We last heard God promising Moses that He would send enough meat for the people to eat for a full month. He also promised that they would be sick of it by the end.
God actually gave the people quail before. In Exodus 16 we see that the night before God provided manna for the first time, He also provided a meal of meat; quail. But this time will be different.
God is true to His word. He would provide a month’s worth of meat for the people. And they would eat it until they were sick of it.
He brought so many birds to the people that they stacked THREE FEET HIGH! We don’t know how wide that stack was but it was enough for the WHOLE camp to come away with more meat than they could possibly eat. My bible helps says that “ten homers” is about 60 bushels (480 dry gallons or 2,200 liters)! And this amount was what the person with the least had. Everyone else collected more. I wonder what the average would have been.
I’m going to say it like it is; there is NO WAY anyone could use that much meat before it spoiled. Even if they dried it and turned it into jerky a lot of it would go bad. So why pick up more than you can use? Greed? Gluttony? Fear? Which one drove the people?
Something else about this “abundant feast”, it was put a day’s journey from camp. I have no doubt that the people could see the birds falling from the sky all around the camp but they had to go on a journey to retrieve this bounty from the Lord. They had to forego the manna provided outside the camp every morning in order to get to their heart’s desire.
It took the people three days to bring these spoils back to camp. One to travel to the birds, one to gather all they wanted, and one to bring it all back to camp. Speaking of gathering and bringing, what did they carry it in? How did they transport suck a HUGE amount of dead birds from where they fell to their cooking pots?
I want to compare the “meals” God provided for His people. The two I want to look at are the manna and the quail. They were both from God. They both were in response to the people’s cry to God. They were both a miracle unheard of anywhere else. And they both required an act on the part of the people to receive in.
God gave instructions to the people regarding the manna. He told the people to only gather what they would need for that day. Anything above that measure rotted. We are not told of any consequences associated with gathering more than you needed that day, or for two days in preparation for the Sabbath.
God didn’t tell the people how much to gather of the quail. He promised Moses that there would be enough meat for the people to eat it for a whole month. But He didn’t say “Gather it all at once because there won’t be any more” or “Only gather enough for a day.” He left that decision up to the people.
The manna was placed just outside the camp each morning. The people had to get up early each morning and gather their portion. It did not last beyond the morning dew. The people couldn’t be lazy and still eat. Neither could they be gluttons with this supply. They would be fed and satiated by this supply.
The quail was placed a day’s journey outside the camp. The people had to want it enough to set out on a journey, including bringing enough containers to carry their “gift” back with them. It took them three days to accomplish this task. This meant foregoing everything else that took place in their day.
God promised the people that the manna would be provided every morning. He told them that every single day, except for the Sabbaths; He would bless them with this gift to sustain them. After a few days I would expect that the people came to count on this and didn’t give any thought to there being a day without it.
Even though God told the people, through Moses, that He would provide for them to have meat for a month, the people didn’t act like they expected Him to keep His word. Maybe they thought this was supposed to stretch that far or maybe they were taking so much because they didn’t trust Him to provide it every day like He did with the manna. Fear had some gathering too much manna in the beginning, now fear was fueling their grab for meat.
The request for food that was answered with manna was a request made out of need. The people had no other food. What they left with had run out and their lifestyle didn’t support farming. They needed food to survive. Moses brought that need to God and He answered it abundantly.
The request for meat was answered with quail was made out of want and longing. The people were not truly starving for meat. They had small portions of it through the sacrifices. They also had enough of it AND manna to keep their bodies healthy. They were discontent with what God had provided. They wanted what the world had to offer.
The final comparison has to do with the result of partaking in these “gifts” from God. With the manna the people were fed on a continual basis. What they ate was tasty It could be made into different dishes that could satisfy the palate. NO ONE ever got sick from eating it!
The quail fell once. It was a rare occurrence and it too could probably be prepared several ways. It might have satisfied the people for a short time but even God said they would get tired of eating only it. And the biggest difference was that it was lethal to those who had started crying out for it to begin with.
I seriously doubt the people ate this “gift” for a whole month. We are told that “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague” (verse 33). “They buried the people who had the craving” (verse 34b). Those who started this whole process and longing within the camp received their just deserts. Their actions and attitudes killed them. Their refusal to accept what God had for them and to be grateful cost them dearly. God gave them enough for a month but His promise of them being sick of it didn’t take long to manifest.
I have a feeling that their departure had as much to do with wanting to put this experience behind them as anything else. The meat probably began to stink because no one would eat it and the graves were a reminder of their sin. I would bet that when time came to leave, everyone was ready for this change.
Father God help me not overlook the gifts that You have provided for my life. I don’t want to go searching for something I honestly can do without when what You have provided is SO much better. Help me KNOW the difference between my “wants” and my “needs.” Sometimes I get them confused. I am grateful for all You have given me!
Was my “lesson” with candy the other day a little like this lesson for the people? Please help me KEEP my lesson and not need a repeat. Also thank You that my consequences were NOTHING in comparison to theirs. Please help me keep my “wants” in check!