The Bible on Camels’ Hooves:

A Response to One Muslim’s Dilemma

Sam Shamoun

Osama has found what he perceives to be a solution to the issue of Muhammad permitting the consumption of camel meat which directly conflicts with the Hebrew Bible prohibiting it (here).

Osama justifies Muhammad’s breaking the OT by pointing to the NT nullifying certain OT commands such as Jesus and Paul making all foods permissible. He also attacks the Holy Bible for being distorted. What is truly ironic about his response is that he is essentially trying to use the very same argument I often use against Muslims when they claim that the NT contradicts the OT regarding eating certain meats. In other words, Osama is being grossly inconsistent when in certain articles he complains that the NT and Christians are violating the OT laws regarding issues such as pig assumption, circumcision etc. (here and here).

But then adapts the very same stance of the Christians in justifying the Quran’s disagreement with the Hebrew Bible. Osama is basically saying that it is okay for the Quran to abrogate specific OT injunctions since even the NT scriptures do that, but then complains that Christians are not following God’s commands because they eat pig meat and do not get circumcised on the eighth day!

From there Osama, in an obvious act of desperation, asserts that the Bible contradicts itself since in Leviticus 11 it says that camels do not have split hooves whereas Deuteronomy 14 says they do. Well, let us see if this is indeed what the Hoy Bible is teaching:

"And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but DOES NOT PART THE HOOF, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you." Leviticus 11:1-8

And now compare this with:

"You shall not eat any abomination. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and has the hoof cloven in two and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud BUT DO NOT PART THE HOOF, are unclean for you. And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch. Deuteronomy 14:3-8

Anyone having read the text in Deuteronomy 14 would be able to see that camels are listed among those animals that do not part the hoof. But since we are dealing with Osama we will quote some other translations in order to prevent him from making any excuses for his gross misreading of the texts:

"Only, this ye do not eat, of those bringing up the cud, and of those dividing the cloven hoof: the camel, and the hare, and the rabbit, for THEY are bringing up the cud but the hoof have not divided; unclean they [are] to you;" Deuteronomy 14:7 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

"Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that have the hoof cloven: the camel, and the hare, and the coney; because THEY chew the cud but part not the hoof, they are unclean unto you." ASV

"Nevertheless, you are not to eat of these among those which chew the cud, or among those that divide the hoof in two: the camel and the rabbit and the shaphan, for though they chew the cud, THEY DO NOT DIVIDE THE HOOF; they are unclean for you." NASB

"However, of those that chew the cud OR that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although THEY chew the cud, THEY do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you." NIV

"Nevertheless these ye shall not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the cloven hoof; as the camel, and the hare, and the coney: for THEY chew the cud, but divide not the hoof; therefore they are unclean unto you." KJV

"Nevertheless, of those that chew the cud or have cloven hooves, you shall not eat, such as these: the camel, the hare, and the rock hyrax; for they chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves; they are unclean for you." NKJV

"Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because THEY chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you." RSV

"Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cleft you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because THEY chew the cud but do not divide the hoof; they are unclean for you." NRSV

But don't eat camels, rabbits, and rock badgers. These animals chew the cud but do not have divided hoofs. You must treat them as unclean. Contemporary English Version (CEV)

Osama’s whole triumphalistic claim of a Bible contradiction regarding camel hooves falls apart since he simply misread the text. He should have compared a couple of translations before confidently making misguided claims.

As a last act of desperation Osama provides some photos which show several camel feet and claims that these pictures prove that camels have "a completely divided split hoof!" and therefore are permissible for food even according to the Bible. He obviously thinks that this proves that the Holy Bible is corrupted since in one place it says camels have split hooves, which his photos allegedly prove that they do, and yet in another place it says they don’t.

Ironically, Osama’s own pictures prove our case and actually refute him. The pictures which he presented show that (1) the camel’s foot is not a hoof, and (2) it is not completely split. The second picture from the left shows that the two branches of the foot are joined at the rear. The pictures viewing the foot from above show that the foot is not really a hoof, but that the two branches look like toes with toenails.

