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Arabian and Bactrian

Camels Camels come in two major varieties, most easily distinguished by the fatty humps on their backs. The Dromedary, or Arabian camel, has one hump, while the Bactrian camel has two humps. Arabian camels are native to a wide area from India to north Africa, which of course includes Israel. Bactrian camels are usually found just in central Asia (see Bible Places and Bible Maps). The Biblical Hebrew word for camel, pronounced gaw-mawl, means labor or burden-bearer. The New Testament Greek word, pronounced cam-ay-los, was derived from the Hebrew word, and is itself the origin of the English word camel.

Camels In Bible History

When necessary, camels can survive on just about any food, including dry, sparse grass or even thorns. During such times they live mainly off the fat stored in their humps. They don't actually store water, but use it and lose it slowly, which enables them to go without drinking for several days. When water is found, they can take in up to 25 gallons (100 liters) at one time. Their ability to cross vast deserts earned them the nickname "ships of the desert."

Camels are found throughout Bible History, where they were considered very useful and valuable.

Camels were used for personal transportation (Genesis 24:61), as a beast of burden (Genesis 37:25), and in war (1 Samuel 30:17). The number of camels someone owned was sometimes used as a measurement of personal wealth (Genesis 30:43), and were considered to be a respectful gift (Genesis 32:15). However, unlike cattle which were acceptable for food according to the Levitical dietary regulations (see Clean and Unclean), camels (along with horses) were not to be eaten (Leviticus 11:4).

Jesus Christ sometimes used the camel in parables (see Parables Of Jesus Christ). To those who saw worldly wealth as more valuable than obeying God (e.g. Lazarus and the Rich Man), He said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24 KJV), and to the hypocritical Pharisees who placed great importance on observing minor religious regulations while at the same time living a life of sin, He said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin [see Herbs Of The Bible], and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:23-24 KJV).

Fact Finder: Of what material was John The Baptist's clothing made?
Matthew 3:4


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