A Camel is an animal, beast of burden favored in arid desert lands.
A Camel is a beast of burden favored in arid, dry desert lands. In the Bible, it was an unclean animal, but yet very necessary for travel in Biblical lands because of the roughness of these lands. Horses simply could not go without water, and the amount of water necessary to carry with one for his horse was cumbersome and excessive.
Camel [Cook, Scripture Alphabet of Animals]
There are two or three varieties of the camel, but they do not differ from each other much more than our horses, some of which, the stout and strong, we use to draw heavy loads; others, more slender and graceful, we use for riding. The swift camel is called a Dromedary; it will carry its rider a hundred miles a day. Dromedaries are mentioned in the book of Esther, where messages were to be sent in haste to all parts of a vast kingdom; the messengers rode “on mules, and camels, and young dromedaries.”
This is a very large animal and is mentioned a great many times in the Bible. I think you will like to find all these places, and see what is said about the camel. It seems as though God made it to live in just such countries as it does, for it can go a great many days without drinking any water; and if it were not for this, it would die of thirst, because the wells and springs are so far apart. If the people of those countries had not the camel they could not travel; so you see how kind God is to them.
The foot of the camel is curious. It is very broad, having two divisions with a horny tip at the end of each; and underneath is a sort of elastic cushion, like a sponge, on which the animal treads. It is very strange to see a dozen or twenty large and heavy camels pass along almost without any noise; so still that you would hardly know they were coming if you did not look up.
There is a very beautiful story in the twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis, in which there is something about camels. I will tell you part of it. In the country where it happened a man does not generally choose a wife for himself, but his father or some other friend chooses for him. You have heard about Abraham, and know that he was a good man and a friend of God. When his son Isaac was forty years old, Abraham wished to find a wife for him, but he was not willing to take one from among the people where he lived, because they were very wicked. So he called a good old servant that he had-a gray-headed man-and told him that he wished him to go to a distant country and bring a wife for Isaac from there. Then Eliezer, the servant, took several other servants, and ten of his master’s camels, and many presents, and started on his journey. After they had travelled a great many days, they came near to the city where Abraham had told them to go. It was just before night, and that was the time when the young women used to go out of the city to draw water. I have told you that there are not many wells in that country, so that a great many persons draw water at one place. It is the custom for females to go for it, and they usually carry it in pitchers on their heads.
Eliezer made his camels lie down by this well because they had come to the end of their journey and were very tired. But how was he to know who would be a good wife for Isaac, among all the women of this large city? He did not know, but he was a good man, and he prayed to God to choose one for him, and let him know which she was. And he asked God to let him know in this way which I will tell you. When the young women came out to the well, he was going to ask them for some water, and he prayed that the one who answered him kindly, and gave him drink, might be the right one for Isaac’s wife. Pretty soon he saw a young woman coming with her pitcher on her head, and she was very fair and handsome, but this alone did not satisfy Eliezer. He waited till she had drawn some water and placed it upon her head. Then he said to her, “I pray thee let me drink a little water from they pitcher;” -and she took it down and resting it on her hand, answered very pleasantly and kindly, “Drink, my lord.” While he was drinking, she saw that he looked like a stranger and that his camels seemed tired with the journey, and she was sorry from them. So she said, “I will draw water for the camels too;” – and she did draw enough for all the ten camels, though she must have been pretty tired when it was done, for these animals drink a great deal. From all these circumstances Eliezer felt sure that God had heard his prayer; and it gave him pleasure to think that if this young woman was willing to take so much trouble for a traveler whom she did not know, she would be a very kind and good wife.
I cannot tell you all; but Eliezer found that the young wovman, whose name was Rebekah, was willing to go with him to be Isaac’s wife. When all was ready for the journey she was seated upon one of the ten camels, and her nurse upon another, and some of her female servants upon others. After they had been riding some days, they came, just at evening, near the place where Isaac lived, and saw him walking in the field. He came to meet Rebekah and was very glad to see her, and when she became his wife he loved her very much.
