It’s the case of the missing camels. One argument that biblical skeptics keep resurrecting is the claim that there were no camels in ancient Israel. In Genesis 24 Abraham’s servant took ten camels and went to find a wife for his son Isaac. The charge is that there were no camels in the Promised Land at that time so this account is in error. We want to know if it is true that Abraham had camels.
Camels are mentioned 22 times in Genesis and are mentioned again in Exodus 9:3, Leviticus 11:4, 1 Samuel 15:3, 1 Kings 10:2 and 2 Kings 8:9 as well as other passages. In modern times famed archaeologist William F. Albright claimed that there were no camels in the Holy Land until the 10th century B.C. National Geographic repeated that claim claim in 2014.
Dr. Mark Chavalas in the November/December 2018 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review makes it likely that Abraham had camels and the biblical account is not in error. He gives archaeological evidence that there were camels all around the Holy Land as early as the 4th millennium B.C. Here are five of the pieces of evidence Chavalas gives:
1) In the 4th millennium B.C., a bactrian camel (one with two humps) is portrayed in artwork in Eastern Iran.
2) In the 3rd millennium B.C., a dromedary (with one hump) appears on a plaque from modern day Iraq.
3) Camel skeletal remains from the 3rd millennium have been found in Iran.
4) Camel remains from 2400 B.C. were found in the Sumerian city of Shuruppak.
5) A Babylonian document from the 18th century B.C. contains the line “the milk of the camel is sweet.”
Abraham and his family came from Mesopotamia (Genesis 12) and moved to the land God promised to him. Migrating to this new land, Abraham, who was rich in livestock, would have brought his animals with him. (See Genesis 13:2.) So it seems evident that Abraham had camels. The attempts of skeptics to declare the Bible anachronistic is simply a case of letting prejudice override a reasonable search for evidence.
–John N. Clayton © 2018