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Numbers 11:31-33

Context
Provision of Quail

11:31 Now a wind 1  went out 2  from the Lord and brought quail 3  from the sea, and let them fall 4  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 three feet 5  high on the surface of the ground. 11:32 And the people stayed up 6  all that day, all that night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail. The one who gathered the least gathered ten homers, 7  and they spread them out 8  for themselves all around the camp. 11:33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before they chewed it, 9  the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague.

1 sn The irony in this chapter is expressed in part by the use of the word רוּחַ (ruakh). In the last episode it clearly meant the Spirit of the Lord that empowered the men for their spiritual service. But here the word is “wind.” Both the spiritual service and the judgment come from God.

2 tn The verb means “burst forth” or “sprang up.” See the ways it is used in Gen 33:12, Judg 16:3, 14; Isa 33:20.

3 sn The “quail” ordinarily cross the Sinai at various times of the year, but what is described here is not the natural phenomenon. Biblical scholars looking for natural explanations usually note that these birds fly at a low height and can be swatted down easily. But the description here is more of a supernatural supply and provision. See J. Gray, “The Desert Sojourn of the Hebrews and the Sinai Horeb Tradition,” VT 4 (1954): 148-54.

4 tn Or “left them fluttering.”

5 tn Heb “two cubits.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about eighteen inches (45 cm) in length.

6 tn Heb “rose up, stood up.”

7 sn This is about two thousand liters.

8 tn The verb (a preterite) is followed by the infinitive absolute of the same root, to emphasize the action of spreading out the quail. Although it is hard to translate the expression, it indicates that they spread these quail out all over the area. The vision of them spread all over was evidence of God’s abundant provision for their needs.

9 tn The verb is a prefixed conjugation, normally an imperfect tense. But coming after the adverb טֶּרֶם (terem) it is treated as a preterite.



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