Carrier, A beast of burden very common in the East, where it is called “the land-ship,” and “the carrier of the desert.” It is six or seven feet high and is exceedingly strong, tough, and enduring of labor. The feet are constructed with a tough elastic sole, which prevents the animal from sinking in the sand; and on all sorts of ground, it is very sure-footed. The Arabian species, most commonly referred to in Scripture, has but one hump on the back; while the Bactrian camel, found in central Asia, has two. While the animal is well fed, these humps swell with accumulated fat, which is gradually absorbed under scarcity and toil, to supply the lack of food. The dromedary is a lighter and swifter variety, otherwise not distinguishable from the common camel, Jer 2:23. Within the cavity of the stomach is a sort of paunch, provided with membranous cells to contain an extra provision of water: the supply with which this is filled will last for many days while he traverses the desert. His food is coarse leaves, twigs, thistles, which he prefers to the tenderest grass, and on which he performs the longest journeys. But generally, on a march, about a pound weight of dates, beans, or barley, will serve for twenty-four hours. The camel kneels to receive its load, which varies from 500 to 1, 000 or 1, 200 pounds. Meanwhile, it is wont to utter loud cries or growls of anger and impatience. It is often obstinate and stupid, and at times ferocious; the young are as dull and ungainly as the old. Its average rate of travel is about two and one-third miles an hour; and it jogs on with a sullen pertinacity hour after hour without fatigue, seeming as fresh at night as in the morning. No other animal could endure the severe and continual hardships of the camel, his rough usage, and his coarse and scanty food. The Arabians well say of him, “Job’s beast is a monument of God’s mercy.”
This useful animal has been much employed in the East, from a very early period. The merchants of those sultry climes have found it the only means of exchanging the products of different lands, and from time immemorial long caravans have traversed year after year the almost pathless deserts, Ge 37:25. The number of one’s camels was a token of his wealth. Job had 3, 000, and the Midianites’ camels were like the sand of the sea,
Judges 7:12; 1Ch 5:21; Job 1:3. Rebekah came to Isaac riding upon a camel, Ge 24:64; the queen of Sheba brought them to Solomon, and Hazael to Elisha, laden with the choicest gifts, 1Ki 10:2; 2Ki 8:9; and they were even made serviceable in war, 1Sa 30:17. The camel was to the Hebrews an unclean animal, Le 11:4; yet its milk has ever been to the Arabs an important article of food, and is highly prized as a cooling and healthy drink. Indeed, no animal is more useful to the Arabs, while living or after death. Out of its skin they make for corn. Of its skin they make huge water bottles and leather sacks, also sandals, ropes, and thongs. Its dung, dried in the sun, serves them for fuel.
CAMELS’ HAIR was woven into cloth in the East, some of it exceedingly fine and soft, but usually coarse and rough, used for making the coats of shepherds and camel-drivers, and for covering tents. It was this that John the Baptist wore, and not “soft raiment,” Mt 11:8. Modern dervishes wear garments of this kind and this appears to be meant in 2Ki 1:8.
The expression, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,” etc., Mt 19:24, was a proverb to describe an impossibility. The same phrase occurs in the Koran; and a similar one in the Talmud, respecting an elephant’s going through a needle’s eye. See also the proverb in Mt 23:24, which illustrates the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by the custom of passing wine through a strainer. The old versions of the New Testament, instead of, “strain at” a gnat, have, “strain out,” which conveys the true meaning.
from the Hebrew _gamal_, “to repay” or “requite,” as the camel does the care of its master. There are two distinct species of camels, having, however, the common characteristics of being “ruminants without horns, without muzzle, with nostrils forming oblique slits, the upper lip divided and separately movable and extensile, the soles of the feet horny, with two toes covered by claws, the limbs long, the abdomen drawn up, while the neck, long and slender, is bent up and down, the reverse of that of a horse, which is arched.”
