Question:

Hi there!

Could you please explain to me why God in Numbers 11:31-34 became angry with those who ate the quail? The Lord said He would provide meat for all to eat.  Was quail a forbidden food or not considered meat?


Answer:

Right after leaving Mount Sinai (Numbers 10:11-13), where God gave them the law and many had recently perished because of idolatry, the people began to complain. “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: "Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"” (Numbers 11:4-6). Ever since Israel left Egypt, God has been supplying them with all the food they needed. It has now been about two years that they have had manna. Manna for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Oh, and if you wanted a snack there was manna. Imagine your favorite food item. Now imagine eating nothing else but that for two years. No matter how much you might like something, it will get tiresome after a while.

We need to understand this because it is easy to condemn the Israelites for their complaints without realizing that we would very likely succumb to the same temptation to complain. They were bored of their diet and its lack of variety. They wanted meat and vegetables. They wanted spice to their food.

"Now a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day's journey on this side and about a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving" (Numbers 11:31-34).

God gave the people what they wanted. The Israelites’ camp was not small. It would be a fair size city all by itself with such a large population. Then, all around this camp, extending a day’s journey (probably about 10 miles but possibly extending up to 30 miles), God filled the area with quail – to a depth of three feet! Not trusting that the birds would remain, even though God said it would be there for a month (Numbers 11:20), the people stayed up for two days straight gathering quail. The pickings were so easy that the smallest amount gathered was ten homers. One homer was a typical load for a donkey, or about 6.25 bushels or 50 gallons. A large trash bag holds 40 gallons, so they gathered a minimum of 12.5 forty-gallon trash bags full of quail. They spread out to eat the meat right then, but before they could even swallow it, God struck them down with a plague.

"They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul" (Psalms 106:13-15).

Their lust caused them to put God on trial. The result was their own deaths because God gave them what they asked for, and they were prepared to gorge themselves to death on it.

"Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; and by His power He brought in the south wind. He also rained meat on them like the dust, feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; and He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. So they ate and were well filled, for He gave them their own desire. They were not deprived of their craving; but while their food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them, and struck down the choice men of Israel. In spite of this they still sinned, and did not believe in His wondrous works" (Psalms 78:25-32).

The problem was gluttony. They showed no self-restraint.

Thank you. That makes sense.