Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Numbers 11:31

Now there went forth a wind from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Blessing;   Kibroth-Hattaavah;   Meteorology and Celestial Phenomena;   Prayer;   Quail;   Sanitation;   Trouble;   Scofield Reference Index - Quails;   Thompson Chain Reference - Birds;   Feeding the Multitude;   Meteorology;   Miracles of Loaves;   Multitude;   Quails;   Red Sea;   Wind, the;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Birds;   Desert, Journey of Israel through the;   Wind, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Manna;   Quails;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Manna;   Measurement;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Discontent;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Food;   Journey;   Quails;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Kibroth Hattaavah;   Quail;   Sinai;   Weights and Measures;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Birds;   Kibroth-Hattaavah;   Meat;   Quail;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Day's Journey;   Moses;   Numbers, Book of;   Quail;   Weights and Measures;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Travel (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Quail,;   Wanderings of the Israelites;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Measures;   Quails;   Red sea;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Quails;   Weights and Measures;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Elders;   Quail;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - On to Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Day's Journey;   Pentateuch;   Quail;   Spirit;   Wanderings of Israel;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Birds;   Quail;   Sanhedrin;   Vegetarianism;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

A wind from the Lord - An extraordinary one, not the effect of a natural cause. And brought quails, a bird which in great companies visits Egypt about the time of the year, March or April, at which the circumstance marked here took place. Mr. Hasselquist, the friend and pupil of the famous Linnaeus, saw many of them about this time of the year, when he was in Egypt. See his Travels, p. 209.

Two cubits high upon the face of the earth - We may consider the quails as flying within two cubits of the ground; so that the Israelites could easily take as many of them as they wished, while flying within the reach of their hands or their clubs. The common notion is, that the quails were brought round about the camp, and fell there in such multitudes as to lie two feet thick upon the ground; but the Hebrew will not bear this version. The Vulgate has expressed the sense, Volabantque in aere duobus cubitis altitudine super terram. "And they flew in the air, two cubits high above the ground."

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/numbers-11.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"And there went forth a wind from Jehovah, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth. And the people rose up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quaffs: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. While the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the people, and Jehovah smote the people with a very great plague. And the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people that lusted. From Kibrothhattaavah the people journeyed unto Hazeroth; and they abode at Hazeroth."

"Two cubits above the face of the earth ..." (Numbers 11:31). "If we suppose that they were drifted by the wind into heaps, which in places reached the height of two cubits, that would satisfy the exigencies of the text."[24] The exact meaning of the text here is somewhat uncertain, and Cook thought that the reference to two cubits described the height "at which the birds, exhausted from long flight, flew above the ground."[25]

"Ten homers ..." (Numbers 11:32). The exact size of this measure is not known. Whitelaw gave it as 5 1/2 bushels, Plaut as 10 bushels, and others as "a donkey's load." The meaning is clear that they had more than enough!

"Ere it was chewed ..." (Numbers 11:33). As noted above, this paragraph is of uncertain meaning in places, and since this verse seems to be opposed to the promise of God that the people would "eat the flesh" for a whole month, it is best to take the meaning here as that given by Gray: "Ere it ran short ..."[26] with the meaning, "before their supply ran short, or before they ran out of quails."

"There went forth a wind from Jehovah ..." (Numbers 11:31). Because the natural agency that the Lord used in this wonder is here stated, some are unwilling to see anything miraculous in this whole event, but the supernatural element surely appears in the timing and the extent of this fantastic number of quails, and also in the divine judgment that resulted in the death of a great many of the lustful people.

"Kibroth-hattaavah" means "graves of lust,"[27] the same being the name which the people gave to this encampment. There seems to have been a propensity in Israel to perpetuate their unpleasant memories, as it will also be remembered that they christened Marah (which meant bitter) after the bitter waters they found there, despite the fact that the Lord sweetened those waters. Could they not have named some such place, "God's Answer to Prayer" or some other more appropriate name? The underlying theme of all these chapters is the utter unwillingness, or inability, of Israel to accept inconvenience and hardship and to manifest an attitude of happiness in the service of God. Alas, there are some people still like that today.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/numbers-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And there went forth a wind from the Lord,.... Both an east wind and a south wind, according to Psalm 78:26; either first one wind, and then another; one to bring the quails, or whatever are meant, to a certain point, and then the other to bring them to the camp of Israel; or a southeast wind, as the Jewish writers interpret it: however, it was not a common wind, but what was immediately raised by the Lord for the following purpose:

and brought quails from the sea; the Red sea, from the coasts of it, not out of it. JosephusF20Antiqu. l. 3. c. 1. sect. 5. says, there were great numbers of this sort of fowl about the gulf of Arabia; and Diodorus SiculusF21Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 55. says, near Rhinocalura, a place not far from those parts, quails in flocks were brought from the sea, which the people caught and lived upon. After Job Ludolphus, who has wrote a learned dissertation on locusts, many are of opinion with him, that locusts are intended here, and think that what is hereafter related best agrees with them; it is pretty difficult to determine which is most correct; there are learned advocates, and much to be said, for bothF23Vid. Calmet's Dictionary in the word "Quails", & Scheuchzer. Physica Sacr. in loc. Bishop of Clogher's Chronology, p. 375, 376. Shaw's Travels, p. 189. :

and let them fall by the camp: the camp of Israel, and round about it on all sides, as follows; which agrees well enough with locusts, which are usually brought by a wind, as the locusts of Egypt were by an east wind, which fall, rest, and settle on the earth, and sometimes in heaps, one upon another; and these, whatever they were, fell as thick as rain, and were as dust, and as the sand of the sea. The Jewish writers, who understand them of quails, interpret this not of their falling to the ground, but of their flying low, two cubits from the earth, about the breast of a man, so that they had no trouble in taking them; so the Targum of Jonathan, Jarchi, Ben Gersom, and Abendana; but this seems to be without any foundation:

as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp; on the north side, and on the south side, as the Targum of Jonathan explains it; but it doubtless means on all sides, since they fell round about the camp; and from thence they lay thick upon the ground, a day's journey every way; which some compute at sixteen, others at twenty miles on which space there must be a prodigious number of quails or locusts; and it is certain the latter do come in great numbers, so as to darken the air, and to cover a country, as they did Egypt; and the quails also, in some countries, have been taken in great numbers; in Italy, on the coast of Antium, within a month, in the space of five miles, 100,000 quails were taken every dayF24Blond. ltal. Illustrat. p. 314. apud Huet. Alnetan. Quaest. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 17. :

and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth; as they fell they lay one upon another, the height of two cubits; which it is thought better agrees with locusts than with quails, since the quails, by lying one upon another such a depth, must be suffocated; whereas the locusts, through the length of their feet, and the thinness of their wings, would not.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/numbers-11.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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 as it were 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.

A wind from the Lord — An extraordinary and miraculous wind both for its vehemency and for its effects.

Quails — God gave them quails once before, Exodus 16:13, but neither in the same quantity, nor with the same design and effect as now.

From the sea — Principally from the Red-sea, and both sides of it where, by the reports of ancient Heathen writers, they were then in great numbers, and, no doubt, were wonderfully increased by God's special providence for this very occasion.

Two cubits high — Not as if the quails did cover all the ground two cubits high for a day's journey on each side of the camp, for then there had been no place left where they could spread them all abroad round about the camp; but the meaning is, that the quails came and fell down round about the camp for a whole day's journey on each side of it, and that in all that space they lay here and there in great heaps, which were often two cubits high.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/numbers-11.html. 1765.

Scofield's Reference Notes

two cubits high upon the face of all the earth

The correct rendering is, "about two cubits above the face of the earth," that is, within reach of the people that they might slay them for food. The statement is not that the quails were piled up from the face of the earth two cubits deep. The level of their flight was two cubits above the earth.

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These files are considered public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available in the Online Bible Software Library.
Bibliographical Information
Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Numbers 11:31". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/numbers-11.html. 1917.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

A wind from the Lord, i.e. an extraordinary and miraculous wind, both for its vehemency and for its effect

Quails; a delicious and very nourishing food, which, considering their greedy appetite, and the newness and plenty of it, disposed them to surfeits and other distemper of body, and prepared the way for the following plague. God gave them quails once before, Exodus 16:13, but neither in the same quantity, nor with the same design and effect as now.

From the sea; principally from the Red Sea, and both sides of it; where, by the report of ancient heathen writers, they were then in great numbers, and, no doubt, were wonderfully increased by God’s special providence for this very occasion.