(1.) The Bactrian camel is distinguished by two humps. It is a native of the high table-lands of Central Asia.
gamal. A ruminant animal, the chief means of communication between places separated by sandy deserts in Asia, owing to its amazing powers of endurance. The “ship of the desert,” able to go without food, and water for days, the cellular stomach containing a reservoir for water, and its fatty hump a supply of nourishment; and content with such coarse, prickly shrubs as the desert yields and its incisor teeth enable it to divide. Their natural posture of rest is lying down on the breast; on which, as well as on the joints of the legs, are callosities. Thus, Providence by their formation adapts them for carriers; and their broad, cushioned, elastic feet enable them to tread sure-footedly upon the sinking sands and gravel. They can close their nostrils against the drifting sand of the parching simoom. Their habitat is Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor, S. Tartary, and part of India; in Africa from the Mediterranean to Senegal, and from Egypt and Abyssinia to Algiers and Morocco.
The dromedary (beeker) is from a better breed, and swifter; from the Greek dromas, a runner; going often at a pace of nine miles an hour (Est. 8:10; 8:14). The Bactrian two-humped camel is a variety. Used in Abraham’s time for riding and burdens (Gen. 24:64; 37:25); also in war (1Sa. 30:17; Isa. 21:7). Camel’s hair was woven into coarse cloth, such as what John the Baptist wore (Mat. 3:4). The Hebrew gamal is from a root “to revenge,” because of its remembrance of injuries and vindictiveness, or else “to carry.” In Isa. 60:6 and Jer. 2:23 beeker should be translated not “dromedary,” but “young camel.” In Isa. 66:20 kirkaroth, from karar to bound, “swift beasts,” i. e. dromedaries. Its milk is used for drink as that of the goats and sheep for butter.
CAMEL.—The bones of camels are found among the remains of the earliest Semitic civilization at Gezer, b.c. 3000 or earlier, and to-day camels are among the most common and important of domesticated animals in Palestine. They have thus been associated with every era of history in the land. Two species are known: the one-humped Camelus dromedarius, by far the more common in Bible lands; and the Bactrian, two-humped Camelus bactrianus, which comes from the plateau of Central Asia. This latter is to-day kept in considerable numbers by Turkomans settled in the Jaulan, and long caravans of these magnificent beasts may sometimes be encountered coming across the Jordan into Galilee or on the Jericho-Jerusalem road. The C. dromedarius is kept chiefly for burden-bearing, and enormous are the loads of corn, wood, charcoal, stone, furniture, etc., which these patient animals carry: 600 to 800 lbs. are quite average loads. Their owners often ride on the top of the load, or on the empty baggage-saddle when returning; Moslem women and children are carried in a kind of palanquin—the camel’s furniture of Gen 31:34. For swift travelling a different breed of camel known as hajîn is employed. Such a camel will get over the ground at eight to ten miles an hour, and keep going eighteen hours in the twenty-four. These animals are employed near Beersheha, and also regularly to carry the mails across the desert from Damascus to Baghdad. They may be the ‘dromedaries’ of Est 8:10.
Camels are bred by countless thousands in the lands to the E. of the Jordan, where they form the most valuable possessions of the Bedouin, as they did of the Midianites and Amalekites of old (Jdg 7:12). The Bedouin live largely upon the milk of camels (Gen 32:15) and also occasionally eat their flesh, which was forbidden to the Israelites (Deu 14:17, Lev 11:4). They also ride them on their raids, and endeavour to capture the camels of hostile clans. The fellahin use camels for ploughing and harrowing.
