Where are Those Quail-Stuffed Nostrils? Where is Moses-Strikes-a-Rock and God-Gets-Mad?

Where are Those Quail-Stuffed Nostrils? Where is Moses-Strikes-a-Rock and God-Gets-Mad?
Exodus 16 plus Numbers 11. Exodus 17 plus Numbers 20.

If you weren’t goofing off in Sunday School classes, or otherwise have a cursory knowledge of Old Testament Bible stories, you will likely recall these two stories:

The first is the account of huge flocks of quail descending on the camp of ungrateful, complaining Israelite wanderers, with the result that — by God’s hand — the ungrateful people consume so much quail meat that their nostrils become stuffed with meat. This quail story is somehow, you will recall, intermingled with the miracle of God’s provision of manna to eat. Manna every day. For forty years.

The second is the account of Moses striking a rock with a stick to get water for those same ungrateful, complaining Israelite wanderers. In this story, we are puzzled because God reprimands Moses for something, it seems, regarding the manner in which he strikes the rock. For this, God punishes Moses by not allowing him to enter the promised land.

Our Bible Bits asks you to find these two stories.

Rudolf von Ems, Israelites Catching Quail. About 1250, Austria. Getty Museum.
Rudolf von Ems, Moses Striking Water from the Rock. About 1250, Austria. Getty Museum.

These come of course in the Book of Exodus. These are events happening during the forty year wandering of the nascent Hebrew nation in the desert wilderness, and so, of course, let’s find them in the second book of the Hebrew scriptures.

The quail story comes in Exodus 16, and the water-from-a-rock and God-gets-mad story follows in Exodus 17. Of course they do. At least we think so. Here:

Exodus 16, KJV: 1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which [is] between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. 2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: 3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, [and] when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. 4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. 5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare [that] which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. 6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: 7 And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what [are] we, that ye murmur against us? 8 And Moses said, [This shall be], when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat,

Other translations use “meat” instead of “flesh.” This is a reference to the quail.

and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what [are] we? your murmurings [are] not against us, but against the LORD. 9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. 10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh,

In the evening tomorrow, here come the quail.

and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I [am] the LORD your God. 13 And it came to pass,

Here it comes:

that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. 14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness [there lay] a small round thing, [as] small as the hoar frost on the ground. 15 And when the children of Israel saw [it], they said one to another, It [is] manna: for they wist not what it [was]. And Moses said unto them, This [is] the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. 16 This [is] the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man,

Okay. Where’s the bit about nostrils being stuffed with quail? Our passage in Exodus 16 is now going to go on and on about the bread, manna.

[according to] the number of your persons; take ye every man for [them] which [are] in his tents. 17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18 And when they did mete [it] with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. 19 And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. 20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. 21 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. 22 And it came to pass, [that] on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one [man]: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them, This [is that] which the LORD hath said, To morrow [is] the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake [that] which ye will bake [to day], and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. 25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day [is] a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, [which is] the sabbath, in it there shall be none.

Where’s the rest of the quail meat story? There’s nothing but manna here.

27 And it came to pass, [that] there went out [some] of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. 28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? 29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. 31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it [was] like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it [was] like wafers [made] with honey. 32 And Moses said, This [is] the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. 33 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. 34 As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. 36 Now an omer [is] the tenth [part] of an ephah.

And that is the end of that. The Exodus account of quail occurs here in chapter 16 and that is that. There is a brief mention of quail. The Hebrew sojourners receive one evening of quail but forty continuing years of manna. The quail arrive and are consumed without further comment.

Where is the rest of the story of an angry God stuffing Hebrew nostrils with quail meat?

Next is our God-gets-angry-with-Moses over his striking-of-the-rock story. This is provided in Exodus 17. Of course it is. At least we think so:

Exodus 17, KJV: 1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and [there was] no water for the people to drink. 2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink.

Those ungrateful people are thirsty and demand water now!

And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD? 3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore [is] this [that] thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? 4 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me. 5 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it,

God instructs Moses to use his special stick to strike a special rock, from which water will then pour. And Moses does just this.

that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us, or not? 8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

Okay. The story now changes to some battle involving the special stick.

10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands [were] heavy; and they took a stone,

Wait! What happened to the bit about God being angry with Moses? Where is the bit about Moses not striking the rock properly? Where is the bit of God telling Moses that he shall never enter the promised land?

and put [it] under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. 14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this [for] a memorial in a book, and rehearse [it] in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. 15 And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: 16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn [that] the LORD [will have] war with Amalek from generation to generation.

We assure you, this is all the Book of Exodus has to say regarding the Moses-strikes-the-rock and God-gets-mad story.

And so, where is the quail-stuffed-nostrils story? Where is the Moses-strikes-a-rock and God-gets-mad story?

We leave this question for you to answer yourself.

Okay, no we won’t.

The two accounts of our Bible Bits interest occur in the Book of Numbers, in chapter 11 (quail) and chapter 20 (water from a rock). Both Exodus and Numbers cover the (a?) quail story and both cover the (a?) water-rock story.

So please go read Numbers 11 and 20, and ask yourself, for each event of interest, whether these two accounts are of the same event or of two separate events. Consider also the literary/doctrinal motivations for Moses and any other writers to portray the quail and water-rock events as done in the two Bible books.

If you choose to comment on this post, please cite and quote some good ol’ scripture, pull from good commentaries, and focus narrowly on our topic. 🙂

God’s blessings to you!

We encourage you to read the actual Bible for yourself. By reading the actual Bible for yourself (again and again and again) you will come upon these little nuances and gaps in your knowledge picked up in old Sunday School lessons and the like.

We are currently reading Exodus, and ourselves wondered where the juicy bits of each event went, as they certainly weren’t in our readings of Exodus.

The Bible is fascinating! We love the Lord God who provides it to us! And we are grateful for the teams of translators who labored to provide to us readable translations in (in our case) English!

Blessings! God’s blessings!