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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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The well-known ruminant, native in Asia and Africa. The word "camel" (Hebrew, , gamal) is the same in the Assyrian, Samaritan, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Egyptian, and Ethiopic languages. Together with the knowledge of the animal, its name was introduced into Greek (κ ά μ η λ ο ς ) and Latin (camelus ), whence many modern languages derived it (Hommel, "Die Namen der Sä ugetiere bei den Sü dsemitischen Vö lkern," pp. 144-146, Leipsic, 1879). Many passages of the Bible show that the camel was found especially among the peoples of the deserts bordering on the land of the Israelites (Judges 6:5 , 7:12 1Samuel 15:3 , 27:9 , 30:17 Jeremiah 49:29,32 Isaiah 60:6 ). The camels of the Midianites were decorated with little golden crescents (Judges 8:21,26 ). Camels constituted also part of the wealth of the Patriarchs (Genesis 12:16 , 24:10 specially Job 1:3 , 42:12), who used them as beasts of burden in riding, a sort of cushion was used (Genesis 31:34 ). For swift riding dromedaries were employed (Isaiah 66:20 , ) in traveling across wide stretches of desert the treasures were packed upon the humps of camels (Isaiah 30:6 ). King David had a special officer over his camels named Obil (1Chronicles 27:30 compare Arabic abî l ).

Otherwise the camel is mentioned as a possession only in post-exilic times among the Israelites (Ezra 2:67 ). In olden times the camel was also used in war in Isaiah 21:7 , camel-riders were part of the force of the Elamites. The Israelites were forbidden to eat the camel (Leviticus 11:4 Deuteronomy 14:7 see Bochart, "Hierozoicon," 1:11) it was the opinion of the Arabs that Jacob forbade it as food because it produced sciatica. As in Arabic, so also in Hebrew, the expressions "beker" ( , Isaiah 60:6 ) and "bikrah" (, Jeremiah 2:23 ) denote the young, vigorous animals. In the first passage Targ. Yer. has "hognin" (), a word that also in the Talmud and in Arabic means a young camel in the second passage must, according to Bochart, be changed to , which in the Talmud and in Arabic means the female camel (see "' Aruk," ed. Kohut, 5:378). The swift camel, or the dromedary, is called in the Talmud (Macc. 5a Yeb. 116a) the "flying" camel.

The camel is also subject to rabies (see the Talmud Ber. 56a). Ḥ ul. 59a speaks of the distinctive teeth of the full-grown and of the young camel. The fat hump of a camel that has never carried burdens tastes like the meat itself (Mishnah and Gem. Ḥ ul. 122a). Camel's hair was made into clothing (Shab. 27a) but it must not be mixed with sheep's wool (Mishnah Kil. 9:1). John the Baptist was clothed in a coarse garment of camel's hair (Matthew 3:4 Mark 1:6 ).

Camels Led as Tribute to Shalmaneser .
(From the Black Obelisk in the British Museum.)
On the Sabbath it was forbidden to tie camels together, because of the workaday appearance (Mishnah and Cem. Shab. 54a). Camel-drivers, who often formed entire caravans (Mishnah Sanh. 10:5 B. B. 8a), are frequently mentioned together with mule-drivers Abba Judan gave much of his time to his camels (Yer. Hor. 3:48a). The Talmud shows great familiarity with the characteristics of the camel: it has a short tail because it eats thorns (Shab. 77b) it mates in a modest manner (Midr. on Genesis 32:16 ) in rutting-time it becomes dangerous (Sanh. 37b compare Jeremiah 2:24 , where the same is said of the wild ass). The name "gamal" is also supposed to signify etymologically that the animal becomes easily enraged and is then vindictive.A number of Aramaic proverbs about the camel are found in the Talmud. For instance, "In Media the camel can dance on a bushel-basket" (Yeb. 45a), meaning that in Media everything is possible "as the camel, so the burden" (Soṭ ah 13b) "the camel asked to have horns, so his ears were cut short" (Sanh. 106a) "there are many old camels who must bear the burdens of the young ones" (ib. 52a). It has been suggested that the word "camel" (κ ά μ η λ ο ς ) in Matthew 19:24 Mark 10:25 Luke 18:25 does not mean a camel, but a rope but in view of the Talmudic expression "elephant through a needle's eye" (Ber. 55b B. M. 38b), this is not admissible.

Camel on an Assyrian Cylinder.
(From Hommel, "Aufsä tze und Abhandlungen.")
J. Jr. S. Kr.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Camel'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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