The Quail


The quail is about the size of a pigeon. It is called a bird of
passage, because it does not always live in the same place, but spends
the winter in one country, and in the spring flies away to another. In
their journies, they fly together in very large flocks, as you have
perhaps seen wild geese or pigeons do. A great many spend the summer
north of the Black Sea, and when autumn comes they fly away to spend the
winter in some warmer place, farther south. They usually start early
some fine evening in August, when there is a north wind to help them on,
and fly perhaps a hundred and fifty miles before morning. The people on
the opposite shore of the Black Sea know about what time to look for
them, and catch a great many of them for food.

God sometimes sent quails to the children of Israel when they were in
the wilderness. Once they complained because they had no meat to eat,
pretty soon after God had saved them from the hand of Pharaoh; and then
he brought a great many quails into their camp, so that they had as many
as they wanted for food. At another time, when they were on their
journey, these ungrateful people complained again, and wished they were
back in Egypt, where they could have "fish, and melons, and cucumbers,"
as they said. Then God saw fit to send them quails again, though he was
very much displeased with their wickedness; so much so that he sent a
dreadful sickness among them, of which many died. The Bible says, "And
there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea,
and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side,
and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it
were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. And the people stood
up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they
gathered the quails; he that gathered least, gathered ten homers; and
they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp."

The number of these quails was very wonderful. They covered the ground
all around the camp, and as far every way as a person could go in a
"day's journey," by which they meant twenty miles or more. And they not
only covered all that ground, but were piled upon each other, to the
height of more than a yard. The people gathered great quantities of
them; probably they intended to dry a part, which is still a custom in
those hot and sandy countries. "He that gathered least," we read,
"gathered ten homers." A homer was about eight bushels, or as much as
an ass could carry at a load; and ten homers, of course, was about
eighty bushels. You see how eager the people were to get them, for they
could not even sleep at night through fear that they should not have as
many as they wanted; so they stood up to gather them "all that day, and
all that night, and all the next day."

These things are several times spoken of in other parts of the Bible,
especially in the 78th Psalm. It is there said, "He rained flesh upon
them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea. And he
let it fall in the midst of the camp, round about their habitations. So
they did eat, and were well filled, for he gave them their own desire;
but while the meat was yet in their mouths, the wrath of God came upon

Perhaps it was not wrong for the children of Israel to ask for meat to
eat, but God was displeased with them for their complaining spirit
notwithstanding all his goodness; and although he gave them what they
asked, it proved to be only a curse to them. This may teach us to be
grateful for the thousand blessings that God has given us, and when we
ask any thing from him, to be willing that he should deny us if he sees