Camel (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 side below, 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 enabled to 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 Arabs are right: "Job's beast is a monument of God's mercy!"
1. The Bactrian camel (camelus Bactrianus of authors) is large and robust; naturally with two hunches, and originally a native of the highest table- lands of Central Asia, where even now wild individuals may be found. The species extends through China, Tartary, and Russia, and is principally imported across the mountains into Asia Minor, Syria, and Persia. It is seldom seen at Aleppo (Russel, N. H. Aleppo, 2:170). One appears figured in the processions of the ancient Persian satrapies among the bas-reliefs of Chehel Minar, where the Arabian species is not seen. It is also this species which, according to the researches of Burckhardt, constitutes the brown Taous variety of single-hunched Turkish or Turki camels commonly seen at Constantinople, there being a very ancient practice among breeders, not, it appears, attended with danger, of extirpating with a knife the foremost hunch of the animal soon after birth, thereby procuring more space for the pack-saddle and load. It seems that this mode of rendering the Bactrian cross-breed similar to the Arabian camel or dromedary (for Burckhardt misapplies the last name) is one of the principal causes of the confusion and contradictions which occur in the descriptions of the two species, and that the various other intermixtures of races in Asia Minor and Syria, having for their object either to create greater powers of endurance of cold or of heat, of body to carry weight, or to move with speed, have still more perplexed the question. From these causes a variety of names has arisen, which, when added to the Arabian distinctions for each sex, and for the young during every year of its growth, and even for the camels nursing horsefoals, has made the appellatives exceedingly numerous. We notice only —
2. The Arabian camel or dromedary (camelus dronmedarius or Arabicus of naturalists, בֶּכֶר, be'ker; and female and young בִּכרָה, bikrah', both "dromedary," Isa 60:6; Jer 2:23) is properly the species having naturally'but one hunch, and considered as of Western Asiatic or of African origin, although no kind of camel is figured on any monument of Egypt (Wilkinson, Anc. Elq. 1:234), not even where there are representations of live-stock such as that found in a most ancient tomb beneath the pyramid of Gizeh, which' shows herdsmen bringing their cattle and domesticated animals to be numbered before a steward and his scribe, and in which we see oxen, goats, sheep, asses, geese, and ducks, but neither horses nor camels. That they were not indigenous in the early history of Egypt is countenanced by the mythical tale of the priests describing "the flight of Typhon, seven days' journey upon an ass." We find, however, camels mentioned in Genesis 12; but being placed last among the cattle liven by Pharaoh to Abraham, the fact seems to show that they were not considered as the most important part of his donation. This can be true only upon the supposition that but a few of these animals were delivered to him, and therefore that they were still rare in the valley of the Nile, though soon after there is abundant evidence of the nations of Syria and Palestine having whole herds of them fully domesticated. These seem to imply that the genus Camelus was originally an inhabitant of the elevated deserts of Central Asia, its dense fur showing that a cold but dry atmosphere was to be encountered, and that it came already domesticated, toward the south and west, with the oldest colonies of mountaineers, who are to be distinguished from earlier tribes that subdued the ass, and perhaps from others still more ancient, who, taking to the rivers, descended by water, and afterward coasted and crossed narrow seas. Of the Arabian species two very distinct races are noticed; those of stronger frame but slower pace used to carry burdens varying from 500 to 700 weight, and travelling little more than twenty-four miles per day; and those of lighter form, bred for the saddle with single riders, the fleetest serving to convey intelligence, etc., and travelling at the rate of 100 miles in twenty-four hours. They are designated by several appellations, such as Deloul, the best coming from Oman, or from the Bishareens in Upper Egypt; also Hejin by the Turks, and still other names (e.g. Ashaary, Maherry, Reches, Badees at Herat, Rawahel, and Racambel) in India, all names more or less implying swiftness, the same as δρομάς, swift; the difference between them and a common camel being as great as that between a high-bred Arab mare and an English cart-horse (Layard, Nineveh and Bab. p. 292). Caravans of loaded camels have always scouts and flankers mounted on these light animals, and in earlier ages Cyrus and others employed them in the line of battle, each carrying two archers. The Romans of the third and fourth centuries of our era, as appears from the "Notitia," maintained in Egypt and Palestine several ake or squadrons mounted on dromedaries; probably the wars of Belisarius with the northern Africans had shown their importance in protecting the provinces bordering on the desert; such was the ala dromedariorum Antana at Ammata in the tribe of Judah, and three others in the Thebais (comp. 1Sa 30:17). Bonaparte formed a similar corps, and in China and India the native princes and the East India Company have them also.
