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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(a word found in essentially the same form in all the Shemitic languages [Hebrews גָּמָל, gamal'; Syriac, the same; Chald. gamala; ancient Arabic, jemel, modern, jammel]; in the Greek [κάμηλος ] and Latin rcamelus], whence it has passed into the languages of Western Europe; also in the Coptic kamoul. In Sanscrit it occurs as kramela and kram'laka; and hence Schlegel traces the word to the root kram- to step.' Bochart derives it from the root גָּמִל, to revenge, because the camel is vindictive and retains the memory of injuries [animal μνησίκακον ]; but Gesenius considers it more likely that גָּמִל should have assumed the force of the cognate Arabic root jamal, to carry), an animal of the order Ruminantia, and genus Camelus. As constituted by most modern naturalists, it comprises two species positively distinct, but still possessing the common characters 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 unguiculated claws, the limbs long, the abdomen drawn up, while the neck, long and slender, is bent down and up, the reverse of that of a horse, which is arched. According to other naturalists, however, the two-humped camel, sometimes called the Bactrian camel, is a variety only, not a distinct species (Patterson, Introd. to Zoology, p. 417). Camels have thirty-six teeth in all, of which three cuspidate on each side above, six incisors, and two cuspidate on each sidebelow, though differently named; still have all more or less the character of tushes'.

They have callosities on the breast-bone and on the fixtures of the joints. Of the four stomachs, which they have in common with other animals chewing the cud, the ventriculus, or paunch, is provided with membranous cells to contain an extra provision of water, enabling the species to subsist for four or more days without drinking. But when in the desert, the camel has the faculty of smelling it afar off, and then, breaking through all control, he rushes onward to drink, stirring the element previously with a fore-foot until quite muddy. Camels are temperate animals, being fed on a march only once in twenty-four hours, with about a pound weight of dates, beans, or barley, and are enabled in the wilderness, by means of their long flexible necks and strong cuspidate teeth, to snsp as they pass at thistles and thorny plants, mimosas and caper-trees. They are emphatically called "the ships of the desert;" having to cross regions where no vegetation whatever is met with, and where they could not be enabledto continue their march but for the aid of the double or single hunch on the back, which, being composed of muscular fiber, and cellular substance highly adapted for the accumulation of fat, swells in proportion as the animal is healthy and well fed, or sinks by absorption as it supplies the want of sustenance under fatigue and scarcity; thus giving an extra stock of food without eating, till by exhaustion the skin of the prominences, instead of standing up, falls over, and hangs like empty bags on the side of the dorsal ridge. Now when to these endowments are added a lofty stature and great agility; eyes that discover minute objects at a distance; a sense of smelling of prodigious acuteness, ever kept in a state of sensibility by the animal's power of closing the nostrils to exclude the acrid particles of the sandy deserts; a spirit, moreover, of patience, not the result of fear, but of forbearance, carried to the length of self-sacrifice in the practice of obedience, so often exemplified by the camel's bones in great numbers strewing the surface of the desert; when we perceive it furnished with a dense wool to avert the solar heat and nightly cold while on the animal, and to clothe and lodge his master when manufactured, and know that the female carries milk to feed him, we have one of the most incontrovertible examples of Almighty power and beneficence in the adaptation of means to a direct purpose that can well be submitted to the apprehension of man; for, without the existence of the camel, immense portions of the surface of the earth would be uninhabitable, and even impassable. Surely the Arabsare right: "Job's beast is a monument of God's mercy!"

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Camel'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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