The camel is a stupid and long-enduring animal, but at times, especially in certain months, he occasionally ‘runs amok,’ and then he is very dangerous. His bite is almost always fatal. The camel’s hair which is used for weaving (Mar 1:6, Mat 3:4) is specially taken from the back, neck, and neighbourhood of the hump: over the rest of the body the ordinary camel has his hair worn short. His skin is kept anointed with a peculiar smelling composition to keep off parasites. The special adaptation of the camel to its surroundings lies in its compound stomach, two compartments of which, the rumen and the reticulum, are especially constructed for the storage of a reserve supply of water; its hump, which though useful to man for attachment of burdens and saddles, is primarily a reserve store of fat; and its wonderful fibrous padded feet adapted to the softest sandy soil. The camel is thus able to go longer without food and drink than any other burden-bearing animal, and is able to traverse deserts quite unadapted to the slender foot of the horse and the ass. On slippery soil, rock or mud, the camel is, however, a helpless flounderer. The camel’s food is chiefly tibn (chopped straw), kursenneh, beans, oil-cake, and occasionally some grain. There seems, however, to be no thorn too sharp for its relish.
In the NT references to the camel it is more satisfactory to take the expressions ‘swallow a camel’ (Mat 23:24) and ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,’ etc. (Mat 19:24||), as types of ordinary Oriental proverbs (cf. the Talmudic expression ‘an elephant through a needle’s eye’) than to weave fancied and laboured explanations. The present writer agrees with Post that the gate called the ‘needle’s eye’ is a fabrication.
E. W. G. Masterman.
kam’-el (gamal; kamelos; bekher, and bikhrah (Isa 60:6; Jer 2:23 “dromedary,” the American Revised Version, margin “young camel”), rekhesh (1Ki 4:28; see HORSE), kirkaroth (Isa 66:20, “swift beasts,” the American Standard Revised ersion. “dromedaries”); bene ha-rammakhim (Es 8:10, “young dromedaries,” the American Standard Revised Version “bred of the stud”); achashteranim (Esth 8:10; Esth 8:14, the King James Version “camels,” the American Standard Revised Version “that were used in the king’s service”)): There are two species of camel, the Arabian or one-humped camel or dromedary, Camelus dromedarius, and the Bactrian or two-humped camel, Camelus bactrianus. The latter inhabits the temperate and cold parts of central Asia and is not likely to have been known to Biblical writers. The Arabian camel inhabits southwestern Asia and northern Africa and has recently been introduced into parts of America and Australia. Its hoofs are not typical of ungulates but are rather like great claws. The toes are not completely separated and the main part of the foot which is applied to the ground is a large pad which underlies the proximal joints of the digits. It may be that this incomplete separation of the two toes is a sufficient explanation of the words “parteth not the hoof,” in Le 11:4 and De 14:7. Otherwise these words present a difficulty, because the hoofs are completely separated though the toes are not. The camel is a ruminant and chews the cud like a sheep or ox, but the stomach possesses only three compartments instead of four, as in other ruminants. The first two compartments contain in their walls small pouches, each of which can be closed by a sphincter muscle. The fluid retained in these pouches may account in part for the power of the camel to go for a relatively long time without drinking.
The Arabian camel is often compared with justice to the reindeer of the Esquimaux. It furnishes hair for spinning and weaving, milk, flesh and leather, as well as being an of invaluable means of transportation in the arid desert. There are many Arabic names for the camel, the commonest of which is jamal (in Egypt gamal), the root being common to Arabic, Hebrew and other Semitic languages. From it the names in Latin, Greek, English and various European languages are derived. There are various breeds camels, as there are of horses. The riding camels or dromedaries, commonly called hajin, can go, even at a walk, much faster than the pack camels. The males are mostly used for carrying burdens, the females being kept with the herds. Camels are used to a surprising extent on the rough roads of the mountains, and one finds in the possession of fellachin in the mountains and on the littoral plain larger and stronger pack camels than are often found among the Bedouin. Camels were apparently not much used by the Israelites after the time of the patriarchs. They were taken as spoil of war from the Amalekites and other tribes, but nearly the only reference to their use by the later Israelites was when David was made king over all Israel at Hebron, when camels are mentioned among the animals used for bringing food for the celebration (1Ch 12:40). David had a herd of camels, but the herdsman was Obil, an Ishmaelite (1Ch 27:30). Nearly all the other Biblical references to camels are to those possessed by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Ishmaelites, Amalekites, Midianites, Hagrites and the “children of the East” (see EAST). Two references to camels (Gen 12:16; Exod 9:3) are regarded as puzzling because the testimony of the Egyptian monuments is said to be against the presence of camels in ancient Egypt. For this reason, Ge 12-16, in connection with Abram’s visit to Egypt, is turned to account by Canon Cheyne to substantiate his theory that the Israelites were not in Egypt but in a north Arabian land of Mucri (Encyclopaedia Biblica under the word “Camel,” 4). While the flesh of the camel was forbidden to the Israelites, it is freely eaten by the Arabs. There are three references to the camel in New Testament:
(1) to John’s raiment of camel’s hair (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6);
(2) the words of Jesus that “it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25);
(3) the proverb applied to the Pharisees as blind guides, “that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel” (Mt 23:24). Some manuscripts read ho kamilos, “a cable,” in Mt 19:24 and Lu 18:25.
