The Lord Sends Quail
Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. Numbers 11:31 NKJV
Suddenly, the wind starts to blow. In verse 31 it describes the wind as coming from the Lord. And quail birds coming from the direction of the Red Sea begin falling from the sky, widespread, all over the camp.
And, note how it says that they fell from “a day’s journey on this side, and a day’s journey from that side.” The idea being that the marching column of the 3 million Israelites probably stretched a distance of 2 days journey; or, in more modern terms, it was a column of people some 20 miles in length.
And, the Lord willed that those quails fall all over that long, spread out column of weary and grumbling Israelites, so that all could partake if they chose.
Now, it wasn’t that merely a sufficient amount of quails fell over this 2-days journey distance; it was they fell over this vast area something on the order of 3 feet deep! Hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of quails, hundreds of tons of quails, were there for the taking.
So the people caught and killed quail all that day and through the night and all the next day too! The least anyone gathered was 100 bushels! Quail were spread out all around the camp. Numbers 11:32 TLB
So, in verse 32, the people gather the quail and the LEAST a person picked are ten homers of quail or, over 50 bushels of quail.
There are several Psalms in the Bible that recall this astounding event. So great was its impact on the Hebrew psyche. Read Psalm 78: verse 26-32.
And he led forth the east wind and guided the south wind by his mighty power. He rained down birds as thick as dust, clouds of them like sands along the shore! He caused the birds to fall to the ground among the tents. The people ate their fill. He gave them what they asked for. But they had hardly finished eating, and the meat was yet in their mouths, when the anger of the Lord rose against them and killed the finest of Israel’s young men. Yet even so the people kept on sinning and refused to believe in miracles.
Could this event have happened? Is there enough quail on all the earth for this to even be a possibility?
Here is what Josephus says NOT about that event, but about the migration of quails as a regular and routine thing across the Arabian and Sinai Peninsulas:
“In March and April, they cross the Mediterranean coming from the south in large bands and returning southwards from Europe in even more enormous flights towards the end of September. On both migrations they are netted for the market; the flesh of the birds caught in the spring is commonly dry and indifferent, but that of those taken in the autumn is excellent. Though they rise rapidly on the wing, they seldom fly far except on their migrations, and then they are often overtaxed and simply drop, exhausted, into the sea or even onto passing ships.”
That God would have caused this natural thing that was normally enormous in scope to happen on a Supernatural scale fits within His pattern of operation as we saw in the various plagues He sent upon Egypt to liberate His people from Pharaoh.
But, even more, this attests to the accuracy of this event when it says the Israelites “spread them out all around the camp.” And this does not mean that they laid the quails all over the place. Rather, spreading them out, say that they plucked them, split them, and spread them open to dry.
It was the standard Egyptian method to preserve meat by drying it, and they did it with fish, beef, and fowl. In fact, the meat was rarely cooked either before or after it was dried. Once dried, cured, they simply ate it just as it was. And, these Israelites would naturally have followed the Egyptian way for they had been Egyptian for 400 years and knew nothing else.
Then, while they were still eating the quails, that is, they had yet to run out of this huge supply. The Lord came against them for their great offense against Him to test Him in such a disrespectful and ungrateful manner.
What the plague was that came against them we don’t know. But, many died. The place where this happened, and the place where many killed Israelites were buried, was named Kibroth-Hataavah. Those Hebrew words mean, “the place of craving.”
Rabbis have done a brilliant job of assessing the overall nature of this calamity of God’s judgment, and their opinion is fascinating. It is that the people craved flesh. Let me say it another way:
- They lusted after the flesh.
- They also gorged themselves on flesh, and they wanted the meat, so bad; God gave them all they wanted.
- The Lord turned them over to the meat.
- They preferred meat to heavenly food, so God gave it to them.
And this is neither allegory nor metaphor. But this is the physical demonstration of the spiritual principle that is laid out before us in the person of Jesus.
Do we want to eat of the bread of life, or do we want to gorge ourselves on the ways of the flesh, which leads only to death?
God will not force us one way or the other. It is our choice, just as it was the Israelites choice to reject the Manna for the flesh of dead birds.
Once the Israelites buried their dead, they moved on to a place called Hazeroth. The best guess as to the location of Hazeroth is at a place sitting at the top of that finger of the Red Sea called the Gulf of Aqaba; a place that today is called ‘Ain el Hadra.
And this is further indication that almost certainly the Israelites were at this time traveling up along the western end of the Arabian Peninsula until they reached the tip of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aqaba, at which point the Arabian and Sinai Peninsulas merge. From Hazeroth, their next move would have been west and somewhat north.