater parts, as their whole bodies, are unprofitable and untameable, yet their horn maketh them excellent; so in good men, although their fleshy parts be good for nothing, and fall down to the earth, yet their grace and piety exalteth their souls to the heavens.”
In late years, after the true origin of the Unicorn's horn was discovered, and the belief in its many virtues abandoned, the Reêm, or Monoceros, was almost unhesitatingly identified with the rhinoceros of India, and for a long time this theory was the accepted one. It is now, however, certain that the Reêm was not the rhinoceros, and that it can be almost certainly identified with an animal which, at the time when the passages in question were written, was plentiful in Palestine, although, like the lion, it is now extinct.
We will now take in their order the seven passages in which the animal is mentioned, substituting the word Reêm for Unicorn
The first of these passages occurs in Numbers xxiii., where the remarkable prophecies of Balaam are recorded. “ The Lord his God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt, he hath as it were the strength of Reêm :" (ver. 21, 22). From this passage we gain one piece of information, namely, that the Reêm was an exceptionally powerful animal. Indeed, it was evidently the strongest animal that was known to the prophet and his hearers, or it would not have been mentioned as a visible type of Divine power.
Next we come to Deut. xxxiii., wherein another prophecy is revealed, namely, that of Moses, just before his death and mysterious burial. Speaking of Joseph and his tribe, the aged prophet uses these words, “Let the blessing come upon the head