The Problem with Camels in the Bible by Stephen Missick
"Most scholars believe that Camel were domesticated sometime around 3000-1500 BC. As beasts of burden and transport, camels occupy an important place alongside horses and donkeys. Two small members of the camel family, the llama and the alpaca of south America, are domesticated first - probably before 3000 BC. At that time both species appear to have been on the verge of extinction. Domestication by the American Indians saves them. Neither the llama nor the alpaca exists now in the wild. The larger of the two, the llama, is primarily a beast of burden, while the shaggy alpaca is valuable for its wool. Neither animal is strong enough to pull a plough or drag a cart - two important steps in the story of civilization which are denied to the early Americans. In the parched regions of north Africa and Asia two different species of camel become the most important beasts of burden - the single-humped Arabian camel (in north Africa, the Middle East, India) and the double-humped Bactrian camel (central Asia, Mongolia). Both are well adapted to desert conditions. They can derive water, when none is available elsewhere, from the fat stored in their humps. It is probable that they are first domesticated in Arabia some time after 1500 BC. By about 1000 BC caravans of camels are bringing precious goods up the west coast of Arabia, linking India with the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia." (See: http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?ParagraphID=bor)
The domestication of camels does have important consequences for the Bible. This problem has existed for some time-but has recently gotten media attention. (See Will camel discovery break the Bible's back? Opinion by Joel Baden, special to CNN and Camels Had No Business in Genesis By JOHN NOBLE WILFORDFEB. 10, 2014 in the New York Times.) Camels do not seem to have been known in Ancient Egypt or North Africa until after the dawn of Islam. This seems incredible, because desert Arabs did domesticate camels earlier. While there are pictures of exotic animals in ancient Egypt-no depictions of camels or references to camels have yet to be found (but I would be surprised if such evidence eventually is discovered). The problem is the dating of Abraham. If camels were domesticated in the year 1500 BC, then camels were not used by people in the year 2000 BC, the time period to which Abraham is usually dated. However, what if Abraham lived 1500-1400 BC and the Exodus occurred around the year 1200, as many Bible scholars believe? Another issue is that we do not know exactly when camels were domesticated. The year 1500 is an educated guess, it may have been earlier. They may have been domesticated several decades, at least, perhaps even centuries before people started drawing them or leaving records of them. This would especially be true if the camels were domesticated by people who lived outside the cities of “civilization.” With These new discoveries these “experts” try to prove that camels were unknown in Israel until well after the rule of King David. This means what they were saying is that, yes, Abraham may have lived in 1500 when camels were domesticated-however, even as late as the time of King David, who died around 970 BC, there were no domesticated camels in Israel. (It is hard to precisely date anything in the Bible that is before the time of David, Saul and Samuel.) If you read the research by these new “experts” you will notice how much of it is mere speculation motivated by a desire to “disprove” the Bible. They found camel bones that were early but they say they don't think they were domesticated-but they don't know. They looked at the leg bones and said they thought that they weren’t used as a beast of burden. What if the camel bones they found were used for riding and not for carrying burdens? These so-called scholars had an agenda. We know that camels were domesticated much earlier than what they are saying-but their caveat is "in Israel." I think these so-called scholars set out with an agenda to try to "disprove" the Bible and make news. Another fact of the matter is that we don't know for sure exactly when Abraham lived. It may be later than many suppose-and remember-Joseph's brothers went to Egypt several times-on donkeys-not camels. I think it is very interesting that in this story it is stated that the patriarchs most often rode donkeys. New discoveries could soon refute these new proposals by these so-called archeologists who are trying to get in the news. Personally, to me Jesus is Lord and the eternal Word of God. I think the Patriarchs had a limited understanding of God. I feel very uncomfortable with the efforts of people to elevate Abraham over Jesus Christ in order to find common ground with Muslims and Jews. Abraham was the friend of God but Jesus is God Incarnate. Abraham did not die for our sins or rise again. Abraham wasn’t sinless the way Jesus is. Also, Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Muslim. (Jews will concede that Abraham was not Jewish, but Muslims do view Abraham as a Muslim. To Muslims, Jesus was a Muslim too, and is inferior to Muhammad-the so-called “seal” of the prophets. Of course, Abraham wasn’t a Christian either.) As I have stated, Abraham’s understanding of God was partial and limited. God chose to give a more fuller revelation of himself to Moses than he had the Patriarchs. And then, in Jesus the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. Jesus Himself said, “For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matthew 13:17). The Book of Hebrews says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. It isn’t built on camels bones! (as important as they may be).