Exodus 16:13
And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
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(13) At even the quails came up.—The common quail (Tetrao coturnix) is very abundant in the East, and regularly migrates from Syria and Arabia in the autumn of the year for the purpose of wintering in Central Africa, whence it returns in immense masses in the spring (Schubert: Reise, vol. ii., p. 361). Exhausted after a long flight over the Red Sea, the flocks drop to the ground as soon as they reach the coast, and it is then easy either to take the birds with the hand or to kill them with sticks. Diodorus says that “the inhabitants of Arabia Petræa were wont to prepare long nets, and spread them near the coast for many furlongs, by which means they caught a great quantity of quails, which were in the habit of coming in from the sea” (ii. 60), The flesh of the quail is regarded as a delicacy throughout the East, though if too many are eaten it is said to be unwholesome.

The dew lay.—Literally, there was a lying of dew. A heavy fall seems to be meant.

Exodus 16:13. The quails came up — So tame that they might be taken up, as many as they pleased. Although Ludolph has offered several arguments in his Ethiop. Hist. (l. 1. c. 13) to prove that the Hebrew word שׂלו, selav, here used, ought to be rendered locusts; it is certain, from Psalm 78:27, that birds of some kind are meant: He rained flesh upon them as dust, and feathered fowl as the sand of the sea. Buxtorf renders the word coturnices, quails. And Parkhurst, deriving the word fromשׂלה, to be tranquil, or to rest, considers it as signifying a kind of bird that lived remarkably in ease and plenty among the corn. And, it seems, among the Egyptians a quail was an emblem of ease and plenty. It was also esteemed a dainty, and would probably rather be sent at this time than the locusts, which, though used for food, could hardly be termed flesh. According to Josephus, “there are more of this kind of birds about the Arabian gulf than any others. And flying over the sea,” he says, “and being weary, and coming nearer the ground than other birds, they took them with their hands, as food prepared for them of God.” But Josephus’s representation of the matter by no means comes up to the view of it given by Moses, (Numbers 11:31,) who says, that a wind went forth from the Lord and brought them from the sea, and let them fall round about the camp, a day’s journey on each side, and that they lay “two cubits high on the face of the earth.”

In the morning the dew lay — Hebrews שׁכבת השׂלshick-bath hattal, a layer, or bed of dew. With this, it appears, the manna was covered: to which the expression, hidden manna, (Revelation 2:17,) seems to allude.16:13-21 At evening the quails came up, and the people caught with ease as many as they needed. The manna came down in dew. They called it Manna, Manhu, which means, What is this? It is a portion; it is that which our God has allotted us, and we will take it, and be thankful. It was pleasant food; it was wholesome food. The manna was rained from heaven; it appeared, when the dew was gone, as a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost, like coriander seed, in colour like pearls. The manna fell only six days in the week, and in double quantity on the sixth day; it bred worms and became offensive if kept more than one day, excepting on the sabbath. The people had never seen it before. It could be ground in a mill, or beaten in a mortar, and was then made into cakes and baked. It continued the forty years the Israelites were in the wilderness, wherever they went, and ceased when they arrived in Canaan. All this shows how different it was from any thing found before, or found now. They were to gather the manna every morning. We are hereby taught, 1. To be prudent and diligent in providing food for ourselves and our households; with quietness working, and eating our own bread, not the bread of idleness or deceit. God's bounty leaves room for man's duty; it did so even when manna was rained; they must not eat till they have gathered. 2. To be content with enough. Those that have most, have for themselves but food and raiment; those that have least, generally have these; so that he who gathers much has nothing over, and he who gathers little has no lack. There is not such a disproportion between one and another in the enjoyment of the things of this life, as in the mere possession of them. 3. To depend upon Providence: let them sleep quietly, though they have no bread in their tents, nor in all their camp, trusting that God, with the following day, would bring them in their daily bread. It was surer and safer in God's storehouse than their own, and would come thence sweeter and fresher. See here the folly of hoarding. The manna laid up by some, who thought themselves wiser, and better managers, than their neighbours, and who would provide lest it should fail next day, bred worms, and became good for nothing. That will prove to be most wasted, which is covetously and distrustfully spared. Such riches are corrupted, Jas 5:2,3. The same wisdom, power, and goodness that brought food daily from above for the Israelites in the wilderness, brings food yearly out of the earth in the constant course of nature, and gives us all things richly to enjoy.Quails - This bird migrates in immense numbers in spring from the south: it is nowhere more common than in the neighborhood of the Red Sea. In this passage we read of a single flight so dense that it covered the encampment. The miracle consisted in the precise time of the arrival and its coincidence with the announcement. 13-31. at even the quails came up, and covered the camp—This bird is of the gallinaceous kind [that is, relating to the order of heavy-bodied, largely terrestrial birds], resembling the red partridge, but not larger than the turtledove. They are found in certain seasons in the places through which the Israelites passed, being migratory birds, and they were probably brought to the camp by "a wind from the Lord" as on another occasion (Nu 11:31).

