What are Quails?
Ex 16:13; Num 11:31. After much criticism of this translation, the verdict of etymology, zoology, history, and of most of the important ancient versions, is strongly in favor of the above rendering. At the season when the Israelites gathered them, quails still migrate from Africa northward in immense numbers. Such facts as that 160,000 were taken in one season on the small island of Capri, near Naples, and 100,000 in a single day near Nettuno, attest their present abundance on the coasts of the Mediterranean, and travellers tell us that they still cross Arabia in clouds. All the conditions of the above passage in Numbers are met by the habits of these birds. Following up the Red Sea, they would naturally cross the narrow gulfs which enclose the Sinaitic Quail. (Coturnix vulgaris.) peninsula, and, being weak of wing and according to their custom flying before the wind and at night, they would come "from the sea" exhausted, and be easily taken by hand, as they are still often caught under similar circumstances. In their flight quails skim along the ground, which seems to be the meaning of the expression, "two cubits hugh." Prudently making provision for the future, the Israelites would spread out their flesh to dry, as Herodotus tells us the Egyptians were accustomed to do. It is believed that the "homers" in Num 11:32 does not denote the measure of that name, but rather "a heap," which is sometimes the meaning of the Hebrew word. It is evident that in the feeding of the multitudes of Israel for more than a month with these birds there was a miraculous employment of the provisions of Nature. The quail (Coturnix vulgaris) abounds through almost the entire Old World. It resembles the bird called by the same name in New England (Ortyx Virginianna), but its note is like peek-whit-whit rapidly repeated.