During the Biblical Exodus (Exodus 16, 11-16 and Numbers 11, 4-6, 31-34), the Israelites were wandering in the Sinai desert, complaining about not having meat. Then suddenly quail appears in the camp, driven to earth from on high. Non-believers see this episode as myth. Vegetarians see this episode as a Biblical sanction for vegetarianism. Basically, when God is catering the Israelite diet – manna – it’s vegetarian fare. The Rabbinic literature says that manna tasted like anything you wanted it to taste like (Babylonian Talmud Yoma 75a). Basically, it was Biblical tofu. When the Israelites craved meat, God gave them the quail, which led to an epidemic and many deaths. Kind of God saying: “You want meat? I’ll give you meat!”. In the Bible, the place where the plague victims were buried is called in Hebrew Kibrot HaTaavah i.e., “Graves of Gluttony”. Interestingly, Bird Flu can be transferred from wild birds on migratory paths to humans, and it can be lethal.
The question is: “Did it really happen?” Well, the incident is supposed to have taken place just after the Biblical Exodus, celebrated in the month of Nissan (April). And what do you know? Just a few weeks after Passover this year, birds started falling out of the sky in the Eilat area on the border of the Sinai desert. Yaron Michaeli posted in Hebrew an article alerting people to the fact that unseasonably warm weather has driven the Corn Crake – a distant relative of the quail – out of the sky and onto the ground. The bird migrates from South Africa to Asia and Europe by way of Sinai. When the weather is not right, they start falling out of the sky – at the exactly the same place and time of year as in the Biblical story. Coincidence? I think not.
One more thing, I have posited that the Biblical Exodus happened around 1500 BCE, during the time of Pharaoh Ahmose and the eruption of Thera (modern Santorini).
Weather disruptions caused by the volcano would have driven the quail to the ground then, just as the unseasonable heat grounded them now. So it fits.
To hear what Biblical quail sounds like, click here!