Camels as Booty

April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Question: We studied Jeremiah 49 yesterday in my Sunday School class, and I think I’m on to something in Jeremiah 49:32: “And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.” It says their camels shall be a booty. I know the word used in the Bible for a donkey is a** (Genesis 22:5), and sometimes people use that same word for “booty.” So I think Jeremiah was telling them that their camels would behave like donkeys – like they would be dumb or stubborn or whatever. Tell me if I’m right.

Answer: I follow your logic, and I like you’re enthusiasm, but I think you’re seeing the word “booty” anachronistically. It’s true that we do sometimes use the word “booty” for someone’s backside in modern times, for instance, when we tell our kids not to “shake their booties” when they are doing their praise motions, but it wasn’t used that way when the King James translators were translating the Hebrew text into English. For them, “booty” meant material possessions that were seized and stolen after a conquering enemy vanquished an opposing nation or tribe. You might recall hearing cartoon pirates saying, “Aaargh, me booty!” when they realize their ship has been raided, and that is closer to the meaning of the word when it’s used in the Bible.

So, I can’t really go along with your interpretation, although I’ll give you points for effort and cleverness. And, while we’re on that verse, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that many of Jeremiah’s oracles were in the form of poetry, rather than strict prose, which we can note in this verse by looking at the parallelism.

“their camels shall be a booty”
“their cattle [shall be] a spoil”

You can see the way these two thoughts parallel each other and explain the same concept with poetic variation. Their “camels” (the animals used to carry things) would be “booty” (stolen and used by the enemy), and their “cattle” (the animals used for food and milk) would be “a spoil” (taken away and possibly killed just for spite). God often used Jeremiah to paint very vivid and evocative images in his prophecies.

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