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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Ancient Hebrew Culture

Ancient Hebrew Livestock

By Jeff A. Benner


Camel: These large and powerful animals are well suited for travel in the desert because of their ability to travel long distances without water. They were often used to carry family members as well as their belongings as they traveled from pasture to pasture.

The Hebrew word for "camel" is גמל (gamel), the origin of our word "camel". This word is from the root גמל (gamal) meaning "wean" or "ripen". This "adopted root" is derived from the parent root גם (gam) meaning "gather to the water". When a child is "weaned" he no longer derives liquid from the mother but from the watering hole. A camel is one that gathers to the water to drink.


Cattle: The ox was a common labor animal used to pull plows and wagons. Because of these abilities, only on very rare and special occasions, such as a large group of visitors or a festival, was one of these animals slaughtered for a meal.

There are several Hebrew words used for cows, bulls, oxen and cattle.


Sheep: One of the principle animals found in the nomad's flock are the sheep. The wool of the fleece were used for clothing. The milk of the sheep was a part of their diet and was also made into a cheese. One is occasionally slaughtered for a meal, especially when visitors arrive or for a festival. The horns of the rams were used to make trumpets called shofar's. The skin of the slaughtered animals were made into clothing or bags for storage.


Goat: The goat served many of the same functions as the sheep including; milk, cheese, leather and meat. The horns of the goats, smaller than the rams, were made into flasks for carrying olive oil, a common food ingredient as well as a medicine for wounds. The hair of the goat was also vital in the construction of the nomads tent.


Donkey: This animal was mostly used for transporting people and materials.

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