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Friday, December 05, 2014

The Problem With Camels

Genesis 12:16 reads ”And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.”

Many opponents of the Bible use this passage and say that the presence of camels is an anachronism, that domesticated camels did not appear in Israel until after the time of King David; therefore, the mention of camels in the time of Abram is incorrect.

When I visited the passage at “The Skeptics Annotated Bible” I found this statement in the margin:


In case you can't read it, the margin is “Camels were first domesticated in the tenth century BCE more than a thousand years before Abram supposedly lived.” Camels were domesticated BEFORE Abram? The biblical text has no problem with that.

The link provided by the site (above) directs us to Science Daily and a short article from the American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Here we find an analysis of archaeological digs that the writer says can pin-point the moment domesticated camels arrived in southern levant. The MOMENT. A few observations on the article:

First, the article is riddled with obscurity. The scientists are giving their best guess on a modern timeline. The word “probably” is used 3 times, so they don’t really know the moment domestication occurred, nor do they know what kind of camel bones they’ve found (wild or domesticated), nor do they know the exact origin of the camel.

Second, radiocarbon dating has always gives results in a range of time. It is never precise to the decade.

Third, the digs covered in this article were done in the Aravah Valley, near the border of what is marked in present day as Israel and Jordan. How does one valley provide proof of what the inhabitants of the whole Levant, a stretch of land stretching from Egypt to the Persian Gulf? I can’t help to say, “they’re digging in the wrong place.” Stay with me a moment.



Since there is overwhelming evidence that trade routes stretched from Africa to India and camels had to pass through Israel, then what do we do with Abraham’s camels? The first question for us to answer is “where did he get them?” This biblical passage tells us that Abram  left present-day Iraq, traveled north-west to Haran (the Turkey/Syrian border) then down to Egypt after passing through Canaan.

When Abram arrived in Egypt, Pharaoh found Abram’s wife appealing so Pharaoh took Abram’s wife to his house (Gen. 12:15). The next verse tells us that Abram received gifts from Pharaoh, one of which was camels. Abram did not have camels until Egypt.

Archaeology has produced a wide range of findings all over the Levant, including artwork and sculpture that pre-dates Abram. Here are two excellent resources that go deeper into the topic:

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