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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

שלו ,  Exodus 16:13;  Numbers 11:31-32;  Psalms 105:10; a bird of the gallinaceous kind. Hasselquist, mentioning the quail of the larger kind, says, "It is of the size of the turtle dove. I have met with it in the wilderness of Palestine, near the shores of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, between Jordan and Jericho, and in the deserts of Arabia Petrea. If the food of the Israelites was a bird, this is certainly it; being so common in the places through which they passed." It is said that God gave quails to his people in the wilderness upon two occasions: first, within a few days after they had passed the Red Sea,  Exodus 16:3-13 . The second time as at the encampment at the place called in Hebrew, Kibroth-hataavah, the graves of lust,  Numbers 11:32;  Psalms 105:40 . Both of these happened in the spring, when the quails passed from Asia into Europe.

They are then to be found in great quantities upon the coast of the Red Sea and Mediterranean. God caused a wind to arise that drove them within and about the camp of the Israelites; and it is in this that the miracle consists, that they were brought so seasonably to this place, and in so great number as to furnish food for above a million of persons for more than a month. The Hebrew word shalav signifies "a quail," by the agreement of the ancient interpreters. And the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic languages call them nearly by the same name. The Septuagint, Symmachus, and most of commentators, both ancient and modern, understand it in the same manner; and with them agree Philo, Josephus, Apollinaris, and the rabbins; but Ludolphus has endeavoured to prove that a species of locust is spoken of by Moses. Dr. Shaw answers, that the holy psalmist, in describing this particular food of the Israelites, by calling the animals feathered fowls, entirely confutes this supposition. And it should be recollected, that this miracle was performed in compliance with the wish of the people that they might have flesh to eat.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Celaw . The Arabic name is similar, which identifies the quail as meant. Twice miraculously supplied to Israel ( Exodus 16:13;  Numbers 11:31-32).  Psalms 105:40 connects the quail with the Manna , and therefore refers to  Exodus 16:13, the first sending of quails, the psalm moreover referring to God's acts of grace.  Psalms 78:27;  Psalms 78:31, refers to the second sending of quails (Numbers 11) in chastisement ( Psalms 106:14-15). The S.E. wind blew them from the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. Translated "threw them over the camp ... about two cubits above the face of the ground." Wearied with their long flight they flew breast high, and were easily secured by the Israelites.

They habitually fly low, and with the wind. The least gatherer got ten homers' (The Largest Hebrew Measure Of Quantity) full; and "they spread them all abroad for themselves" to salt and dry (Herodotus ii. 77). "Ere the flesh was consumed" (So Hebrew) God's wrath smote them. Eating birds' flesh continually, after long abstinence from flesh, a whole month greedily, in a hot climate predisposed them by surfeit to sickness; God miraculously intensified this into a plague, and the place became Kibroth Hattaavah, "the graves of lust." (See Kibroth Hattaavah The red legged crane's flesh is nauseous, and is not therefore likely to be meant. "At even" the quails began to arrive; so Tristram noticed their arrival from the S. at night in northern Algeria two successive years. Ornithologists designate the quail the Coturnix Dactylisonans (From Its Shrill Piping Cry) .

Webster's Dictionary [3]

(1): ( n.) A prostitute; - so called because the quail was thought to be a very amorous bird.

(2): ( n.) Any one of numerous species of Turnix and allied genera, native of the Old World, as the Australian painted quail (Turnix varius). See Turnix.

(3): ( n.) Any one of several American partridges belonging to Colinus, Callipepla, and allied genera, especially the bobwhite (called Virginia quail, and Maryland quail), and the California quail (Calipepla Californica).

(4): ( v. i.) To curdle; to coagulate, as milk.

(5): ( n.) Any gallinaceous bird belonging to Coturnix and several allied genera of the Old World, especially the common European quail (C. communis), the rain quail (C. Coromandelica) of India, the stubble quail (C. pectoralis), and the Australian swamp quail (Synoicus australis).

(6): ( v. i.) To die; to perish; hence, to wither; to fade.

(7): ( v. i.) To become quelled; to become cast down; to sink under trial or apprehension of danger; to lose the spirit and power of resistance; to lose heart; to give way; to shrink; to cower.

(8): ( v. t.) To cause to fail in spirit or power; to quell; to crush; to subdue.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

selav. This is generally believed to have been the common quail, the coturnix vulgaris. It migrates, but is so tired when it arrives at its destination that it is easily captured. They are still called salwah by the Arabs. Scripture speaks of their being brought with the wind, and this agrees with their habits; they do not seem to be able to fly against the wind, and therefore wait for a favourable breeze. They were twice provided in abundance for the Israelites. The statement about the birds being "two cubits high upon [or above] the face of the earth" ( Numbers 11:31 ) doubtless refers to the height they flew when tired; and this corresponds with the way in which they are still caught, namely, by a number of persons enclosing them in a ring and gradually drawing closer to the centre, when the birds would be crowded together in their endeavour to escape. Thousands have been caught in a day in modern times.  Exodus 16:13;  Numbers 11:31,32;  Psalm 105:40 .

