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.
(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.
The camel was early used both for riding and as a beast of burden (Gen. 24:64; 37:25), and in war (1 Sam. 30:17; Isa. 21:7). Mention is made of the camel among the cattle given by Pharaoh to Abraham (Gen. 12:16). Its flesh was not to be eaten, as it was ranked among unclean animals (Lev. 11:4; Deut. 14:7). Abraham's servant rode on a camel when he went to fetch a wife for Isaac (Gen. 24:10, 11). Jacob had camels as a portion of his wealth (30:43), as Abraham also had (24:35). He sent a present of thirty milch camels to his brother Esau (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 (1 Chr. 27:30), and after the Exile (Ezra 2:67; Neh. 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 (1 Kings 10:2; 2 Chr. 9:1). Benhadad of Damascus also sent a present to Elisha, "forty camels' burden" (2 Kings 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 (Matt. 19:24).
To strain at (rather, out) a gnat and swallow a camel was also a proverbial expression (Matt. 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 (Matt. 3:4; Mark 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 (2 Kings 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 (2 Kings 1:8; Isa. 15:3; Zech. 13:4, etc.) was probably made of camel's hair.
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
; Judges 7:12
; 1Ã‚Â Samuel 27:9
; 1Ã‚Â Kings 19:2
; 2Ã‚Â Chronicles 14:15
; Job 1:3
; Jeremiah 49:29,32
) 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.
- kam'-el (gamal; kamelos; bekher, and bikhrah (Isa 60:6
; Jer 2:23
"dromedary," the American Revised Version, margin "young camel"), rekhesh (1 Ki 4:28
; see HORSE), kirkaroth (Isa 66:20
, "swift beasts," the American Standard Revised ersion. "dromedaries"); bene ha-rammakhim (Est 8:10
, "young dromedaries," the American Standard Revised Version "bred of the stud"); achashteranim (Est 8:10,14
, 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 Lev 11:4
and Dt 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 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 of 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 (1 Ch 12:40). David had a herd of camels, but the herdsman was Obil, an Ishmaelite (1 Ch 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; Ex 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, Gen 12 through 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 (Mt 3:4; Mk 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" (Mt 19:24; Mk 10:25; Lk 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 Lk 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