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November 17    Scripture



Manners & Customs: Caravans
Caravans in the Ancient World

Camel Caravans Camel caravans. It is camel caravans that have been largely used to transport goods from one country to another in Bible lands, or to go a great distance especially in desert territory. Isaiah prophesied to the Dedanites, who were caravan merchants between the shores of the Persian Gulf and Israel: "In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies [caravans] of Dedanites" (Isaiah 21:13). The number of camels in a caravan in modern times has differed widely, but one writer tells of joining a caravan which was divided into four companies, and the first three of these numbered sixteen hundred camels. The usual arrangement of a caravan is a string of camels with each one tied to the one before it, and the leader of the caravan either riding on the back of it or walking by the side of a donkey. A cord from the first camel in the line, is tied to a ring that is fastened to leather strips on the hips of the donkey. Thus the camels learn to follow implicitly the donkey that heads the procession. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Camel Caravans and Current Events The social influence of the caravans. In ancient times as well as today, in large sections of the Orient, the caravans take the place of newspaper, telephone, and radio. Ordinarily, the knowledge of what was going on was limited on the part of the women to what they heard at the village oven, or the village well; and on the part of the men, to what they heard at the village guest room, or at the gates of the city. But when a caravan arrived in the village, it was an event of great importance, because there was always news brought from a distance.15 The familiar proverb must have referred to such an event: "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25). [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Caravan in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE kar'-a-van, kar-a-van' ('orach): This word is not found in the King James Version, but the Revised Version (British and American) employs it three times, namely, in Job 6:18,19 ('orchoth), where the King James Version renders "paths" (Job 6:18) and "troops" (Job 6:19); in Isa 21:13 ('orechoth), where the King James Version and English Versions of the Bible give "travelling companies," and in Ezek 27:25 (sharoth), where the King James Version gives a totally different translation. The Hebrew text in Ezekiel is dubious, but in Isaiah and Job "caravan" is undoubtedly a correct rendering of the Hebrew (compare also Gen 37:25). The inhabitants of Israel were familiar with the caravans-- the goods trains of the Semitic world--which traveled between BabyIon and Syria on the one hand to Arabia and on the other to Egypt. The main routes between these countries passed through Canaan. Isaiah refers to "caravans of Jedanites"--a trading Arabic tribe who conveyed their wares to Babylon. Job compares his would-be friends to a deceitful brook, full in the rainy season, but dry in summer, which entices caravans to turn aside from the main route in the hope of a plentiful supply of water, but which fails the thirsty travelers when they need it most.

Caravan Scripture - Isaiah 21:13 The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.

Caravan Scripture - Job 6:18 The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.

Caravan Scripture - Job 6:19 The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.

Tent Dwelling Robbers The tent-dwelling robbers were known in the days of Job, for he says of them: "The tabernacle of robbers prosper" (Job 12:6). The prophet Obadiah tells of robbers stealing by night. "If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night. . . would they not have stolen till they had enough?" (Obadiah 5). These robbers of ancient times are in many ways similar to the Arab raiders of modern times. The latter illustrate for us methods used by the former. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

Traveling in Caravans The Oriental "caravan" or "khan." is probably the equivalent of at least some of the "inns" of New Testament times. The "caravansary" is a large building and is usually located in a city, although sometimes it serves as a shelter in the desert. The courtyard of these buildings serves as a place to unmount and unload the animals, and the ground floor becomes a place for the beasts to be cared for, while the travelers themselves are put upstairs. The "khan" is a smaller building which serves the same purpose, but is located in a village. Most of these are but one-story buildings, where travelers sleep close to their animals. Many of these Eastern "inns" are without any furniture, innkeeper, or food for either man or animal. The traveler under these conditions is provided shelter only, and he himself must provide everything else. When the inn does have an "innkeeper," he will sell to the travelers coffee or other provisions, and furnish fire and the means by which they may cook their own meals. He may also provide food for the animals. [Manners And Customs of Bible Lands]

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