Yet let us assume for the following that camels’ feet can also be called hooves. Osama assumes that the ancient Israelites had the same understanding and definition of what a split hoof is as we moderns do today. Instead of imposing modern categories and definitions on ancient texts we should try and see how the ancients would have understood and used these terms. After all, it is much more reasonable to assume that something different is meant by divided then we mean today.

Keep in mind that the Israelites would have seen camels and have looked at their feet. This is obvious from the geographic location, from the fact that trade routes passed through Israel, and from a considerable number of passages which mention camels, e.g.:

"And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels." Genesis 12:16

"Then the servant took ten of his master's camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water." Genesis 24:10-11

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, "Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.’"’" Exodus 9:1-4

"And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance." Judges 7:12

"The whole assembly together was 42,360, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers. Their horses were 736, their mules were 245, their camels were 435, and their donkeys were 6,720." Ezra 2:64-67

Yet in spite of this the Israelites still classified them as having undivided hooves. That means that the Israelites’ classification on what constituted a divided hoof was based more than on the mere fact that the toes were divided.

Furthermore, we must keep this in mind that the law gave to the Israelites the ability to determine clean and unclean in the context in which they lived, and since they did not at that time have the ability to engage in comparative internal anatomy through the use of modern scientific research, the law had to provide them with a means of identification fit to their circumstances. For example, in the case of the rabbit it appears to the sight to chew the cud, hence the description. In the same fashion, the camel's hoof has a large sole that is cushioned and soft in contrast to those that have hard, clearly distinguished splits.  The issue is observation, not taxonomy. As noted in one commentary:

Animals that chew the cud but do not have a split hoof are excluded as food: e.g., the camel … the hyrax or rock-badger … the hare … and the pig … Although the camel has a split hoof, its sole is thick and cushiony so that the split does not appear (Baentsch, 35). Incidentally, the Arabs offered the camel as a sacrifice, and the camel was eaten throughout the Middle East; but because it was such a valuable animal, its meat was considered a luxury (Simoons, Eat Not This Flesh, 88). Some venerated parts of the camel are still employed as medicine and in magic. Other groups like the Israelites avoided eating the camel. The hyrax is mentioned here, for while it does not technically chew the cud, its manner of continuous chewing is quite similar to that of a ruminant… is often taken to be the rabbit or the hare, but Bare (Plants and Animals, 98) identifies it with the rock-badger or hyrax. It may reach a weight of six to eight pounds (Cansdale, Animals, 130). It likes to eat leaves, roots, and locusts… is the hare, which is larger than a rabbit and lives above ground. Cansdale (131) identifies the hare’s chewing the cud with its habit of "refection," i.e., at certain times of the day it eats its moist droppings. The hare was considered by some as a holy animal; parts from its body were made into amulets. The pig … is also excluded for, even though it has a split hoof, it does not ruminate. A solid hoof excludes animals like the horse and the donkey. Other animals forbidden are the dog, the cat, and the bear (v 22). (Hartley, J. E. (1998). Vol. 4: Word Biblical Commentary: Leviticus (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Unlike cows, sheep goats and deer whose hooves are completely parted at the bottom to form two separate horny pads, the camel's hooves have only partially split hooves. The camel has two toes on each foot, and the underside of the foot consists of a hard leathery elastic pad. When the camel places his foot on the ground, it spreads out which acts as a firm base from which to take the next step:

The long, wooly coat varies in colour from dark brown to sandy beige.  There is a mane and beard of long hair on the neck and throat, with hairs up to 25 cm / 10 in long.  The shaggy winter coat is shed extremely rapidly, with huge sections peeling off at once, almost as if it were shorn off.  There are two humps on the back, which are composed of fat (not water as sometimes thought).  The face is long and somewhat triangular, with a split upper lip.  There are long eyelashes, which, along with the sealable nostrils, help to keep out dust in the frequent sandstorms which occur. The two broad toes on each foot have undivided soles and are able to spread widely as an adaptation to walking on sand. (Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus); online source)

Basically, we can conjecture from this that because the soles of a camel’s feet are undivided this meant it is not fully divided from the perspective of the ancient Israelites. That’s what mattered as a practical field guide to Israelites, not the dissection we find between the two toes.

