Camel - Bible References

7 occurrences in 7 dictionaries

Reference: Camel


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,

Jg 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.

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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.

Illustration: Bactrian Camel

(2.) The Arabian camel or dromedary, from the Greek dromos, "a runner" (Isa 60:6; Jer 2:23), has but one hump, and is a native of Western Asia or Africa.

Illustration: Arabian Camel

The camel was early used both for riding and as a beast of burden (Ge 24:64; 37:25), and in war (1Sa 30:17; Isa 21:7). Mention is made of the camel among the cattle given by Pharaoh to Abraham (Ge 12:16). Its flesh was not to be eaten, as it was ranked among unclean animals (Le 11:4; De 14:7). Abraham's servant rode on a camel when he went to fetch a wife for Isaac (Ge 24:10-11). Jacob had camels as a portion of his wealth (Ge 30:43), as Abraham also had (Ge 24:35). He sent a present of thirty milch camels to his brother Esau (Ge 32:15). It appears to have been little in use among the Jews after the conquest. It is, however, mentioned in the history of David (1Ch 27:30), and after the Exile (Ezr 2:67; Ne 7:69). Camels were much in use among other nations in the East. The queen of Sheba came with a caravan of camels when she came to see the wisdom of Solomon (1Ki 10:2; 2Ch 9:1). Benhadad of Damascus also sent a present to Elisha, "forty camels' burden" (2Ki 8:9).

To show the difficulty in the way of a rich man's entering into the kingdom, our Lord uses the proverbial expression that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Mt 19:24).

To strain at (rather, out) a gnat and swallow a camel was also a proverbial expression (Mt 23:24), used with reference to those who were careful to avoid small faults, and yet did not hesitate to commit the greatest sins. The Jews carefully filtered their wine before drinking it, for fear of swallowing along with it some insect forbidden in the law as unclean, and yet they omitted openly the "weightier matters" of the law.

The raiment worn by John the Baptist was made of camel's hair (Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6), by which he was distinguished from those who resided in royal palaces and wore soft raiment. This was also the case with Elijah (2Ki 1:8), who is called "a hairy man," from his wearing such raiment. "This is one of the most admirable materials for clothing; it keeps out the heat, cold, and rain." The "sackcloth" so often alluded to (2Ki 1:8; Isa 15:3; Zec 13:4, etc.) was probably made of camel's hair.

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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 (Es 8:10,14). The Bactrian two-humped camel is a variety. Used in Abraham's time for riding and burdens (Ge 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 (Mt 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.

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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

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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. Ge 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 Es 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. 1Ki 4:28; Es 8:10; Isa 60:6; Jer 2:23.

The proverb of a camel being swallowed when a gnat was scrupulously strained out, Mt 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." Mt 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.

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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

Ge 12:16

that camels were early known to the Egyptians. The importance of the camel is shown by

Ge 24:64; 37:25; Jg 7:12; 1Sa 27:9; 1Ki 19:2; 2Ch 14:15; Job 1:3; Jer 49:29,32

and many other texts. John the Baptist wore a garment made of camel hair,

Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6

the coarser hairs of the camel; and some have supposed that Elijah was clad in a dress of the same stuff.

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CAMEL. ???. This animal is called in ancient Arabic, gimel; and in modern, diammel; in Greek, ???????. With very little variation, the name is retained in modern languages. The camel is very common in Arabia, Judea, and the neighbouring countries; and is often mentioned in Scripture, and reckoned among the most valuable property, 1Ch 5:21; Job 1:3, &c. "No creature," says Volney, "seems so peculiarly fitted to the climate in which he exists as the camel. Designing this animal to dwell in a country where he can find little nourishment, nature has been sparing of her materials in the whole of his formation. She has not bestowed upon him the fleshiness of the ox, horse, or elephant; but limiting herself to what is strictly necessary, has given him a long head, without ears, at the end of a long neck without flesh; has taken from his legs and thighs every muscle not immediately requisite for motion; and, in short, bestowed upon his withered body only the vessels and tendons necessary to connect its frame together. She has furnished him with a strong jaw, that he may grind the hardest aliments; but, lest he should consume too much, has straitened his stomach, and obliged him to chew the cud; has lined his foot with a lump of flesh, which sliding in the mud, and being no way adapted to climbing, fits him only for a dry, level, and sandy soil, like that of Arabia. So great, in short, is the importance of the camel to the desert, that, were it deprived of that useful animal, it must infallibly lose every inhabitant." The chief use of the camel has always been as a beast of burden, and for performing journeys across the deserts. They have sometimes been used in war, to carry the baggage of an oriental army, and mingle in the tumult of the battle. Many of the Amalekite warriors, who burnt Ziklag in the time of David, were mounted on camels; for the sacred historian remarks, that of the whole army not a man escaped the furious onset of that heroic and exasperated leader, "save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled," 1Sa 30:17.

The passage of Scripture in which our Lord says, "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 heaven," Mt 19:24, has been the occasion of much criticism. Some assert that near Jerusalem was a low gate called "the needle's eye," through which a camel could not pass unless his load was taken off. Others conjecture that ??????? should be read ???????, a cable. But there are no ancient manuscripts to support the reading. In the Jewish Talmud, there is, however, a similar proverb respecting an elephant: "Rabbi Shesheth answered Rabbi Amram, who had advanced an absurdity, 'Perhaps thou art one of the Pambidithians, who can make an elephant pass through the eye of a needle;'" that as, says the Aruch, "who speak things impossible." There is also a saying of the same kind in the Koran: "The impious, who in his arrogancy shall accuse our doctrine of falsity, shall find the gates of heaven shut; nor shall he enter there, till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle. It is thus that we shall recompense the wicked," Surat. 7:37. Indeed, Grotius, Lightfoot, Wetstein, and Michaelis, join in opinion, that the comparison is so much in the figurative style of the oriental nations and of the rabbins, that the text is sufficiently authentic.

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