While I was preaching from Exodus 16 on Sunday I realised that I had not yet mentioned Quails in my blog. The quail is a very difficult bird to see in Britain although they can be heard calling in the right location (to my knowledge I have never seen or heard one.) They are a small game bird and of course quails eggs are considered a delicacy in some places.
They are mentioned in three places in the bible Exodus 16:13, Numbers 11:31-32 and Psalm 105:40. The basic story being that the people of Israel are on the long Exodus journey from Egypt to the promised land. A particular problem has beset them in that they are now becoming hungry as the supplies they brought with them from Egypt have begun to run dry and so the people have begun to rail against Moses and Aaron for bringing them to this awful place. They even begin to think that they would have been better of staying put in slavery in Egypt. However God hears the grumbling and decides to act saddened that the people are turning on Moses and Aaron and also aware that there real complaint is about God who they are starting to think has brought them out of Egypt only to starve them in the desert. God acts in these stories to provide the people with bread and meat. The bread being the manna from heaven and the meat coming from Quails. The quail is a migratory bird and can travel at night in very large numbers. There are many accounts in history of people trapping quails in the Middle Eastern region for food and so there is no reason to think that this was a completely impossible or implausible event.
I suppose the important thing is that the Israelites felt that God had brought the quails to them in their hour of need and they were reminded above all else that they should not complain about God because God is the one who provides for all there needs. Psalm 78 also mentions these events although it talks about birds rather than quails specifically but the gist of that passage is certainly a reminder to trust in God and God’s provision for us all.
On Sunday the lectionary made the link with Jesus feeding the five thousand and his subsequent reminder that the people really should be seeking not the bread that perishes but the bread of life i.e. Jesus.