There are a few unusual words which have been translated “camel” in text or margin of one or the other version. (See list of words at beginning of the article) Bekher and bikhrah clearly mean a young animal, and the Arabic root word and derivatives are used similarly to the Hebrew. Rakhash, the root of rekhesh, is compared with the Arabic rakad, “to run,” and, in the Revised Version (British and American), rekhesh is translated “swift steeds.” Kirkaroth, rammakhim and ‘achashteranim must be admitted to be of doubtful etymology and uncertain meaning.
Alfred Ely Day
The well-known domestic animal of the East was the gamal with one hump; the word ‘bunches’ in Isa. 30:6 seems to refer to the humps. Camels are very suited in their construction for the country in which they are used, their feet being especially fitted for the deserts, and their powers of endurance enabling them to travel without frequently drinking. They need as much water as other animals, but God has given them receptacles in which they stow away the water they drink, and use it as they need it. Cases have been known of a camel being killed for the sake of the water that could be found in it when its owner was dying of thirst. They feed upon the coarse and prickly shrubs of the desert.
They form an important item in Eastern riches. Job had 3,000 camels. They are used for riding as well as for beasts of burden, a lighter breed being used for riding and for carrying the mails. Gen. 24:10-64. In Isa. 21:7 we read of a ‘chariot of camels.’ Camels were not thus used in Palestine, but the prophecy refers to messengers coming from Babylon and there another species of camel was common, called the Bactrian Camel, with two humps; these were at times linked in pairs to rude chariots. Perhaps the same species is alluded to in Esther 8:10-14, that occurrence being also in the far East: the Hebrew word there is achashteranim. The camel was by the Levitical law an unclean animal.
The DROMEDARY may be said to be the same animal as the camel, the former name being applied to those of a lighter and more valuable breed. They are used for the same purposes as the camel. 1 Kings 4:28; Esther 8:10; Isa. 60:6; Jer. 2:23.
The proverb of a camel being swallowed when a gnat was scrupulously strained out, Matt. 23:24, is to show how the weightier precepts of God may be neglected along with great attention to trivial things. Another proverb is that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matt. 19:24. This has been thought to refer to the camel squeezing through a small gate, which it could do with difficulty; but the Lord’s explanation refers it to what was impossible in the nature of things, yet was possible with God. In grace the new creation overcomes all difficulties.
