Recently mainstream media sources have widely distributed a claim by two Israeli archaeologists that they have proven the Bible is full of errors because of a study they have done on domesticated camel bones. At one site in Israel, they found domesticated camel bones appearing in the 10th century BC but not before. The Bible however says the patriarchs like Abraham were using domesticated camels in Israel 800-1000 years earlier. The researchers say, this proves the Bible is wrong.
There are problems with conclusion however. First, at best, the research shows that there were not domesticated camels in patriarchal times at the site they studied. It does not prove there were not domesticated camels elsewhere in Israel. I once saw a master’s thesis defense where the author did a good study but then overreached on his results. He was studying the census of a certain animal and found they were plentiful in the local area. He then concluded that this means this animal is not an endangered species throughout the state. One of the interviewers challenged him on that conclusion saying, “this is a good study but it only proves the animal is not endangered in our area, not the whole state.” This is exactly the same methodological flaw these archaeologists make. They overreach in their conclusions and the science does not support their conclusion. It should be noted that the Genesis accounts of the patriarchs does not record them travelling to the area where the research took place. Therefore their findings would not contradict the biblical account.
We do know for a fact that camels where domesticated in Mesopotamia before the time of Abraham. We have texts referring to them and drawings and sculptures that proves it. Abraham was of course from Mesopotamia and thus it should not surprise us that he brought camels with him. Maybe domesticated camels were a rarity in Israel at that time. The Bible says nothing about the native peoples of Canaan having camels at the time of Abraham. Perhaps Abraham and his family were odd balls in the area for having them. At the time they were one small family and thus it would not be surprising that they did not leave an archeological footprint, especially since they were nomadic. Nomadic peoples are especially invisible to archaeology. The Biblical account therefore does not contradict the research these scholars have done. And from what we know about camel domestication in Mesopotamia, it is perfectly reasonable that Abraham, who was from that area, would have had them.
It is ironic these researchers have used this site as a means of attacking the Bible for it has confirmed the Bible in other areas. The site is a major copper mining operation. Before it was discovered, skeptical scholars assured us that David and Solomon could not have engaged in any major building projects (as the Bible says they did) because there was no evidence of any metal mining in Israel during their lifetimes. A local source of metals would have been necessary for all the metal plating in the Temple for instance. Now lo and behold, we have evidence that such mining did take place in that era in Israel. Secondly, before this site was discovered, skeptical scholars assured us that the Edomite people did not exist until the 7th century BC. The Bible must be wrong then when it says David defeated the Edomites in the 10th century. But digs at this site have discovered an Edomite cemetery dating to the 10 century. Once again, the Bible’s account was confirmed.
There are some conundrums concerning the Bible and history that are difficult to explain. I assume that as we know more, solutions shall present themselves as they have done so in the past as I have shown above. But the recent camel bones claims do not fall in that category. The science does not confirm the wide ranging conclusions these scholars make. One must wonder what agenda is motivating them to make these claims and for the mainstream to promote them in such a vigorous fashion