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English Bible Dictionary

Quails

 

There can be no doubt that the Hebrew word in the Pentateuch (Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31,32) 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, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. 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.

 

* See also: Manna.

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