In fact, the phrase "divides not the hoof" in Leviticus 11:4 could be interpreted as meaning that camels do not have completely divided hooves:

However, among the cud-chewing, hoofed animals, these are the ones that you may not eat: The camel shall be unclean to you although it brings up its cud, since it does not have a true hoof. (The Living Torah - A New Translation Based on Traditional Jewish Sources by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan Translation)

The word for divided is parac and is used in specific contexts to mean a tear or to break off:

"Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" Isaiah 58:7 NASB

"No one shall break bread for the mourner, to comfort him for the dead, nor shall anyone give him the cup of consolation to drink for his father or his mother." Jeremiah 16:7

What this basically shows is that since the camels didn’t have completely parted hooves, and had large padded soles that were undivided, they didn’t fall under the Israelite classification of divided hooves. As stated in the notes to the Kaplan translation:

does not have a true hoof
(see Leviticus 11:3). The hooves of the camel are so reduced that they are like claws, and the padded soles support most of the weight. Some, however, understand the padded sole to be the 'hoof' here, and translate it, 'does not have a cloven hoof' (Rashi). (Source)

Even Muslim scholars placed camels in the category of animals with undivided hooves. For example, here is what renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir says about Sura 6:146:

Foods that were Prohibited for the Jews Because of their Transgression

Allah says, We forbade for the Jews every bird and animal with undivided hoof, such as THE CAMEL, ostrich, duck and goose. Allah said here …

(and We forbade them the fat of the ox and the sheep...) The Jews used to forbid these types of foods saying that Isra'il, or Ya`qub, used to forbid them for himself so they too forbid them. This was mentioned by As-Suddi. `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said that …

(except what adheres to their backs) refers to the fat that clings to their backs. Allah said next …

(or their Hawaya) that is, the entrails, according to Abu Ja`far bin Jarir. He also said, "The meaning here is, `And from ox and sheep, We forbade their fat for the Jews, except the fat on their backs and what the entrails carry.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah said that, Ibn `Abbas said that the, Hawaya, are the entrails. Similar was reported from Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Ad-Dahhak. (Source; underline and capital emphasis ours)

It is obvious that these Muslims, in complete agreement with the ancient Israelites, did not view camels as having divided hooves. They apparently had a different classification and understanding of what exactly constituted a split hoof much like the Israelites. These scholars were evidently ignorant of Osama’s modern understanding and classification that he has desperately tried to impose on the biblical text in order to prove a contradiction.

Finally, our response here is assuming, of course, that the camel’s split feet should be classified as hooves, something that not everyone agrees with. For instance, Webster’s New World Dictionary defines the camel as: either of two species of large, domesticated, cud-chewing mammals (genus Camelus) with a humped back, long neck, and large, cushioned feet.

The following information on camels comes from the Encarta Encyclopedia (Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation):

Camel, large ruminant native to the desert regions of Asia and northern Africa. There are two kinds of camels: the dromedary, or Arabian camel, which has one hump, and the Bactrian camel, which has two humps.

Scientific classification: Camels belong to the family Camelidae. They make up the genus Camelus. The Arabian camel is classified as Camelus dromedarius, the Bactrian camel as Camelus bactrianus.

Thick, broad sole pads and thick callosities on the joints of the legs and on the chest, upon which it rests in a kneeling position, enable it to withstand the heat of the desert sand.

Notice that these authorities do not refer to the camel’s foot as a hoof or as divided. On the other hand, the same authority (Encarta) has the following to say about bovines, the genus to which cattle, sheep, goats, and deer belong:

Bovidae (Latin boves, oxen), large family of cloven-hoofed ruminants that are characterized in the male, and usually also in the female, by the presence of unbranched, hollow horns that are never shed and continue to grow throughout life.

