Feb 2, 2019
I do love research. Here is a fun question to ask if the conversation lags at your next get-together.
Did Abraham really have camels?
In Genesis 12:16 Abraham was given camels by an Egyptian king. “The king was good to Abram because of Sarai, and Abram was given sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves, and camels.” Later Abraham's servant takes ten camels from his flock and heads out to get his son Isaac a wife.
The problem is scholars believe camels were not domesticated in Canaan until much later. Two archaeologists from Tel Aviv University, Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, stated that accoding to their research, camels were not domesticated in Canaan (Israel) until the late tenth century BC (900 BC). Abraham lived around 2000 BC and the Mari Texts back that up.
Many use this information to conclude the events in Genesis were written during a later time period from oral traditions and some information, like owning camels, was added to the story and made up. It’s an effort to claim the Bible is inaccurate and National Geographic noted that in their headline. "Domesticated Camels Came to Israel in 930 B.C., Centuries Later Than Bible Says."
Here is the truth. Abraham got the camels in question from an Egyptian not a Canaanite. Abraham was not a Canaanite. He came from Ur, where camels were domesticated and apparently he knew what to do with them because he may have already had them.
It is an archaeological fact that two humped camels were in use near modern day Turkmenistan and in Mesopotamia’s Ur region in Abraham’s lifetime. They are referred to as elephants of the road, elephants of the mountain and donkeys of the sea in ancient inscriptions. These camels were in use in modern day Pakistan and Iran and some scholars think these camels may have been the source of the Egyptian king’s camels! Martin Heide has written about it here.
Does this prove the research by Ben-Yosef and Sapir-Hen wrong? No. Domesticated camels do not seem to have been common in Canaan or owned by Canaanites, and the Bible never said they were.
A Canaanite king also gave Abraham livestock. He gave him sheep and goats. Not camels. “And Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and men-servants and women-servants, and gave them to Abraham.” (Genesis 20:14) Abraham’s son Isaac never left Canaan and he is only mentioned as having large flocks of sheep and goats.
But his grandson Jacob traveled back to northern Mesopotamia near the Syrian Turkey border and became the owner of camels. "In this way Jacob became very rich. He had large flocks, many servants, camels, and donkeys. " (Genesis 30:43 ERV) He didn’t have camels before because in Genesis 32:10 he said all he had owned was a walking stick but by verse 14 he’s counting out over thirty camels to give his brother.
Whether Isaac sold Abraham’s camels or Abraham's other sons inherited them, Isaac may not have kept camels but Jacob did, and he had to bring them back into Canaan from Mesopotamia.
The moral of this tale is—
The Bible accurately shows which cultures were using camels, what regions they were getting them from and what type of camel was domesticated long before the archaeological data was unearthed. That is more detail than anyone realized.
Why that’s important: You can rely on God’s word to be truth.
What are you hoping to be true in God’s word concerning you? He has said all His promises are, “Yes and so be it.” Don’t let doubt steal what can be yours.
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Sarah says (May 6, 2019):
Very interesting. I never would have given it thought