It is likely the word אֲחִשׁתּרָנִים, achashteranim' (Es 8:10,14), rendered "camels," more properly signifies mules (being explained by the addition "sons of mares," mistranslated "young dromedaries"), and implies the swift postage or conveyance of orders, the whole verse showing that all the means of dispatch were set in motion at the disposal of government (see the dissertation on this word by Schelhorn, in the Misc. Lips. 10:231- 44). On the other hand, רֶכֶשׁ, re'kesh (translated "mules" in the above passage, and rendered "dromedary" in 1Ki 4:28; "swift beast" in Mic 1:13), we take to be one of the many names for running camels (as above), used to carry expresses; or post-horses, anciently Asiandi or Astandi, now Chupper or Chuppezw, which, according to Xenophon, existed in Persia in the time of Cyrus, and are still in use under different appellations over all Asia. The kirkaroth' (כַּרכָּרוֹת, rendered "swift beasts") of Isa 66:20, were probably also a kind of dromedary.
All camels, from their very birth, are taught to bend their limbs and lie down to receive a load or a rider. They are often placed circularly in a recumbent posture, and, together with their loads, form a sufficient rampart of defense against robbers on horseback. The milk of she-camels is still considered a very nutritive cooling drink (Aristot. Hist. Anim. 6:25, 1; Pliny, NV. H. 11:41; 28:9), and when turned it becomes intoxicating (such, according to the Rabbins [Rosenmüller, Not. ad Hieroz. 1:10], was the drink offered [Jg 4:19] by Jael to Sisera [comp. Josephus, Ant. 5:5, 4]). Their dung supplies fuel in the desert and in sandy regions where wood is scarce; and occasionally it is a kind of resource for horses when other food is wanting in the wilderness. Their flesh, particularly the hunch, is in request among the Arabs (comp. Prosp. Alp. H. N. AEg. 1:226), although forbidden to the Hebrews, more perhaps from motives of economy, and to keep the people from again becoming wanderers, than from any real uncleanness. Camels were early a source of riches to the patriarchs, and from that period became an increasing object of rural importance to the several tribes of Israel, who inhabited the grazing and border districts, but still they never equalled the numbers possessed by the Arabs of the desert. In what manner the Hebrews derived the valuable remunerations obtainable from them does not directly appear, but it may be surmised that by means of their camels they were in possession of the whole trade that passed by land from Asia Minor and Syria to the Red Sea and Egypt, and from the Red Sea and Arabia toward the north and to the Phoenician sea-ports. On swift dromedaries the trotting motion is so hard that to endure it the rider requires a severe apprenticeship; but riding upon slow camels is not disagreeable, on account of the measured step of their walk; ladies and women in general are conveyed upon them in a kind of wicker-work sedan, known as the takht-ravan of India and Persia. In some cases this piece of female equipage presents almost a formidable appearance! The camels which carried the king's servants or guests, according to Philostratus, were always distinguished by a gilded boss on the forehead. The camel, being a native of Asia, from the earliest ages to the present day has been the chief means of communication between the different regions of the East, and from its wonderful powers of endurance in the desert has enabled routes to be opened which would otherwise have been impracticable. "Their home is the desert; and they were made, in the wisdom of the Creator, to be the carriers of the desert. The coarse and prickly shrubs of the wastes are to them the most delicious food, and even of these they eat but little. So few are the wants of their nature, that their power of going without food, as well as without water, is wonderful. Their