• Herds of
Gn 12:16; Gn 24:35; Gn 30:43; 1S 30:17; 1Cr 27:30; Job 1:3; Job 1:17; Is 60:6
• Docility of
• Uses of:
– For riding
Gn 24:10; Gn 24:61; Gn 24:64; Gn 31:17
– For posts
Est 8:10; Est 8:14; Jer 2:23
– For drawing chariots
– For carrying burdens
Gn 24:10; Gn 37:25; 1R 10:2; 2R 8:9; 1Cr 12:40; Is 30:6
– For cavalry
– For milk
• Forbidden as food
• Hair of, made into cloth
Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6
• Ornaments of
Jue 8:21; Jue 8:26
• Stables for
More Animals in the Bible
Camel. Gen 12:16. There are two species: the Bactrian and the Arabian camel. The latter was used by the Israelites, and is the one commonly referred to in Scripture. It was used both for riding and for carrying loads, as at present. Gen 24:64; 2Ki 8:9. Camel’s furniture is mentioned, Gen 31:34, perhaps a kind of litter or canopied seat; and it is not improbable that the panniers or baskets, which are suspended on both sides of the animal, were employed anciently as now. The dromedary, Isa 60:6, was the same species, but of a finer breed. The camel is ill-tempered, vindictive, and obstinate; but its value to man may be estimated by what has been said. The ordinary strong working animal will go 24 miles a day, while the higher-bred and better-trained, or dromedary, will it is said, travel 200 miles in 24 hours. This quadruped was forbidden as food to the Hebrews, Lev 11:4; Deu 14:7; the flesh, however, especially the hump, is now liked by the Arabs; the milk is considered a cooling, nutritious drink, and the dung is much used for fuel. The camel was well known in early ages. Gen 12:16; Gen 24:64; Gen 37:25. It was used in war, at least by predatory bands, Jdg 6:6; 1Sa 30:17; and coarse garments were made of its hair. Mat 3:4; Mar 1:6. The word occurs in various proverbial expressions, as in Mat 19:24; similar to which are some used in the Talmud; also in 23:24, where the early English versions and the R. V. have very properly “strain out.”
The species of camel which was in common use among the Jews and the heathen nations of Palestine was the Arabian or one-humped camel, Camelus arabicus. The dromedary is a swifter animal than the baggage-camel, and is used chiefly for riding purposes; it is merely a finer breed than the other. The Arabs call it the heirie. The speed, of the dromedary has been greatly exaggerated, the Arabs asserting that it is swifter than the horse. Eight or nine miles an hour is the utmost it is able to perform; this pace, however, it is able to keep up for hours together. The Arabian camel carries about 500 pounds. “The hump on the camel’s back is chiefly a store of fat, from which the animal draws as the wants of his system require; and the Arab is careful to see that the hump is in good condition before a long journey. Another interesting adaptation is the thick sole which protects the foot of the camel from the burning sand. The nostrils may be closed by valves against blasts of sand. Most interesting is the provision for drought made by providing the second stomach with great cells in which water is long retained. Sight and smell is exceedingly acute in the camel.” –Johnson’s Encyc. It is clear from (Genesis 12:16) that camels were early known to the Egyptians. The importance of the camel is shown by (Genesis 24:64; 37:25; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 27:9; 1 Kings 19:2; 2 Chronicles 14:15; Job 1:3; Jer 49:29; Jer 49:32) and many other texts. John the Baptist wore a garment made of camel hair, (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6) the coarser hairs of the camel; and some have supposed that Elijah was clad in a dress of the same stuff.
Camel [Torreys New Topical Textbook]
Lv 11:4; Dt 14:7
• Found in deserted places
• Characterised by
– The bunches on its back
– Its docility
• The dromedary a species of, remarkable for swiftness
• Abounded in the east
1Cr 5:21; Is 60:6
• A part of patriarchal wealth
Gn 12:16; Gn 30:43; Job 1:3
• Kept in numbers by kings
• Used for
– Drawing chariots
– Carrying burdens
Gn 37:25; 1R 10:2; 2R 8:9
– Conveying posts and messengers
Jue 7:12; 1S 30:17
• Of the rich adorned with chains
Jue 8:21; Jue 8:26
• Furniture of, alluded to
• Subject to plagues
Ex 9:3; Zac 14:15
• Treated with great care
Gn 24:31; Gn 24:32
• Esteemed a valuable booty
1Cr 5:20; 1Cr 5:21; 2Cr 14:15; Job 1:17; Jer 49:29; Jer 49:32
• Coarse cloth made from its hair
• Referred to in illustrations by Christ
Mt 19:24; Mt 23:24