and in the morning … a small round thing … manna—There is a gum of the same name distilled in this desert region from the tamarisk, which is much prized by the natives, and preserved carefully by those who gather it. It is collected early in the morning, melts under the heat of the sun, and is congealed by the cold of night. In taste it is as sweet as honey, and has been supposed by distinguished travellers, from its whitish color, time, and place of its appearance, to be the manna on which the Israelites were fed: so that, according to the views of some, it was a production indigenous to the desert; according to others, there was a miracle, which consisted, however, only in the preternatural arrangements regarding its supply. But more recent and accurate examination has proved this gum of the tarfa-tree to be wanting in all the principal characteristics of the Scripture manna. It exudes only in small quantities, and not every year; it does not admit of being baked (Nu 11:8) or boiled (Ex 16:23). Though it may be exhaled by the heat and afterwards fall with the dew, it is a medicine, not food—it is well known to the natives of the desert, while the Israelites were strangers to theirs; and in taste as well as in the appearance of double quantity on Friday, none on Sabbath, and in not breeding worms, it is essentially different from the manna furnished to the Israelites.

Heb. There was a bed of dew, wherewith the manna was covered, Revelation 16:14. To this the hidden manna, Revelation 2:17, alludes. And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up,.... From the coasts of Egypt, from the Red sea, over which they flew; and being evening, and weary with flying so long, lighted and settled where the Israelites encamped. Josephus (l) says, about the Arabian gulf there are more of this sort of birds than any other, which flying over the sea, and being weary, and coming nearer the ground than other birds, and lighting among the Hebrews, they took them with their hands as food prepared for them of God. The Targum of Jonathan calls them pheasants; some think they were locusts; but of this See Gill on Numbers 11:31. These here seem to have come up one evening only, whereas, in the place referred to, they had them a whole month together:

and covered the camp: their numbers were so many, as indeed such a prodigious company of people as those were required a great number to satisfy them with. These quails, which were sent in the evening, at the close of the day, were an emblem of worldly things, which are not the portion of the saints and people of God, what they are to live upon, and take up their satisfaction in; nor are they abiding, but transitory things, which come and go, make themselves wings and fly away toward heaven:

and in the morning the dew lay round about the host; the camp of Israel; or a lay of dew (m), an emblem of the grace of God, and the blessings of it, see Hosea 14:6.

(l) Antiqu. l. 3. c. 1. sect. 5. (m) "cubatio roris", Montanus, Piscator, Cartwright; "accubitus roris", Drusius; "situs vel stramentum roris", Munster.

And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
13a. In the evening the quails came up with the wind (cf. Numbers 11:31) in such numbers that they covered the camp. Quails belong to the partridge family. They are migratory birds; and in March and April come up from Arabia and other southern countries and cross the Mediterranean,—from the Levant to Malta,—in vast numbers; and return southwards from Europe in even more enormous flights towards the end of September. They always fly with the wind (cf. Numbers 11:31). When they alight, which they generally do at night, they cover the ground (cf. Numbers 11:31 b, 32a); and being usually exhausted, can be captured by hand in great numbers. By the Egyptians they were not cooked, but cured (Hdt. ii. 77); cf. Numbers 11:32 b (spread out to dry in the sun). See further NHB. p. 229 ff.

