The ancient writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “There is no new thing under the sun.” It seems that the older I get, the more this statement rings true. This past weekend while reading the Old Testament, I learned that there were game hogs even back in biblical times.
Lithograph entitled, “The Giving of Quail” published in 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company.
As a student of the Bible and a diehard bird hunter, I have always been fascinated by what has often been called, “the Miracle of the Quail.” As you may recall, when the children of Israel were wandering with Moses in the desert, they murmured about missing the “flesh pots” of Egypt. So God miraculously sent them quail and manna. In fact, the quail were numerous enough to literally feed millions.
Depiction of the desert quail encountered by the Israelites.
As a bird hunter, I have always wanted to witness such bounty, if only once. Even better would be if I could do so with my birddogs and my shotgun. However, with such a wish comes a biblical warning.
After a time, the Israelites got tired of eating just manna and again began to complain to Moses, saying “Give us flesh that we may eat.” Following is a miraculous account of what happened:
And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. (Numbers 11:31).
Now that, my friends, is a pile of birds! Rather than take just what they needed, however, many of the Israelites became greedy:
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. (Numbers 11:32).
I did a little research on the measurements quoted in the scripture and according to one source, the smallest catch equaled about 80 to 100 bushels, which is far beyond normal need.
The fact that there was that many quail alone is extraordinary, but what happened to many of the Israelites afterwards because of their greed is even more amazing:
And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague.
And he called the name of the place Kibroth-hattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted. (Numbers 11: 33-34).
The Hebrew term Kibroth-hattaavah literally means “The Graves of Craving” or “The Graves of Lust.”
Now, whether you take this story as literal or figurative, the underlying moral is clear and is equally true today as it ever was, especially for sportsmen. Simply put, game hoggery is not right. We should never harvest more than we need, or more than we can realistically use. Our fish and game is way too precious to waste, so don’t be greedy.
Coturnix Coturnix, or the Common Quail. This is believed to be the very same quail encountered by the Israelites in the desert. Unlike most upland game birds, this bird is highly migatory–even transcontinental–which explains, in part, how the birds were blown in from the sea and rained down on the Israelites. However, the sheer number reported will always be astounding. This could indeed be the largest gathering of upland game birds ever.