This is Numbers 11:31-32:
This isn't the happy event it appears to be; everyone who eats the quail gets plague. Anyway, there's a problem with the sheer number of quail this story involves. It seems the quail are spread over a circle around the camp, with so many that they are piled up about 0.9 meters high. If we conservatively estimate a day's journey to be 8 hours' walk at 5 kilometers per hour, the volume of quail is about 4,500,000,000 cubic meters. Even loosely packed, the number of quail is getting into the trillions. There does seem to be an implausibly large population of quail in the area.
Still. This is one of those miraculous events that occur in the Bible from time to time. One can't really say it's impossible, since if an omnipotent God is actively participating in events, anything is possible. Thus, any number of quail could be created out of thin air, although the story seems to imply that the quail were naturally present on or above the sea.
It's also a completely excessive number given what God is actually trying to do. I can't help but feel that this story is either fictional or greatly exaggerated, and the author simply didn't think it through properly.
I am grateful to Cillian Murphy for suggesting this issue.
Back to errancy.org main index