Biblical accounts state that this creature is without a doubt the largest animal ever to have walked the Earth, but some researchers believe that reports of these animals may serve as genuine eyewitness accounts of the colossal and presumed extinct sauropod known as the brachiosaur.
According to the Old Testament, on the sixth day of Genesis, God created all the “beasts of the earth.” Many of these animals were the purported ancestors of modern beasts with which we are all familiar, but there are some — particularly in Jewish traditions — which most definitely come under the heading of “monsters.” One such beast is the legendarily monolithic monstrosity known as the Re’em.
The Re’em — which is also known as the Reëm or in Hebrew as: רֶאֵם — is a creature seemingly from BEYOND MYTHOLOGY that is mentioned no less than nine times in the Bible and is officially translated as “UNICORN” in the King James Version such as this passage from the Book of Job 39:9–12:
“Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee? Wilt thou trust him, because his strength is great? or wilt thou leave thy labour to him? Wilt thou believe him, that he will bring home thy seed, and gather it into thy barn?”
The New American Standard Bible translates Re’em as “wild ox” and it is also associated with the Arabian Oryx. But while modern Biblical scholars and linguists have done their best to pigeonhole the Re’em as a relatively small known (or legendary) animal, ancient Judaic texts describe the Re’em as a gargantuan beast even when compared to other massive animals.
Said to be fierce, fast and indomitable, rabbinic scholars claimed that due to their mammoth proportions only two Re’em — one male and one female — could exist simultaneously, lest the Earth be laid to waste and made barren in their wake
One point of contention regarding this animal’s (admittedly vague) physical attributes, are the number of horns which this beast purportedly bears. Although investigators have debated this issue for millennia, the general consensus is that this creature is adorned by a single horn at least.
This fact may possibly link the legends of the Re’em to other FORMERLY EXTINCT creatures such as the notorious horned monster called the CHIPEKWE or even the centrosaurus-like EMELA-NTOUKA, both of which allegedly lurk in the wilds of Africa to this day.
According to Judaic mythology the two Re’ems lived on opposite ends of the Earth; one east and one west. Eventually both animals made an arduous, 70 year trek across the equator in order to come face to face for just a single day. During the course of this 24 hour interlude the animals would mate — a sight which one would surely not soon forget — after which the female would promptly slay the male with a single bite.
The female, now inseminated, would remain pregnant for 12 years. The weight of her fetus would prevent this animal from walking, so during the better part of her term, the female Re’em was said to be able to do little more than roll back and forth. Due to this creature’s prodigious size, however, the saliva discharged from the Re’em’s mouth enabled enough vegetation to grow so that the animal would not starve, even in its weakened condition.
When the Re’ems term finally came to an end, she would not give birth like a typical animal, but the babies would burst forth from the mother’s womb, killing her instantly. The two Re’em calves (one male and one female — of course) would then head their separate ways… only to meet again in another 70 years.
Perhaps the most intriguing Old Testament tale surrounding these creatures concerns Goliath vanquisher, David. In the days when he was just a simple sheep herder, David allegedly came across a sleeping Re’em. Mistaking the bulky mass for a mountain, David began to climb the beast, only to be horrified as the creature woke and lifted the young Shepard on one of its gigantic horns.
According to this account, David implored God for help, swearing that he would build a temple in his honor if his life were spared. God apparently responded to his plea by sending the king of the beasts, a lion, to his aid.
The Re’em, perhaps illogically deferential of the lion’s alleged position as monarch of the beasts, bowed before its feline master, allowing David to climb back down to the ground. The ever sage David quickly prayed again and God sent a herbivore running past so the lion would be inclined to chase it, rather than eat the future king.
Another legend deals with the oft re-told account of Noah and his arc. The two Re’em attempted to join the procession of what were apparently two of all of the other animals on the planet, but owing to their size — considerably larger than 40-cubits, no doubt! — Noah was unable to get these behemoths aboard.
Refusing to allow these gargantuan beasts to perish, Noah reputedly tied the animals to the back of his arc where they followed behind, walking at first, then eventually swimming. Another version of the story states that the Re’ems were still close enough to their infantile stage to fit onboard the vessel. These accounts have been removed from most modern versions of the Christian Bible.
Although this animal is obviously steeped in ancient Judeo-Christian mythology, the animal does bear a striking resemblance to modern day accounts of the MOKELE-MBEMBE, as well as other gigantic sauropods which once roamed the Earth; reports of which continue to come from Cameroon and the Congolese jungle to this day.
One of the few non Biblical reports on the Re’em was published in the Glasgow Argus newspaper on December 7th, 1835, where the beast is — of all things — compared to an antelope, due to a similar spelling between it and the Arabic word for the fleet footed mammal:
“Our visitor is of ancient lineage, though we are by no means certain that it can be traced quite so far back as his flatterers have attempted to do. Some have represented him as the lineal descendant of the Re’em, of whom mention is made in the Books of Number and Deuteronomy, in the Psalms, in Job, and in Isaiah. The genealogy is not very clearly made out. In the kindred dialect of the Arabic, Rem denotes an antelope. Of course this does not prove that the Hebrew Re’em was an antelope…”
The Argus continues to state that the creatures were so large as to make them impractical for use as beasts of burden like cattle or oxen:
“On the other hand, the text of the Septuagint favours the identity of the Re’em with the rhinoceros, by translating it monoceros… in one passage it seems implied that the Reem was abundant on the north-east frontier of the Israelites, from Anti-Lebanon towards Bozrah. In ‘Job’ the strength of the animal, and the impossibility of making it available in agricultural labour, is hinted at.”
During my research for the article I began to wonder if the legends of the Re’em might be loosely based on the Elasmotherium, also known as the “Giant Unicorn,” a 7-foot tall, shaggy Eurasian rhinoceros indigenous to Eurasia during the Late Pliocene through the Pleistocene that was thought to have existed as recently as 50,000 years ago.
Mythical representations of this beast may represent both the unicorn and (on a much smaller scale) the epically scaled Re’em, but it seems just as likely that discovered bones of immense and extinct animals such as the brachiosaur and diplodocus are responsible for the Biblical “tall tales.”
© Copyright Rob Morphy 2002 — 2011