Bovidae Bovinae, including bison and all wild and domestic cattle; Caprinae, including sheep and goats; Aepycerotinae, including the impala; Alcelaphinae, including the gnus, or wildebeest, and the hartebeest; Antilopinae, including the dama gazelle and other gazelles, black bucks, and saiga; Cephalophinae, including the duikers; Hippotraginae, including the oryx, addax, and blesbok; Peleinae, including the rhebok; and Reduncinae, including the kob, waterbuck, and puku. The Vu Quang ox belongs to the subfamily Bovinae and is classified as Pseudoryx nghetinhensis.

As it stands there is no real contradiction with what is stated in the Hebrew Bible regarding camels, and there is definitely no "dog fight" going on here (Osama’s words). The only dog fight we find is the one between Osama, his god, and his prophet as he tries to desperately convince his readers that Muhammad wasn’t a false prophet. The problem he faces is that his god and his prophet stand in his way every time he seeks to prove his position due to the insurmountable problems they have caused for him and for every other Muslim.


We want to personally thank Dr. James D. Price and J.P. Holding of for all the valuable insights and assistance which made this rebuttal a possibility. May the risen and immortal Lord Jesus richly bless them and their families for ever and ever. Amen.


Osama has recently posted a response to our paper. Anyone reading his so-called rebuttal should be able to see that Osama really had nothing to say. Nevertheless, Osama apparently felt the need to write something in order to save face for being so soundly refuted, no matter how weak or bad his rebuttal may be.

He writes:

Shamoun eats his own words!

It is first of all important to know that Sam Shamoun, the foul-mouthed and ill-mannered, ate back his translation and openly admits that the English translation that he used is as bad as his foul manners.


Remember, dear reader, that Islam permits Osama to lie and deceive people since his god is known to be the best deceiver and liar of them all, a characteristic of Satan (cf. John 8:44; Sura 3:54-55; 8:30, 43-44; 4:142, 157). Here he boldfacedly lies and says that I openly admitted that the English translation I used was bad and foul. Please go back and review my response above and see if I ever admitted such a thing. We will now see that even the very translation that I originally used soundly exposes Osama as a liar and deceiver.

Osama claims:

Here is what his initial translation said which I have destroyed for him:

"The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Say to the Israelites: "Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud. There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you."’" Leviticus 11:1-4

"Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you." Deuteronomy 14:3-7


Notice that Osama has deceptively only highlighted the reference to split hoof, in an obvious attempt of trying to prevent his readers from seeing that the text refers to two different groups not just one. Now let me show Osama how even this translation exposes him as a fraud:

"Do not eat any detestable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two AND that chews the cud. However, of those THAT CHEW THE CUD OR THAT HAVE A SPLIT HOOF COMPLETELY DIVIDED you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although THEY chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses." Deuteronomy 14:3-8

We have highlighted specific portions of the passage, with added emphasis being placed on the word OR, in order to show that the verses have two forbidden groups in view, not one: one that does not chew the cud, and the other that do not have completely divided hooves. Osama has again erroneously assumed that camels are being placed under animals that have a split hoof, when in reality the text is placing them along with rabbits and coneys who the chew the cud BUT DO NOT SPLIT THE HOOF. So much for Osama’s desperate appeal to the initial translation I used.

Deut. 14:6 gives the general rule. There are two conditions for animals to be considered ceremonially clean, so that their meat may be eaten: A = it has a fully split hoof, B = it chews the cud. Verses 7-8 proceed to give examples of animals that satisfy one of the conditions, but not the other, i.e. animals that satisfy "A OR B". The text states that among those animals that "A OR B", the Israelites may not eat the camel, rabbit and coney, since those satisfy only B but not A. Similarly, Israelites may not eat the pig, since it satisfies only A but not B. The text is clear, it is Osama who fights the lost battle of defending his misinterpretation.

Osama then went out to repost the photos of the camels, as if this helps his case any, and claims that I failed to refute the other 2/3 of his article, which only further shows that Osama didn’t get the point I was making. The readers shouldn’t be surprised that this is the best that Osama can offer by way of rebuttal. We encourage Osama and his writers, as well as his cohorts Nadir Ahmad and Jalal Abualrub, to continue writing since they do a better job of destroying the credibility of Islam than any Christian could ever do.

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