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Camel’s Hair

CAMEL’s HAIR (τρίχες καμήλου). The longer hair of a camel from the neck and region of the hump, used esp. for weaving.

Mentioned only in the Bible as the material of the outer garment of John the Baptist (Matt 3:4; Mark 1:6), camel’s hair cloth can be a relatively expensive woven material. Since Jesus contrasted John’s attire with the “soft raiment” of noblemen (Matt 11:8; cf. a similar contrast in Jos. War I. 24. 3), some think that John’s hairy mantle may have been of dressed camel’s skin. On the other hand, a scratchy cloak (Arab. ‘abâ’) of camel’s hair is still worn by desert Bedouin. A “hairy mantle” was a mark of a prophet (Zech 13:4); and Elijah, of whom John was the successor (Matt 11:13, 14; 17:10-13), wore a garment of haircloth as well as a leather girdle (2 Kings 1:8). The longer, woolly hair of a camel can easily be pulled away in tufts from the skin as warmer spring weather comes, and is woven into cloth for tents and coats.

Article 2

CAMEL’S HAIR. Mentioned only in Matt.3.4 and Mark.1.6, where we are told that John the Baptist wore a garment of camel’s hair. It is probable, however, that this was not a garment made of the relatively expensive woven camel’s hair, but of dressed camel’s skin. Such garments are still used in the Near East. Some think that Elijah’s mantle was made of camel’s hair (2Kgs.1.8; cf. Zech.13.4).

Article 3

In Mt 3:4 and Mr 1:6 the description of John’s raiment is explicit to the extent of telling the kind of hair of which his raiment was made. It is probable that his garment was made of a tawed camel skin, for the more expensive woven camel’s hair garment would not be in keeping with the rest of the description. It is still common among the poor in some parts of Syria, when a camel or other animal dies, to remove its skin and, after treating the inner surface to stop decomposition, to make it up into various domestic articles. The writer once saw a peasant dragging a skin along the road which proved to be that of a donkey which had just died on the route. His intention was probably to make it up into a cloak. Some believe that Elijah’s mantle was of camel’s hair (2Ki 1:8; compare Zec 13:4). Of that we cannot be sure, for in the East today the hairy garment is usually goat’s hair or wool either woven or still clinging to the skin. It was much more likely to have been one of these latter. See SHEEP. Camel’s hair, when woven into fabrics, as in rugs, makes an article of even softer and more glossy texture than wool.


James A. Patch');