well-known habit of lying down upon the breast to receive their burdens is not, as is often supposed, merely the result of training; it is an admirable adaptation of their nature to their destiny as carriers. This is their natural position of repose, as is shown, too, by the callosities upon the joints of the legs, and especially by that upon the breast. Hardly less wonderful is the adaptation of their broad cushioned foot to the and sands and gravelly soil which it is their lot chiefly to traverse... As the carriers of the East, the 'ships of the desert,' another important quality of the camel is their sure-footedness" (Robininson, Researches, 2:632-635). The present geographical distribution of the camel extends over Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor to the foot of the Caucasus, the south of Tartary, and part of India. In Africa it is found in the countries extending from the Mediterranean to the Senegal, and from Egypt and Abyssinia to Algiers and Morocco. A number of camels have lately been imported into the United States, designed for transportation in the and plains of the extreme southwestern territories; but the result of the experiment is yet doubtful (Marsh, The Canel, etc. Bost. 1856). (For a farther view of the natural history of the camel, see the Penny Cyclopcedia, s.v.) SEE DROMEDARY.
The camel is frequently mentioned in Holy Scripture. It was used not only in Palestine, but also in Arabia (Jg 7:12), in Egypt (Ex 9:3), in Syria (2Ki 8:9), and in Assyria, as appears from the sculptures of Nineveh (see Layard, Nineveh and Bab. p, 582). It was used at an early date both as a riding animal and as a beast of burden (Ge 24:64; Ge 37:25). It was likewise used in war (1Sa 30:17; Isa 21:7; comp. Pliny, N. H. 8:18; Xenoph. Cyrop. 7:1, 27; Herod. 1:80; 7:86; Livy, 37:40). Of its hair coarse garments were manufactured (Mt 3:4; Mr 1:6). The Jews were not allowed to eat its flesh (Le 11:4; De 14:7). The prophet Isaiah foretells the great increase and flourishing state of the Messiah's kingdom, by the conversion and accession of the Gentile nations, by comparing the happy and glorious concourse to a vast assemblage of camels (Isa 60:6). He also predicts the march of the army of Cyrus to the conquest and destruction of Babylon by an allusion to a chariot of camels (Isaiah 221:7); and the folly and presumption of those is remarked upon (Isa 30:6) who, in the time of their trouble, carried treasures on camels into Egypt to purchase the assistance of that people, and acknowledged not the Lord their God, who alone could save and deliver them.
In the history of the Hebrews, however, the camel was used only by nomad tribes. This is because the desert is the home of the Arabian species, and it cannot thrive in even so fine a climate as that of the valley of the Nile in Egypt. The Hebrews in the patriarchal age had camels as late as Jacob's journey from Padan-aram, until which time they mainly led a very wandering life. With Jacob's sojourn in Palestine, and, still more, his settlement in Egypt, they became a fixed population, and thenceforward their beast of burden was the ass rather than the camel. The camel is first mentioned in a passage which seems rather to tell of Abraham's wealth (Ge 12:16, as 24:35), to which Pharaoh doubtless added, than to recount the king's gifts. If the meaning, however, is that Pharaoh gave camels, it must be remembered that this king was probably one of the shepherds who partly lived at Avaris, the Zoan of Scripture; so that the passage would not prove that the Egyptians then kept camels, nor that they were kept beyond a tract, at this time, and long after, inhabited by strangers. The narrative of the journey of Abraham's servant to fetch a wife for Isaac portrays the habits of a nomad people, perhaps most of all when Rebekah, like an Arab damsel, lights off