“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.” 9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” 10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12“I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”
The quails that covered the ground in the Exodus story were one of two signs from God to assure the people God, indeed, would care for them. As they traveled in literal wilderness to an unknown future, the sacristy of food and drink stayed at the top of their mind. We know the second sign very well, the manna from heaven and the detailed descriptions of what it was, how they would use, etc appear again and again in scripture. For some reason, the quail’s miraculous appearance feels like a small notation, a one time event. Quails are important to the Israelites in the wilderness because they provided quick, easy to cook meat. Biblical scholars note and debate, was the quail rained down like manna for forty years as well or not? Some say yes. Others note as manna is mentioned again in Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua as the main source of sustenance for the people in the wilderness, quail is not, so no. This could have been only a one time event to display God’s power or one that only occurred during the first year. We could enter the debate as well or just celebrate the goodness of God in such miraculous feeding stories.
Miraculous Lord, as the barren ground instead became a feast, we are grateful for your care, and your love for the Israelite people, for us. May we accept the joy of truly being fed the bread of life and cup of salvation as substantial for eternal life in you. As Christ’s faithful disciples we strive to be, Amen.