13b–15a. Description of the manna (perhaps from J). There are other descriptions in v. 31 (P), and Numbers 11:7-9 (JE), the latter given when it is told how the Israelites afterwards became tired of such poor food.Verse 13. - The quails came up. The word here translated, "quails" has been supposed to designate the flying-fish (Trigla Israelitarum of Ehrenberg), or a species of locust (Ludolf). But Psalm 78:28, makes it clear that "feathered fowls" are intended; and moderns generally, are agreed that the rendering "quails" is right. It has the authority of the Septuagint, of Josephus, and of the Vulgate. Diodorus says that "the inhabitants of Arabia Petraea prepared long nets, spread them near the coast for many stadia, and thus caught a great number of quails which are in the habit of coming in from the sea" (2:60). The quail regularly migrates from Syria and Arabia in the autumn, and winters in the interior of Africa, whence it returns northwards in immense masses in the spring (Schubert, Reise, vol. 2. p. 361). Kalisch thinks that the particular species of quail intended is the kata of the Arabs (Tetrao Alchata of Linnaeus); but the common quail (Tetrao coturnix) is preferred by most commentators. When these birds approach the coast after a long flight over the Red Sea, they are often so exhausted that they rather fall to the ground than settle, and are then easily taken by the hand or killed with sticks. Their flesh is regarded by the natives as a delicacy. Covered the camp - i.e., covered all the ground between the tents in which the Israelites lived in the wilderness. The dew lay. Literally, "there was a layer of dew" - something, i.e., lay on the ground outside the camp which looked like dew, and was in part dew, but not wholly so. Here, in this arid sandy waste, the whole congregation murmured against Moses and Aaron on account of the want of food. What they brought with them from Egypt had been consumed in the 30 days that had elapsed since they came out (Exodus 16:1). In their vexation the people expressed the wish that they had died in Egypt by the flesh-pot, in the midst of plenty, "by the hand of Jehovah," i.e., by the last plague which Jehovah sent upon Egypt, rather than here in the desert of slow starvation. The form ויּלּינוּ is a Hiphil according to the consonants, and should be pointed ילּינוּ, from הלּין for הלין (see Ges. 72, Anm. 9, and Ewald, 114c.). As the want really existed, Jehovah promised them help (Exodus 16:4). He would rain bread from heaven, which the Israelites should gather every day for their daily need, to try the people, whether they would walk in His law or not. In what the trial was to consist, is briefly indicated in Exodus 16:5 : "And it will come to pass on the sixth day (of the week), that they will prepare what they have brought, and it will be double what they gather daily." The meaning is, that what they gathered and brought into their tents on the sixth day of the week, and made ready for eating, would be twice as much as what they gathered on every other day; not that Jehovah would miraculously double what was brought home on the sixth day, as Knobel interprets the words in order to make out a discrepancy between Exodus 16:5 and Exodus 16:22. הכין, to prepare, is to be understood as applying partly to the measuring of what had been gathered (Exodus 16:18), and partly to the pounding and grinding of the grains of manna into meal (Numbers 11:8). In what respect this was a test for the people, is pointed out in Exodus 16:16. Here, in Exodus 16:4 and Exodus 16:5, the promise of God is only briefly noticed, and its leading points referred to; it is described in detail afterwards, in the communications which Moses and Aaron make to the people. In Exodus 16:6, Exodus 16:7, they first tell the people, "At even, then shall ye know that Jehovah hath brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning, then shall ye see the glory of the Lord." Bearing in mind the parallelism of the clauses, we obtain this meaning, that in the evening and in the morning the Israelites would perceive the glory of the Lord, who had brought them out of Egypt. "Seeing" is synonymous with "knowing." Seeing the glory of Jehovah did not consist in the sight of the glory of the Lord which appeared in the cloud, as mentioned in Exodus 16:10, but in their perception or experience of that glory in the miraculous gift of flesh and bread (Exodus 16:8, cf. Numbers 14:22). "By His hearing" (בּשׁמעו), i.e., because He has heard, "your murmuring against Jehovah ("Against Him" in Exodus 16:8, as in Genesis 19:24); for what are we, that ye murmur against us?" The murmuring of the people against Moses and Aaron as their leaders really affected Jehovah as the actual guide, and not Moses and Aaron, who had only executed His will. Jehovah would therefore manifest His glory to the people, to prove to them that He had heard their murmuring. The announcement of this manifestation of God is more fully explained to the people by Moses in Exodus 16:8, and the explanation is linked on to the leading clause in Exodus 16:7 by the words, "when He giveth," etc. Ye shall see the glory of Jehovah, when Jehovah shall give you, etc.
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