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Holman Bible Dictionary


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Large hump-backed mammal of Asia and Africa used for desert travel to bear burdens or passengers.

Old Testament The camel is adapted for desert travel with padded feet, a muscular body, and a hump of fat to sustain life on long journeys. A young camel can walk one hundred miles in a day. Wealth was measured by many things including camels (Genesis 24:35 ). The Jews were forbidden to eat the ceremonially unclean camel, which chews the cud, but does not have a split hoof (Leviticus 11:4 ). An ill-tempered camel in an unhampered rampage could quickly trample down the tents of a family or clan. Jeremiah thus described the sins of Israel saying they were as a swift she-camel, running wild (Jeremiah 2:23 ). The wise men who worshiped Jesus are traditionally pictured as riding camels (Matthew 1:1 ). This may be a prophecy of Isaiah 60:6 which describes camel riders from Sheba coming to bring gold, incense, and praises of the Lord.

New Testament John the Baptist, a desert preacher, wore the rough and plain clothes of camel's hair. His clothing and diet were revolutionary and consistent with his role as a forerunner of Jesus. A proverb picturing things impossible to accomplish was quoted by Jesus when he said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. A traditional but non-biblical illustration describes an unburdened camel kneeling to creep under a low gate in a Jerusalem wall. This means that if a rich man will rid himself of pride and humble himself (kneel) he can get into heaven. Jesus describes hypocrites as persons who are very careful to strain out a gnat from a cup of drink, but swallow a camel without notice. They tithe the leaves of a small household herb, but omit judgment, mercy, and faith.

Lawson Hatfield

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Camel'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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