There’s so much that’s unbelievable about this passage that I don’t know where to begin!
I guess we can start by pointing out that this bears a striking resemblance to the first time the Israelites complained and God gave them quails. This new story isn’t exactly creative. Next, we should probably address the mathematical problem here. The bible says that everyone who gathered meat picked up no less that 10 homers of birds, which is about 60 bushels. Let’s convert this unit into one we’re familiar with, the liquid gallon (I apologize to my readers who use the sensible metric system). The bible is saying that everyone who gathered quails gathered about 559 gallons of them! And since they’ve been meat-starved for two years, you can expect that every capable person was gathering birds. With 3 million people, this comes to around 1.7 billion gallons of meat. Quails are small, so if we assume 15 birds to a gallon, we come to about 25 billion birds, or 8,385 per person!
But that’s just how many were collected. Numbers 11:31-34 tells us that the quail corpses were a meter deep for an entire day’s walk in all directions. Assuming an average walking speed of 5 km/h, and 24 hours with which to walk, we have a circle with a 120 km radius. Converting to meters gives us a cylinder 1 meter deep with a 120,000 m radius. The volume of such a cylinder is over 45 billion cubic meters, or about 12 trillion gallons. Once again, using 15 quails to a gallon, we come to a total of 179 trillion birds, or as I like to call it, extinction.
Of course, there is no possible way the Israelites could eat that many birds. Let’s say the Israelites had some highly advanced preservation techniques and were able to keep the meat safely preserved in the desert for an entire year. Let’s also assume that each person ate a whopping 10 quails a day, every day for that full year (3,650 quails per person!). Even then, we’re only looking at a total consumption of 11 billion quails, which means over half of what they gathered was wasted, but more importantly, God killed about 178.9 trillion quails too many! It’s almost as if he doesn’t care!
Anyway, as soon as the Israelites began to chew the meat, God sends them an unspecified plague and kills an untold number of them! Wow, talk about double jeopardy! They get murdered for asking for food, and they get murdered for eating it once it’s given to them! Why does it always seem like the Israelites’ biggest enemy is God?
So, after being buried in quails, the surviving Israelites named the location Kibroth-hattaavah, which means, “graves of lust.” You’ll probably be shocked to know that archaeologists have never found any evidence in the Sinai Peninsula for a massive quail extinction.