her camel to meet Isaac (Genesis 24).; Jacob, like Abraham, had camels (Ge 30:43): when he left Padan-aram he "set his sons and his wives upon camels" (Ge 31:17); in the present he made to Esau there were "thirty milch camels with their colts" (Ge 32:15). In Palestine, after his return, he seems no longer to have kept them. When his sons went down to Egypt to buy corn, they took asses. Joseph sent wagons for his father and the women and children of his house (Ge 45:19,27; Ge 46:5). After the conquest of Canaan, this beast seems to have been but little used by the Israelites, and it was probably kept only by the tribes bordering on the desert. It is noticeable that an Ishmaelite was overseer of David's camels (1Ch 27:30). On the return from Babylon the people had camels, perhaps purchased for the journey to Palestine, but a far greater number of asses (Ezr 2:67; Ne 7:69). There is one distinct notice of the camel being kept in Egypt. It should be observed, that when we read of Joseph's buying the cattle of Egypt, though horses, flocks, herds, and: asses are spoken of (Ge 47:17), camels do not occur: they are mentioned as held by the Pharaoh of the exodus (Ex 9:3), but this may only have been in the most eastern part of Lower Egypt, for the wonders were wrought in the field of Zoan, at which city this king then doubtless dwelt. It is in the notices of the marauding nomad tribes that wandered to the east and south of Palestine that we chiefly read of the camel in Scripture. In the time of Jacob there seems to have been. a regular traffic between Palestine, and perhaps Arabia, and Egypt, by camel caravans, like that of the Ishmaelites or Midianites who bought Joseph (Ge 37:25,28). In the terrible inroad of the Midianites, the Amalekites, and the Bene-Kedem, or children of the East, "both they and their camels were without number; and they entered into the land to destroy it" (Jg 6:5; comp. 7:12). When Gideon slew Zebah and Zalmunna, kings of Midian, he "took away the ornaments [or "little moons"] that [were] on their camels' necks" (8:21), afterward mentioned, with neck-chains (see Kitto, Phys. Hist. of Pal. p. 391; comp. Stat. Thebaid, 9:687), both probably of gold (ver. 26). We also find other notices of the camels of the Amalekites (1Sa 15:3; 1Sa 30:17), and of them and other and probably kindred peoples of the same region (1Sa 27:8-9). In the account of the conquest by the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, of the Hagarites beyond Jordan, we read that fifty thousand camels were taken (1Ch 5:18-23). It is not surprising that Job, whose life resembles that of an Arab of the desert, though the modern Arab is not to be taken as the inheritor of his character, should have had a great number of camels (Job 1:3; Job 42:12; comp. Aristot. Hist. Anim. 9:37, 5). The Arabian Queen of Sheba came with a caravan of camels bearing the precious things of her native land (1Ki 10:2; 1Ki 2. Chronicles 9:1). We read also of Benhadad's sending a present to-Elisha "of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels' burden" (2Ki 8:9). Damascus, be it remembered, is close to the desert. In the prophets, likewise, the few mentions of the camel seem to refer wholly to foreign nations, excepting where Isaiah speaks of their use, with asses, in a caravan bearing presents from the Israelites to the Egyptians (Isa 30:6). He alludes to the camels of Midian, Ephah, and Sheba, as in the future to, bring wealth to Zion (Isa 60:6). The "chariot of camels" may be symbolical (Isa 21:7), or it may refer ,to the mixed nature of the Persian army. Jeremiah makes mention of the camels of Kedar, Hazor, and the Bene-Kedem (Jer 49:28-33). Ezekiel prophesies that the BerieKedem should take the land of the Ammonites, and Rabbah itself should be "a resting-place for camels" (Eze 25:1-5; see Buckingham, Tray. p. 329). SEE CARAVAN.