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Quail ( sëlâw ,   Exodus 16:13 ,   Numbers 11:31 f.,   Psalms 105:40 ). This bird ( Coturnix communis ), the smallest of the partridge family, migrates annually from Africa to Europe, crossing the Sinaitic peninsula and Palestine en route  ; it reaches the latter about March. It migrates in vast numbers, always flying with the wind, and often settling, after a long flight, especially across the sea, in such an exhausted condition as to be easy of capture. The flesh is fatty, and apt to disagree if taken to excess, especially if inefficiently preserved.

E. W. G. Masterman.

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 Exodus 16:13 Numbers 11:31-32 Psalm 105:40

The quails mentioned in the OT differ from the North American bobwhite quails. Besides being migratory, the quails of the Bible are mottled brown in color and are smaller than the bobwhite quails. The quails mentioned in the OT have short wings and weak powers of flight.

Janice Meier

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [7]

kwāl ( שׂלו , selāw  ; ὀρτυγομήτρα , ortugomḗtra  ; Latin Coturnix vulgaris ): A game bird of the family Coturnix , closely related to "partridges" (which see). Quail and partridges are near relatives, the partridge a little larger and of brighter color. Quail are like the gray, brown and tan of earth. Their plumage is cut and penciled by markings, and their flesh juicy and delicate food. Their habits are very similar. They nest on the ground and brood on from 12 to 20 eggs. The quail are more friendly birds and live in the open, brooding along roads and around fields. They have a longer, fuller wing than the partridge and can make stronger flight. In Palestine they were migratory. They are first mentioned in   Exodus 16:13 : "And it came to pass at even, that the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the camp." This describes a large flock in migration, so that they passed as a cloud.   Numbers 11:31-33 : "And there went forth a wind from Yahweh, and brought quail from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth. And the people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp"; compare   Psalm 78:26-30 :

"He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens;

And by his power he guided the south wind.

He rained flesh also upon them as the dust,

And winged birds as the sand of the seas:

And he let it fall in the midst of their camp,

Round about their habitations.

So they did eat, and were well filled;

And he gave them their own desire."

Again the birds are mentioned in migration. Those that fell around the camp and the bread that was sent from heaven are described in  Psalm 105:39-42 . Commentators have had trouble with the above references. They cause the natural historian none - they are so in keeping with the location and the laws of Nature. First the Hebrew selāw means "to be fat." That would be precisely the condition of the quail after a winter of feeding in the South. The time was early spring, our April, and the quail were flocking from Africa and spreading in clouds - even to Europe. They were birds of earth, heavy feeders and of plump, full body. Migration was such an effort that when forced to cross a large body of water they always waited until the wind blew in the direction of their course, lest they tire and fall. Their average was about 16 birds to each nest. If half a brood escaped, they yet multiplied in such numbers as easily to form clouds in migration. Pliny writes of their coming into Italy in such numbers, and so exhausted with their long flight, that if they sighted a sailing vessel they settled upon it by hundreds and in such numbers as to sink it. Taking into consideration the diminutive vessels of that age and the myriads of birds, this does not appear incredible. Now compare these facts with the text. Israelites were encamped on the Sinai Peninsula. The birds were in migration. The quail followed the Red Sea until they reached the point of the peninsula where they selected the narrowest place, and when the wind was with them they crossed the water. Not far from the shore arose the smoke from the campfires of the Israelites. This bewildered them, and, weary from their journey, they began to settle in confused thousands over and around the camp. Then the Israelites arose and, with the ever-ready "throw sticks," killed a certain number for every soul of the camp and spread the bodies on the sand to dry, just as Herodotus (ii. 77) records that the Egyptians always had done (see Rawlinson, Herodotus , II, for an illustration of catching and drying quail). Nature and natural history can account for this incident, with no need to call in the miraculous.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [8]

Quail occurs in;; . Quails form a subdivision of the Tetraonidæ, or grouse family, being distinguished from partridges by their smaller size, finer bill, shorter tail, and the want of a red naked eyebrow and of spurs on the legs. There are several species, whereof the common, now distinguished by the name of Coturnix dactylisonans, is abundant in all the temperate regions of Europe and Western Asia, migrating to and from Africa in the proper season.

Of a bird so well known no figure or further particular description appears to be necessary, beyond mentioning the enormous flights which, after crossing an immense surface of sea, are annually observed at the spring and fall to take a brief repose in the islands of Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Crete, in the kingdom of Naples, and about Constantinople, where on those occasions there is a general shooting-match, which lasts two or three days. The providential nature of their arrival within and around the camp of the Israelites, in order that they might furnish meat to a murmuring people, appears from the fact of its taking place where it was not to be expected: the localities, we presume, being out of the direction of the ordinary passage; for, had this not been the case, the dwellers in that region, and the Israelites themselves, accustomed to tend their flocks at no great distance from the spot, would have regarded the phenomenon as a well-known periodical occurrence.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Quail'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/q/quail.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.