Two cubits high; not as if the quails did cover all the ground two cubits high for a day’s journey on each side of the camp, for then there had been no place left where they could spread them all abroad round about the camp, as it is said they did, Numbers 11:32; but the meaning is, that the quails came and fell down round about the camp for a whole day’s journey on each side of it, and that in all that space they lay here and there in great heaps, which were ofttimes two cubits high.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/numbers-11.html. 1685.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 11:31. There went forth a wind from the Lord — An extraordinary and miraculous wind, both for its vehemency and for its effects. And brought quails — So the Hebrew word, שׂלוים, salvim, is interpreted by Josephus, and all the ancient versions; nor does there appear to be any sufficient authority for translating it locusts; notwithstanding what Ludolphus, in his History of Ethiopia, 50:1, c. 13; and after him Bishop Patrick, and the late bishop of Clogher, have said on the subject. This is the second time that God gave them these quails. He sent them the former year, and much about the same season, Exodus 16:13; but neither in the same quantity nor with the same design as now. From the sea — Principally from the Arabian gulf, or Red sea, and both sides of it, where, according to ancient heathen writers, they were then in great numbers, and no doubt were wonderfully increased by God’s special providence for this very occasion. This sea lies south of that part of Arabia where the Israelites were now encamped. It was therefore a south wind that brought these quails, and is said to have come forth from the Lord, because it was ordered and directed by his special power and providence. Two cubits high — Not as if the quails did cover all the ground two cubits high for a day’s journey on each side of the camp, for then there had been no place left where they could spread them all abroad round about the camp; but the meaning is, that the quails came and fell down round about the camp for a whole day’s journey on each side of it, and that in all that space they lay here and there in great heaps, which were often two cubits high.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/numbers-11.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Sea; the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The wind blew from the south-west to the west with respect to Moses, or from the south with respect to Jerusalem, Psalm lxxvii. 26. Many quails are found about Rinocorura, and some have imagined that these had continued during winter at the bottom of the waters, as they say swallows do. (Bochart, i. 15.) God had sent the Hebrews a similar provision for one day, about the same season of the year, Exodus xvi. 13. --- Flew. The Hebrew says simply, "as it were two cubits upon the earth;" whether they were heaped one upon the other to that height, or, as it is more probable, (Calmet) they flew only so much above the ground, an might easily be killed. (Haydock) --- The Septuagint call them ortygometra, the leader, or the largest sort of quails. Suppose twenty of them filled a bushel, or the thirtieth part of a corus, each person would have at least 6,000 quails; and if there were three million people, they must have had 18,000 million such birds. (Menochius) --- Philo takes notice, that the Jews were very fond of this food; and Aristotle (Anim., viii. 12,) says, their flesh is as good as that of woodcocks. (Tirinus)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/numbers-11.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

wind. Hebrew. ruach. App-9.

fall. Compare Psalms 78:27, Psalms 78:28.

a day"s journey. See App-51.

cubits. See App-51.

high upon. Hebrew = "above"; i.e. "[flying] above", so that they could be easily caught. It does not say "deep".

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Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/numbers-11.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(31) And there went forth a wind.—In Psalms 78:26 we read thus: “He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.” A south-east wind would bring the quails from the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, where they abound.

And let them fall.—Better, and scattered them (or, spread them out). Comp. 1 Samuel 30:16 : “They were spread abroad upon all the earth,” or, over all the ground.

Round about.—See Note on Numbers 11:24.

As it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.—Or, about two cubits over (or, above) the ground. Had the quails lain upon the earth in a heap for any considerable time, life could only have been preserved by miraculous interference with the ordinary laws of nature, and the Israelites were not allowed to eat of that which had died of itself. Quails commonly fly low, and when wearied with a long flight might fly only about breast-high. On the other hand, the more obvious interpretation of the words is that the quails were spread over the ground, and covered it in some places to the height of two cubits. They were probably taken and killed immediately on their descent, as the following verse seems to indicate, and then spread out and dried and hardened in the sun. Some think that the word which is here rendered quails denotes cranes.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/numbers-11.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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 as it were 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.
a wind
Exodus 10:13,19; 15:10; Psalms 135:7
and brought
Exodus 16:13; Psalms 78:26-29; 105:40
quails
That the word selav means the quail, we have already had occasion to observe; to which we subjoin the authority of Mr. Maundrell, who visited Naplosa, (the ancient Sichem,) where the Samaritans live. Mr. Maundrell asked their chief priest what sort of animal he took the selav to be. He answered, they were a sort of fowls; and, by the description Mr. Maundrell perceived he meant the same kind with our quails.
a day's journey
Heb. the way of a day. and as it were two cubits. That is, as the Vulgate renders, Volabantque in aëre duobus cubitis altitudine super terram, "and they flew in the air, at the height of two cubits above the ground."
Reciprocal: Psalm 106:15 - he gave;  Jonah 1:4 - the Lord;  1 Corinthians 10:6 - lust

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Numbers 11:31". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/numbers-11.html.