Q: Isn't it true that there were no camels in Bible times? I first heard about this while watching Big Bang Theory on television. So I looked it up online and found out that camels were not in the bible lands when the bible says they were? How do you explain this? Doesn't this prove the bible is just made up stuff?
A: Is this is true! This is one of those things that critics like to jump on and because so few people, these days, have any real knowledge about the Hebrew/Christian Bible. But wait a minute, is this criticism an effort to get at the truth or to defame and ridicule? Who are the critics that point this out? Considering the source, or sources, they are not Bible students.
Here is a picture of Assyrians using Camels as war animals. Remember the Assyrians, they were the people that took Isarel captive -- https://www.pinterest.com/pin/651333164829243011/ -- Yes, there were camels in the Middle East and they were used as animals of burden and for war. Next time consider your source -- Big Bang Theory? Remember, it is a comedy and their title even warns you -- it is a show about theory, not always facts. But why stop there?
It is the Translators of the Holy Bible that insert the Word CAMEL in the Holy Word. That's right, the word used back in the time of Abraham and others only meant, "beast" or "burden" as in "beast of burden". This word, in the Hebrew/Aramaic could be applied to any beast of burden, even an ox, or cow, or horse. Remember, many of the references to the various animals from ancient times were different from the words we use today. For example -- look all you want and you will never find the word for giant lizards, or dinosaurs, but you do find a word like, dragon. This is mostly because the translators back in the beginning, when various translations and version of translations were being copied, or even printed. In these first translations you never see a word for giant lizards other than, dragon. This is true when it came to certain other animals used mostly for transport. When some of the first translations from the copies of the original MS came into being the Camel was a major "beast of burden" in that area. Back in Abraham's day there was no word discribing a "Camel" as we know them today, but a word, very similar, meaning a beast of burden. So, it is true, the people of Israel may not have been using what modern man understands a Camel to be -- the tall beast with humped back. Where then, did this word come from?
This word became attached to a particular animal, the Camel, truly a beast of burden, but the origin of its name could have been and was applied to other animals as well. Today we have defined the various 'beasts of burden' by individual names.
Let's take a look at the first place in the Holy Bible where the word, "camel" appears --
(Gen 24:64) Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel.
Looking in Strong's Hebrew Dicitonary, we find the word for "camel" is "gamal", pronounced as gaw--mawl . Now we can see where the current word, "camel" came from -- actually very close to how we pronounce that word today. But, does this describe the animal we know as the "camel", as the same animal being discribed back then? Possibly but not necessarily. We are merely told that a "beast of burden" is being used. A thousand years or more later, an animal, in the Middle East, became the primary "beast of burden" and "gawmawl", or "gamal" became "camel", and the name stuck. So, yes, there were gamals in the region from Abraham on, but the anilmal to whom this term became a name, the camel, came into the region of Canaan, from surrounding nations, invaders, like the Assyrians and others, and this is true of the Horse as well.
Rebekah dismounted from her beast of burden (a gamal), upon which she was riding -- this could have been a donkey, or an animal we call a horse, today. She might have been riding on a donkey, but it could have been a Camel, ot Gamal. This account is the first place we read, gamal. Now, let's have a brief look at the plural form, camels, or gamals, first mentioned in the Bible --
(Gen 12:16) And he (Pharaoh) entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. KJV
If we can assume this list is in the order of importance then we can see where these particular "beast of burden", or "gamal" fall -- last on the list. Sheep, cattle, and male donkeys, all rate before the first human servants are listed, interesting. Male and female servants rate above female donkeys and camels, but not above the importance of and ass, and older term for donkey. Notice that the "camel" is ranked last and if this were to mean the "camel" as they are known today, this would not be a correct list for the simple reason the Camel became and is the main animal of wealth among the tribal people in the middle East today, but that was not the case, at least, among the Egyptian.
What is being conveyed is that all other animals of burden, during the time of Abraham, not found in the rankings were counted as least valuable and were called "gaw-mawls" -- or "gamals". You will notice an animal missing in the list -- a horse. It is possible that back in the day, the horse may have been called "gam-mawls", before they became popular and bred into fighting animals -- when did a horse first become called, a horse? The donkey was the prized mode of transportation back then -- no, mules had not come on the scene yet. A mule is a cross between a horse and an ass, or donkey.
Mules do not propagate of themselves, it takes a donkey and a horse, everytime, to make a mule. In Egypt, at the time of Abraham, a gamal could have even been a dog. With this in mind and seeing how this word came into being, we could say, yes, there were gamals or camels during the time of Abraham, just not the camal we picuture. Still, the camel, as a specific animal of burden did come from somewhere, someone began to use them as the main animal for desert travel, just not the Israelis.
If you go online and look this up you will find all sorts of reasoning and even believers making excuses for why these animals are mentioned when there were none found in those days. It is all due to a change in some language parts and changes referencing animals and other things as well, to relate to the common reader. So, no camles in the days of Abraham? Fine, but there were beasts of burden called "gam-mawls" and this referred to any and all beasts ranked on the bottom of the list as beast fit only for tasks no one else or other animal could or would do, like the horse, and even an animal looking like the camels of today. Certainly, this "title" eventually fell on an animal we call the Camel, today. One hump or two?
Looking back at the "horse", we find the word, sus -- sus, pronounced as soos -- soos, again, as found in Strong's Hebrew Dictionary, meaning to leap, joy. This animal is not found until the time Israel is led to Egypt, again, during the time of famine. Egyptians were using the horse as a war animal, not an animal to ride but for pulling their chariots. In this connection the horse and the chariot along with a driver were called, "parash", pronounced as "paw--rawsh". This word meant the horse, driver and chariot all as one, paw-rawsh.
As believers we do not need to make excuses for translator errors, which may not be errors at all but merely a change in language. As thinking human beings we should be able to understand how these changes can have an impact on the Word and using some common sense not condemn the total because of a few changes not taken into account as time moves on into new and old understandings. Does this change anything of importance in the Word? No. Camel or gamal, to day a specific animal of burden, back then, any beast of burden, a general term in common use. It was the Egyptian culture and society that had risen above all others and they were deeply involved in animal husbandry.
(Exo 9:2-3) For if you refuse to let them go, and hold them still, behold, the hand of YaHWeH is on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks with a very grievous pestilence.
We find the horse coming to provenance in Egypt, as a fighting animal. A song comes out of the defeat of Egypt in the Red Sea -- Ex 15:1,21, and from this point on the exporting of the war horse and chariots for battle all come out of Egypt -- 1 Kg 10:29; 20:25 -- not by Israel but by their enemies seeking to destroy them. The Egyptians had become the innovators, breeding these animals of burden into war machines. Combined with the chariot the Egyptians became dominate in all areas of the Middle East and Africa. Horses, as animals of war came out of Egypt. Also, where do you suppose the Camel, we know today, came from? Yes, there were camels in the Middle East, just not used by the Israelis on a regular basis.