|kam'-el ((gamel) to repay, requite)
RELATED: Dromedary, Obil
Easton's Bible Dictionary
from the Hebrew gamal , "to repay" or "requite," as the
camel does the care of its master.
(1) 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" ( Isaiah
60:6 ; Jeremiah
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 ( Genesis
24:64 ; 37:25
), and in war ( 1
Samuel 30:17 ; Isaiah
21:7 ). Mention is made of the camel among the cattle given by Pharaoh to
Abraham ( Genesis
12:16 ). Its flesh was not to be eaten, as it was ranked among unclean animals
11:4 ; Deuteronomy
14:7 ). Abraham's servant rode on a camel when he went to fetch a wife for
Isaac ( Genesis
24:11 ). Jacob had camels as a portion of his wealth ( Genesis
30:43 ), as Abraham also had ( Genesis
24:35 ). He sent a present of thirty milch camels to his brother Esau ( Genesis
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
Chronicles 27:30 ), and after the Exile ( Ezra
2:67 ; Nehemiah
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
Kings 10:2 ; 2
Chronicles 9:1 ). Benhadad of Damascus also sent a present to Elisha, "forty
camels' burden" ( 2
Kings 8:9 ).
(2) 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 ( Matthew
(3) To strain at (rather, out) a gnat and swallow a camel was also a proverbial
expression ( Matthew
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.
(4) The raiment worn by John the Baptist was made of camel's hair ( Matthew
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 ; Isaiah
15:3 ; Zechariah
13:4 , etc.) was probably made of camel's hair.
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
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 camels 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." --Johnsons
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 ; Jeremiah 49:29
, Jeremiah 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.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kam'-el (gamal; kamelos; bekher, and bikhrah (Isaiah
60:6 ; Jeremiah 2:23 "dromedary," the American Revised Version, margin "young
camel"), rekhesh (1 Kings 4:28; see HORSE), kirkaroth (Isaiah 66:20 , "swift beasts,"
the American Standard Revised ersion. "dromedaries"); bene ha-rammakhim (Esther
8:10, "young dromedaries," the American Standard Revised Version "bred of the
stud"); achashteranim (Esther 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 Leviticus 11:4 and Deuteronomy
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 Chronicles 12:40). David had a herd of
camels, but the herdsman was Obil, an Ishmaelite (1 Chronicles 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 (Genesis 12:16 ; Exodus 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, Genesis
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 (Matthew 3:4; Mark
(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" (Matthew 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" (Matthew 23:24). Some manuscripts read ho kamilos,
"a cable," in Matthew 19:24 and Luke 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
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, camel, define, dromedary