The well-known ruminant, native in Asia and Africa. The word "camel" (Hebrew, , gamal) is the same in the Assyrian, Samaritan, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Egyptian, and Ethiopic languages. Together with the knowledge of the animal, its name was introduced into Greek (κάμηλος) and Latin (camelus), whence many modern languages derived it (Hommel, "Die Namen der Säugetiere bei den Südsemitischen Völkern," pp. 144-146, Leipsic, 1879). Many passages of the Bible show that the camel was found especially among the peoples of the deserts bordering on the land of the Israelites (Judges vi. 5, vii. 12; I Sam. xv. 3, xxvii. 9, xxx. 17; Jer. xlix. 29, 32; Isa. lx. 6). The camels of the Midianites were decorated with little golden crescents (Judges viii. 21, 26). Camels constituted also part of the wealth of the Patriarchs (Gen. xii. 16, xxiv. 10; specially Job i. 3, xlii. 12), who used them as beasts of burden; in riding, a sort of cushion was used (Gen. xxxi. 34). For swift riding dromedaries were employed (Isa. lxvi. 20, ); in traveling across wide stretches of desert the treasures were packed upon the humps of camels (Isa. xxx. 6). King David had a special officer over his camels; named Obil (I Chron. xxvii. 30; compare Arabic abîl).
Otherwise the camel is mentioned as a possession only in post-exilic times among the Israelites (Ezra ii. 67). In olden times the camel was also used in war; in Isa. xxi. 7, camel-riders were part of the force of the Elamites. The Israelites were forbidden to eat the camel (Lev. xi. 4; Deut. xiv. 7; see Bochart, "Hierozoicon," i. 11); it was the opinion of the Arabs that Jacob forbade it as food because it produced sciatica. As in Arabic, so also in Hebrew, the expressions "beker" (, Isa. lx. 6) and "bikrah" (, Jer. ii. 23) denote the young, vigorous animals. In the first passage Targ. Yer. has "hognin" (), a word that also in the Talmud and in Arabic means a young camel; in the second passage must, according to Bochart, be changed to , which in the Talmud and in Arabic means the female camel (see "'Aruk," ed. Kohut, v. 378). The swift camel, or the dromedary, is called in the Talmud (Macc. 5a; Yeb. 116a) the "flying" camel.
The camel is also subject to rabies (see the Talmud Ber. 56a). Ḥul. 59a speaks of the distinctive teeth of the full-grown and of the young camel. The fat hump of a camel that has never carried burdens tastes like the meat itself (Mishnah and Gem. Ḥul. 122a). Camel's hair was made into clothing (Shab. 27a); but it must not be mixed with sheep's wool (Mishnah Kil. ix. 1). John the Baptist was clothed in a coarse garment of camel's hair (Matt. iii. 4; Mark i. 6).
On the Sabbath it was forbidden to tie camels together, because of the workaday appearance (Mishnah and Cem. Shab. 54a). Camel-drivers, who often formed entire caravans (Mishnah Sanh. x. 5; B. B. 8a), are frequently mentioned together with mule-drivers; Abba Judan gave much of his time to his camels (Yer. Hor. iii. 48a). The Talmud shows great familiarity with the characteristics of the camel: it has a short tail because it eats thorns (Shab. 77b); it mates in a modest manner (Midr. on Gen. xxxii. 16); in rutting-time it becomes dangerous (Sanh. 37b; compare Jer. ii. 24, where the same is said of the wild ass). The name "gamal" is also supposed to signify etymologically that the animal becomes easily enraged and is then vindictive.
A number of Aramaic proverbs about the camel are found in the Talmud. For instance, "In Media the camel can dance on a bushel-basket" (Yeb. 45a), meaning that in Media everything is possible; "as the camel, so the burden" (Soṭah 13b); "the camel asked to have horns, so his ears were cut short" (Sanh. 106a); "there are many old camels who must bear the burdens of the young ones" (ib. 52a). It has been suggested that the word "camel" (κάμηλος) in Matt. xix. 24; Mark x. 25; Luke xviii. 25 does not mean a camel, but a rope; but in view of the Talmudic expression "elephant through a needle's eye" (Ber. 55b; B. M. 38b), this is not admissible.