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CARAVAN:

A convoy of travelers or merchandise. As the commerce of the Israelites was chiefly inland trade, products from regions that were not contiguous were exchanged by means of caravans ("orḥah"). The most important highways connecting Asia with Africa, and the far East with Europe, traversed or touched Palestine; and along these highways the great caravans passed through the country. They were not, however, roads in the modern sense of the word, but beaten paths, as they still are to-day, little better than trails and impassable for vehicles. Hence the camel was the chief medium for transportation, as it still is the invaluable beast of burden of those regions, marching day after day from twelve to fourteen hours with a burden of three or four hundred pounds, and thus far surpassing the best horse in its capacity for work. The Israelites took little part in this trading by caravan, for the commerce of the country itself lay chiefly in the hands of the Phenicians and Canaanites; while the extensive trade between the East and the Mediterranean and Egypt was carried on by the tribes of the desert, who made this their business, as they in part still do. Thus it was a Midianite caravan—according to another source, an Ishmaelite—that, coming from the land east of the Jordan, carried Joseph to Egypt (Gen. xxxvii. 25, 28). The Dedanim—the inhabitants of the land of Teman and of Sheba—are also mentioned as leaders of caravans (Isa. xxi. 13, lx. 6; Job vi. 19). It seems that the kings of Israel levied, at least at times, a toll upon these caravans passing through their country (I Kings x. 15). See Commerce.

J. Jr. I. Be.
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