Verse 40. The people asked. But how badly, how wickedly! And yet his grace forgave the sin of their murmuring and heard its meaning: or perhaps we may consider that while the multitude murmured there were a few, who were really gracious people, who prayed, and therefore the blessing came.
He brought quails, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He gave them what they asked amiss as well as what was good for them, mingling judgment with goodness, for their discipline. The quails were more a curse than a blessing in the end, because of their greed and lust, but in themselves they were a peculiar indulgence, and favour: it was their own fault, that the dainty meat brought death with it. As for the manna it was unmingled good to them, and really satisfied them, which the quails never did. It was bread from heaven, and the bread of heaven, sent by heaven; it was a pity that they were not led to look up to heaven whence it came, and fear and love the God who out of heaven rained it upon them. Thus they were housed beneath the Lord's canopy and fed with food from his own table; never people were so lodged and boarded. O house of Israel, praise ye the Lord.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 40. -- Quails. The quail is met with abundantly in Syria and Judaea, and there seems to be little doubt of its identity with the quails so frequently mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. "We have," says Tristram, "a clear proof of the identity of the common quail with the Hebrew selac, in its Arabic name, salwa, from a root signifying `to be fat' -- very descriptive of the round, plump form and fat flesh of the quail... It migrates in vast flocks, and regularly crosses the Arabian desert, flying for the most part at night, and when the birds settle they are so utterly exhausted that they may be captured in any numbers by the hand. Notwithstanding their migratory habits, they instinctively select the shortest sea passages, and avail themselves of any island as a halting place. Thus in Spring and Autumn they are slaughtered in numbers on Malta and many of the Greek islands, very few being seen till the period of migration comes round. They also fly with the wind, never facing it like many other birds." "The Israelites `spread them out' when they had taken them before they were sufficiently refreshed to escape; exactly as Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians were in the habit of doing with quails -- drying them in the sun." Brehm mentions having been a witness to the arrival of a huge flock of quails upon the coast of North Africa, and tells us that the weary birds fell at once to the ground completely exhausted by their toilsome journey, and remained therefore some minutes as though stupefied. --Cassell's "Book of Birds."
Verse 40. --
Brought from his store, at sute of Israel,
Quails, in whole beavies each remove pursue;
Himself from skies their hunger to repel
Candies the grass with sweet congealed dew.
He wounds the rock, the rock doth wounded, swell;
Swelling affords new streams to channels new,
All for God's mindful will can not be dryven,
From sacred word once to his Abraham given. --Sir Philip Sidney, 1554-1586.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 40. --
- God often gives in love what is not asked. So the bread from heaven which was beyond all they could ask or think.
- He sometimes gives in anger what is asked. They asked for flesh to eat -- "and he brought quails." --G.R.