Verse 27. He rained flesh also upon them as dust. First he rained bread and then flesh, when he might have rained fire and brimstone. The words indicate the speed, and the abundance of the descending quails.
And feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea; there was no counting them. By a remarkable providence, if not by miracle, enormous numbers of migratory birds were caused to alight around the tents of the tribes. It was, however, a doubtful blessing, as easily acquired and super abounding riches generally are. The Lord save us from meat which is seasoned with divine wrath.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 27. As dust. The amazing clouds of fine dust or sand, which a violent wind raises in the deserts of the East, constitute the point of comparison. William Keatinge Clay.
Verse 27. Feathered fowls. Hebrew, "fowl of wing;" i.e., flying fowls, in distinction from domestic poultry. Williams, in Notes to Calvin in loc.
Verse 27, 31. If the cemetery on Sarbut el Khadem be, what all the antecedent evidences combine to indicate, the workmanship of the Israelites, (a chief burial ground of their fatal encampment at Kibroth Hattaayah), it may most reasonably be expected that its monuments shall contain symbolic representations of the miracle of the "feathered fowls," and of the awful plague which followed it. Now Niebuhr happily enables us to meet this just expectation, by his copies of the hieroglyphics on three of those tombstones, published in the 45th and 46th plates of his first volume, and prefaced plate 44, by a plan of the cemetery itself, which is of more value than any or all subsequent descriptions. It was discovered by the present writer (as stated in a former work), ("The Voice of Israel") on the evidence of no less than four Sinaitic inscriptions, that the birds of the miracle, named by Moses, generically, wlf, salu, and by the psalmist, still more generally, @gk @w[, winged fowls, or more correctly, "long winged fowls," were not (as rendered by all our versions, ancient and modern) quails, but a crane like red bird resembling a goose, named in the Arabic nuham. The discovery received subsequently a singular and signal corroboration from the further discovery, by Dean Stanley, and previously by Schubert, of immense flocks of these very nuhams on the reputed scene of the miracle at Kibroth Hattaavah. With these antecedents in his mind, the reader will now turn to the three monuments copied by Niebuhr in the cemetery of Sarbut el Khadem. He will at once see that a crane like bird resembling a goose, with slender body and long legs, is the leading hieroglyphic symbol in all three tablets. No fewer than twenty-five of these symbolic birds occur in the first, ten in the second, and fifteen in the third tablet. The goose appears occasionally, but the principal specimens have the air of the goose, but the form of the crane. In a word, they are the very species of birds seen by Dean Stanley, both at this point of Sinai, and at the first cataract of the Nile; and which constantly occur also in Egyptian monuments: as though the very food of Egypt, after which the Israelites lusted, was sent to be at once their prey and their plague. "And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots." Exodus 16:3 . The reader has here before him the irrefragable fact that the very birds which by every kind of evidence stand identified with the salus, or long legged and long winged fowls of the miracle, are the very birds depicted on the tombstones of Sarbut el Khadem, both standing, flying, and apparently even trussed and cooked... The inevitable inference is... that these tombstones record the miracle of the "feathered fowls," and stand over the graves of the gluttons who consumed them. Charles Forster, in "Israel in the Wilderness." 1865. Mr. Forster thus deciphers by his alphabet some of the mixed legends and devices: --
"From the sea the cranes congregate to one spot;
The archers shoot at the cranes passing over the plain.
Evil stomached they rush after the prey --
The sepulchre their doom -- their marrow corrupted by God,
The sleepy owl, emblem of death, God sends destruction
"The mother of sepulchres -- the black and white geese,
A sudden death, greedily lusting after flesh, die the
The mountain top ascend the Hebrews,
They eat, devour, consume, till nothing is left, exceeding
Their bodies corrupted, by gluttony they die."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS