And there went forth a wind from the Lord
Both an east wind and a south wind, according to ( Psalms 78:26 ) ; either first one wind, and then another; one to bring the quails, or whatever are meant, to a certain point, and then the other to bring them to the camp of Israel; or a southeast wind, as the Jewish writers interpret it: however, it was not a common wind, but what was immediately raised by the Lord for the following purpose:
and brought quails from the sea;
the Red sea, from the coasts of it, not out of it. Josephus F20 says, there were great numbers of this sort of fowl about the gulf of Arabia; and Diodorus Siculus F21 says, near Rhinocalura, a place not far from those parts, quails in flocks were brought from the sea, which the people caught and lived upon. After Job Ludolphus, who has wrote a learned dissertation on locusts, many are of opinion with him, that locusts are intended here, and think that what is hereafter related best agrees with them; it is pretty difficult to determine which is most correct; there are learned advocates, and much to be said, for both F23:
and let [them] fall by the camp:
the camp of Israel, and round about it on all sides, as follows; which agrees well enough with locusts, which are usually brought by a wind, as the locusts of Egypt were by an east wind, which fall, rest, and settle on the earth, and sometimes in heaps, one upon another; and these, whatever they were, fell as thick as rain, and were as dust, and as the sand of the sea. The Jewish writers, who understand them of quails, interpret this not of their falling to the ground, but of their flying low, two cubits from the earth, about the breast of a man, so that they had no trouble in taking them; so the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Abendana; but this seems to be without any foundation:
as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's
journey on the other side, round about the camp;
on the north side, and on the south side, as the Targum of Jonathan explains it; but it doubtless means on all sides, since they fell round about the camp; and from thence they lay thick upon the ground, a day's journey every way; which some compute at sixteen, others at twenty miles on which space there must be a prodigious number of quails or locusts; and it is certain the latter do come in great numbers, so as to darken the air, and to cover a country, as they did Egypt; and the quails also, in some countries, have been taken in great numbers; in Italy, on the coast of Antium, within a month, in the space of five miles, 100,000 quails were taken every day F24:
and as it were two cubits [high] upon the face of the earth;
as they fell they lay one upon another, the height of two cubits; which it is thought better agrees with locusts than with quails, since the quails, by lying one upon another such a depth, must be suffocated; whereas the locusts, through the length of their feet, and the thinness of their wings, would not.
F20 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 1. sect. 5.
F21 Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 55.
F23 Vid. Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Quails", & Scheuchzer. Physica Sacr. in loc. Bishop of Clogher's Chronology, p. 375, 376. Shaw's Travels, p. 189.
F24 Blond. ltal. Illustrat. p. 314. apud Huet. Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 17.