Camels are mentioned over 50 times in the Bible, and have great symbolic meaning for Christians. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the significance of camels in Biblical stories and what they represent spiritually.
Camels were essential to life in Biblical times. They provided transportation across vast deserts, carried heavy loads, and gave milk, meat, hair for clothing, and dung for fuel. Camels were a sign of wealth and blessing. Understanding the meaning of camels in Scripture gives us insight into God’s Word.
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- Camels were vital for survival and a sign of prosperity in the Biblical world
- They appear in major Biblical narratives about Abraham, Rebekah, Joseph, Moses, and more
- Camels represent obedience, patience, resilience, discernment, wealth, and God’s providence
- Jesus used camels to teach about the difficulty of entering Heaven
- Modern Christians can learn perseverance and trust from camels in the Bible
Camels in the Old Testament
Camels first appear in Genesis 12 when Pharaoh gave Abraham sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels as a gift when he was in Egypt. This diverse array of livestock demonstrates the wealth and blessings God provided Abraham (Genesis 12:16).
When Abraham’s servant traveled back to the land of Abraham’s kindred to find a wife for Isaac, Rebekah volunteered to draw water for the camels at the well after already drawing water for him. This act of hospitality and service distinguished her as the woman God had appointed for Isaac (Genesis 24:11-20).
When Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and deceived their father about his disappearance, they used Joseph’s ornate robe dipped in goat’s blood and camels carrying spices to Egypt to complete their ruse (Genesis 37:25-28).
Years later when Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, he told them not to be distressed because God used it for good to preserve lives during the famine. Joseph instructed them to go tell their father Jacob and bring him to Egypt on camels provided by Pharaoh (Genesis 45:17-23).
Camels were also among the livestock that the Israelites took with them when they left Egypt. “Also a mixed multitude went up with them, and flocks and herds, a great deal of livestock.” (Exodus 12:38 NKJV)
When Rebekah saw Isaac meditating in the field as he waited for his bride, she asked the servant who this man was. “Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming.” (Genesis 24:62-63 NKJV)
Later when the people rebelled against God in the wilderness, Deuteronomy reminded them of God’s providence. “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NKJV)
Throughout the Old Testament, camels appear in stories of God’s people illustrating themes of prosperity, obedience, and trust in God’s provision and direction.
Camels in the New Testament
In the Gospels, Jesus used camels to illustrate a key teaching about entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24 NKJV)
Jesus used this extreme hyperbole to emphasize how difficult it is for those attached to their riches to humble themselves and rely fully on God. The camel was the largest animal in ancient Judea, so squeezing it through the smallest opening imaginable graphically demonstrates the radical submission and purification of heart required to enter God’s Kingdom.
This memorable camel metaphor appears also in Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25, emphasizing the importance of this teaching across the Synoptic Gospels.
Spiritual Significance for Christians
Throughout Scripture, camels symbolize perseverance through hardship, provision in difficult circumstances, discernment to follow God’s leading, and single-hearted devotion to God. Understanding what camels represent spiritually enriches Bible study and application today.
Perseverance – Camels are remarkably resilient animals that can thrive in harsh desert environments. With adaptations like eyelashes, closable nostrils, and wide feet that prevent them from sinking in sand, camels exemplify determination through difficulties. For modern Christians, camels represent maintaining faith and spiritual growth even through dry seasons of life.
Provision – In Genesis and Exodus, camels carried essential supplies for long journeys in the desert and were seen as evidence of God’s blessing. Camels point to God’s faithfulness in providing for the material and spiritual needs of His people. He supplies “all our need according to His riches in glory” even in parched times. (Philippians 4:19)
Discernment – When Rebekah immediately offered to water the camels without being asked, this act of hospitality revealed her humble and compassionate heart. Her discernment to serve distinguished her as Isaac’s intended bride, showing how sensitivity to God’s subtle guidance leads to blessing.
Devotion – For a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle would require unusual pliability and laser focus. Jesus used this extreme image to challenge followers to hold possessions loosely and pursue God’s Kingdom with undivided loyalty. The camel teaches complete devotion to Christ above all else.
Wealth/Blessing – Owning camels in Biblical culture was a sign of prosperity and blessing from God. But Jesus’ camel metaphor flipped conventional wisdom. True blessing comes not from accumulating wealth but from pursuing righteousness through childlike trust in God. Jesus calls us to a paradoxical Kingdom where the first are last and the last first.
From Abraham to Jesus, camels play a surprisingly significant role in the Biblical narrative. Their mention in pivotal stories and inclusion in memorable teachings reveal deep spiritual truths that are relevant today. As modern disciples, we can learn much from what camels represent about perseverance, provision, discernment, devotion, wealth, and blessing. May this exploration enrich your understanding and application of God’s Word.