The camel is classed by Moses among unclean animals (Le 11:4), "because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof." Michael is justly remarks, that in the case of certain quadrupeds a doubt may arise whether they do fully divide the' hoof or ruminate. "In such cases," he says, "to prevent difficulties, a legislator must authoritatively decide; by which I do not mean that he should prescribe to naturalists what their belief should be, but only to determine, for the sake of expounders or judges of the law, what animals are to be regarded as ruminating or parting the hoof." This doubt arises in the case of the camel, which does ruminate, and does in some sort divide the-hoof; that is, the foot is divided into two toes, which are very disctintly marked above, but below the division is limited to the anterior portion of the foot, the toes being cushioned upon and confined by the elastic pad upon which the camel goes. This peculiar conformation of the foot renders the division incomplete, and Moses, for the purposes of the law, therefore decides that it divides not the hoof. Perhaps in this nicely balanced question he determination against the use of the camel 'for' food was made with the view of keeping the Israelites distinct from the other descendants of Abraham, with whom their connection and coincidence in manners were otherwise so close. The interdiction of the camel, and, of course, its milk, was well calculated to' prevent them from entertaining any desire to continue in Arabia, or from again devoting themselves to the favorite occupation of nomad herdsmen, from which it was obviously the intention of many of the laws to wean them. In Arabia a people would be in a very uncomfortable condition who could neither eat camel's flesh nor drink its milk. Of the constant use of its milk by the Arabs travelers frequently speak; and if we wanted a medical reason for its interdiction, it might be found in the fact that to its constant use is attributed the obstructions and indurations of the stomach, which form one of the most common) complaints of the Arabs. They do not kill the camel, or any other animal, for ordinary food; but when a camel happens to be lamed in a caravan, it is killed, and a general feast is made on its flesh. Camels are also killed on great festival occasions, and sometimes to give a large entertainment in honor of a distinguished guest. Sometimes also a man vows to sacrifice a camel if he obtain this or that blessing, as, for instance, if his mare brings forth a female; and in that case he slaughters the animal, and feasts his friends on the flesh. Burckhardt (Notes on the Bedouins) mentions the rather remarkable fact that the Arabs know no remedy against the three most dangerous diseases to which camels are subject; but they believe that the Jews in their sacred books have remedies mentioned, which they withhold through hatred and malice. The flesh of the camel is coarse grained, but is rather juicy and palatable when the animal is young and not poorly fed. It is inferior to good beef, although at first it might readily be mistaken for beef; but it is at least equal, if not superior, to horse-flesh (Kitto, Pict. Bible, note in loc.).
To pass a camel through the eye of a needle was a proverbial expression which our Lord employed in his discourse to the disciples to show how extremely difficult it is for a rich man to forsake all for his cause and obtain the blessings of salvation (Mt 19:24; Mr 10:25; Lu 18:25; see the treatises on this passage, in Latin, of Clodius [Viteb. 1665], Pfeiffer [Regiom. 1679], Fetzlen [Viteb. 1673]). Many expositors are of opinion that the allusion is not to the camel, but to the cable by which an anchor is made fast to the ship, changing κάμηλος, a camel, to κάμιλος, a cable; but for this there is no critical foundation; and Lightfoot and others have shown that to speak of a camel, or any other large animal, as going through the eye of a needle was a proverbial expression, much used in the Jewish schools, to denote a thing very unusual or very difficult. There is a similar expression in the Koran: "The impious, who, in his arrogancy, shall accuse our doctrine of falsity, shall find the gates of heaven shut; nor shall he enter there till a camel shall pass through the eye of a needle. It is thus that we shall recompense the wicked." Roberts mentions a parallel proverb used in India to show the difficulty of accomplishing any thing: "Just as soon will the elephant pass through the spout of a kettle." Another proverbial expression occurs in Mt 23:24: "Strain at (διυλίζω) a gnat and swallow a camel." Dr. Adam Clarke proves that "at" has been substituted for "out," by a typographical error in the edition of 1611, in our version, "out" occurring in Archbishop Parker's of 1568. The reference is to a, custom the Jews had of filtering their wine, for fear of swallowing any insect forbidden by the law as unclean. 'The expression is, therefore, to be taken hyperbolically, and, to make the antithesis as strong as possible, two things are selected, the smallest insect and the largest animal. The proverb is applied to those who are superstitiously anxious to avoid small faults, and yet do not scruple to commit the greatest sins.