Psalm 13, verse 6, second hemistich, reads:

אָשִירָה לַיהוָה, כִּי גָמַל עָלָי

Which is to say, "I will sing to G-d, because there is a camel upon me."

Can anyone offer a hermeneutic explanation for this sentiment?

  • Note: there's a reason to ask this question today -- it's traditional to have some fun with torah on Purim. Please answer in that spirit.
    – user947
    Feb 24, 2013 at 2:41
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    @GoneQuiet and bmargulies: I'm sorry I missed the question the first time around. But I have tried my hand at an answer. Thank you for giving me an example of a question that needs a current event post notice! Mar 25, 2013 at 20:04
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2 Answers 2


This is proof-positive of Greek primacy of the Old Testament

Here are the facts:

  1. 13 is an unlucky number.

  2. It is terribly unlucky to have a camel on your back.

  3. In the Septuagint, the Psalms are numbered differently (and correctly) so that the psalm in question is #12.

  4. 12 is a lucky number. 6 is half as lucky. 12:6 is one and a half lucky.

  5. In Greek, the word used is εὐεργετέω, which means "bestow benefits".

I trust that it is all clear now, but if not here is what happened:

  1. Jews in Alexandria wrote the Bible in Greek. Psalm 12:6 reads:

    I will make a song to the Lord, because he has given me my reward.

  2. Jews in Jerusalem decided to translate the Bible into Hebrew. In their culture, no reward is better than livestock. A camel can be the only reward fitting to receive from God. This was rendered (as you say):

    I will sing to G-d, because there is a camel upon me.

    It is unclear whether "upon me" was added at this time. Some say it was originally a phrase that indicated a camel was shading the psalmist or reading over his shoulder as he wrote, but this seems to be a misunderstanding.

  3. Later scribes noticed that while owning a camel is good luck, being burdened with one was not. Therefore this psalm was moved to the unlucky spot.

No other answer could possibly untangle the mess made in translation. Q.E.D.

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    Please engage the sarcasm meter. Mar 25, 2013 at 20:07
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    The needle doth not go that high. :)
    – user862
    Mar 25, 2013 at 20:43

The Psalm works subtly through Israel's feasts. The final is Booths (shelters), picturing the wine of the kingdom and the purpose of Israel's cleansing - throwing a party for the Gentiles. Sometimes parties don't always go to plan.

Moral: If you are going to be a ladder to heaven, prepare to get stepped on. :)

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