Easton's Bible Dictionary
The Israelites were twice relieved in their privation
by a miraculous supply of quails, (1) in the wilderness of Sin ( Exodus
16:13 ), and (2) again at Kibroth-hattaavah (q.v.), Numbers
11:31 . God "rained flesh upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the
sand of the sea" ( Psalms
78:27 ). The words in Numbers
11:31 , according to the Authorized Version, appear to denote that the quails
lay one above another to the thickness of two cubits above the ground. The Revised
Version, however, reads, "about two cubits above the face of the earth", i.e.,
the quails flew at this height, and were easily killed or caught by the hand.
Being thus secured in vast numbers by the people, they "spread them all abroad"
11:32 ) in order to salt and dry them.
These birds (the Coturnix vulgaris of naturalists) are found in countless numbers
on the shores of the Mediterranean, and their annual migration is an event causing
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
There can be no doubt that the Hebrew word in the Pentateuch
16:13 ; Numbers
11:31 , 11:32
) and in the 105th Psalm, denotes the common quail, Coturnix dactylisonans. (The
enormous quantity of quails taken by the Israelites has its parallel in modern
times. Pliny states that they sometimes alight on vessels in the Mediterranean
and sink them. Colenel Sykes states that 160,000 quails have been netted in one
season on the island of Capri. --ED.) The expression "as it were two cubits (high)
upon the face of the earth," ( Numbers
11:31 ) refers probably to the height at which the quails flew above the ground,
in their exhausted condition from their long flight. As to the enormous quantities
which the least-successful Israelite is said to have taken viz. "ten homers" (i.e.
eighty bushels) in the space of a night and two days, there is every reason for
believing that the "homers here spoken of do not denote strictly the measure of
that name but simply "a heap." The Israelites would have had little difficulty
in capturing large quantities of these birds as they are known to arrive at places
sometimes so completely exhausted by their flight as to be readily taken, not
in nets only, but by the hand. They "spread the quails round about the camp;"
this was for the purpose of drying them. The Egyptians similarly prepared these
birds. The expression "quails from the sea," ( Numbers
11:31 ) must not be restricted to denote that the birds came from the sea,
as their starting-point, but it must be taken to show the direction from which
they were coming. The quails were at the time of the event narrated in the sacred
writings, on their spring journey of migration northward, It is interesting to
note the time specified: "it was at even" that they began to arrive; and they
no doubt continued to come all night. Many observers have recorded that the quail
migrates by night.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kwal (selaw; ortugometra; Latin Coturnix vulgaris):
A game bird of the family Coturnix, closely related to "partridges" (which see).
Quail and partridges are near relatives, the partridge a little larger and of
brighter color. Quail are like the gray, brown and tan of earth. Their plumage
is cut and penciled by markings, and their flesh juicy and delicate food. Their
habits are very similar. They nest on the ground and brood on from 12 to 20 eggs.
The quail are more friendly birds and live in the open, brooding along roads and
around fields. They have a longer, fuller wing than the partridge and can make
stronger flight. In Palestine they were migratory. They are first mentioned in
16:13: "And it came to pass at even, that the quails came up, and covered
the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the camp." This describes
a large flock in migration, so that they passed as a cloud. Numbers
11:31 - 33:
"And there went forth a wind from Yahweh, and brought quail from the sea, and
let them fall by the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey
on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of
the earth. And the people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the
next day, and gathered the quail: he that gathered least gathered ten homers:
and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp"; compare
78:26 - 30:
|"He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens;
And by his power he guided the south wind.
He rained flesh also upon them as the dust,
And winged birds as the sand of the seas:
And he let it fall in the midst of their camp,
Round about their habitations.
So they did eat, and were well filled;
And he gave them their own desire."
Again the birds are mentioned in migration. Those that fell around the camp and
the bread that was sent from heaven are described in Psalms 105:39-42. Commentators
have had trouble with the above references. They cause the natural historian none--they
are so in keeping with the location and the laws of Nature. First the Hebrew selaw
means "to be fat." That would be precisely the condition of the quail after a
winter of feeding in the South. The time was early spring, our April, and the
quail were flocking from Africa and spreading in clouds--even to Europe. They
were birds of earth, heavy feeders and of plump, full body. Migration was such
an effort that when forced to cross a large body of water they always waited until
the wind blew in the direction of their course, lest they tire and fall. Their
average was about 16 birds to each nest. If half a brood escaped, they yet multiplied
in such numbers as easily to form clouds in migration. Pliny writes of their coming
into Italy in such numbers, and so exhausted with their long flight, that if they
sighted a sailing vessel they settled upon it by hundreds and in such numbers
as to sink it. Taking into consideration the diminutive vessels of that age and
the myriads of birds, this does not appear incredible. Now compare these facts
with the text. Israelites were encamped on the Sinai Peninsula. The birds were
in migration. The quail followed the Red Sea until they reached the point of the
peninsula where they selected the narrowest place, and when the wind was with
them they crossed the water. Not far from the shore arose the smoke from the campfires
of the Israelites. This bewildered them, and, weary from their journey, they began
to settle in confused thousands over and around the camp. Then the Israelites
arose and, with the ever-ready "throw sticks," killed a certain number for every
soul of the camp and spread the bodies on the sand to dry, just as Herodotus (ii.
77) records that the Egyptians always had done (see Rawlinson, Herodotus, II,
for an illustration of catching and drying quail). Nature and natural history
can account for this incident, with no need to call in the miraculous.
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