[by Dean Smith] In the book of Genesis, there is a word found in two verses that gives them an odd connection. When you look at the verses in their English translation you don’t immediately see this strange relationship. It has a bit of a cultural twist that we in the west miss.
8 The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. (Genesis 21:8 NASV)
10 Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master’s in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor. (Genesis 24:10 NASV)
The Hebrew word for camel — ‘gamal’ shows up in both these verses.
We see it obviously in Genesis 24:10, as Abraham asks his servant to travel to Nahor to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham tells his servant to take ten camels with him in his travels.
In Middle Eastern culture, camels reflected a person’s wealth. So as Abraham was looking for a wife for his son Isaac, he told the servant to take the Mercedes showing any potential families that their daughter would be well provided for.
Camels were also ideal for desert travel. They were not only capable of carrying heavy loads, but their humps are filled with upwards of 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of fat. This fat storage proved ideal for traveling in desert conditions as the fat could be broken down and used for either food or water as the camel needed.
In addition, camels sweat very little even when temperatures reach as much 120 degrees Fahrenheit or 49 degrees of Celsius. Because of this a camel could travel up to 100 miles (161 kms) in hot conditions without water.
So the camel was known as an animal not dependent on the availability of water like man or donkeys. It was considered independent.
So culturally the same word “gamal” was used to describe the weaning process of a child when she or he was no longer dependent on their mother’s milk.
In Genesis 21:8, when it says Isaac was weaned, the Hebrew word used here is “vayigamal” — a variant of camel. In its truest sense it means he was made independent of his mother’s milk like a camel.
We use a similar idiom when we say people have a memory like an elephant.