For days now, the Guardian Online has railed (quite rightly) against the impact of “fake news” in spreading misinformation, legitimising racism or anti-Semitism and, generally, polluting the Internet. Commentators propose (again, correctly, I believe) that Facebook should rank the veracity of news, or always provide a clear counter-link giving the opposite side of debate in a contentious issue, whilst Google must sort out its algorithms, so typing “are Jews…” doesn’t auto-suggest numerous websites with despicable views.
Then, after watching an episode of “Big Bang Theory”, when Sheldon Cooper claims that references in the Bible to camels belonging to Abraham must be made-up, I came across this article through Google in the Guardian. In his blog, Andrew Brown asserts that “the Old Testament camels” are “made up” without any caveats. This should be a trusted source but it’s completely wrong.
Ironically, one of the best rebuttals is by a commentator on the article called “hybridartifacts”, but tragically his response is buried within 15 pages of other comment, presented in very small, difficult to read text. The basic message is that copious evidence exists of domesticated camels in Mesopotamia and Egypt before and during Abraham’s lifetime. He points out that camels would not COMMONLY have been used in the territory that is now Israel c. 2000BC but Abraham, as someone who travelled from Ur and diverted to Egypt could very probably have been expected to own 10 camels (and more – read the Bible for the full story!). He was an exceptional figure.
The evidence deserves to be quoted more fully and properly appreciated:
“A Sumerian text from the Old Babylonian period, ca. 1950 – 1530 B.C
found at Nippur describes the use of camels milk, and they are listed along with domesticated animals in a text from Ugarit in a Sumerian text from 1950 – 1600 BC. (Archer, Gleason, 1970, “ Old Testament History and Recent Archeology from Abraham to Moses” and Davis, John J., 1986 “The Camel in Biblical Narratives,” in A Tribute to Gleason Archer: Essays on the Old Testament)
There is a rock carving near Aswan and Gezireh showing a man leading a camel by a rope dated to the 6th Dynasty of Egypt, ca. 2345 – 2181 B.C by the patina, an inscription with it and the style of the petroglyph suggesting the camel may have been domesticated in Egypt as early ca. 2200 B.C (Michael Ripinsky, 1985, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 71) – but there is also evidence for an earlier date – the 1st Dynasty (ca. 3100 – 2890 BC). A ointment vessel in the form of a recumbent camel was found in a tomb of that period and Frederick Zeuner (a key figure in early research into animal domestication) thought it was carrying a load. (F.E.Zeuner, A History of Domesticated Animals, New York, 1963)
There are also Some Early Bronze Age ﬁnds of clay camels attached to miniature clay carts suggesting they were domesticated in Southern Turkmenistan by the early 3rd millennium BC.
There is the Black obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824), which shows a man leading camel, but this is much later than the evidence mentioned previously. There is also a stone panel in the British Museum from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal showing camels used as steeds by Assyrian troops but that is from around 645 BC…
The references to Camels in Genesis may be anachronistic not because they were not domesticated by then in the area, but because they were not commonly used in the area at the time or because their use was sporadic or short lived – there is a strong suggestion that later on they were not used at all (especially as they came to be seen as unclean). There is a difference between sporadic and limited use and widespread and frequent use and surely that would affect any archaeological finds?
It is quite possible (even probable) that the investigation of camel bones described in the article shows they were not in common use in the area as beats of burden – but that does not necessarily mean they were never used as such. Zooarchaeological evidence does seem to be at odds with some other archaeological evidence, and I suspect there may be a bit of specialisation blindness at work here – its very easy for specialists to see only the evidence from their own field as being truly significant and to overlook other evidence or see it as less relevant, and coupled with that everyone wants their work to be really significant in itself and this can lead to overstating it.”
So, don’t worry about camels – there is no reason to suspect that the references were made-up. In fact, they lend credibility – you don’t include difficult-to-believe details if you’re trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes. There are so much more evidence to support the historical details provided by the Bible – please do take a look. However, we must beware those that rush to twist facts to make it appear that God’s word cannot be trusted. Whilst aspects may be difficult to understand, again and again the Bible prove its doubters wrong, and declare the LORD Almighty is faithful – He never lies.