Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. (Numbers 11:31)
In response to the congregation’s craving for meat, God promised to give them meat for thirty days — not because He was pleased to do it but because He intended to make a point and teach them a lesson. When someone promises to grant your wish until its coming out your nose, its probable that they are upset with you about what you are wishing for. In this case, they were basically accusing God of not being able to provide for them as Pharaoh and Egypt had once done. That is why I believe the text was clear to state that the quail came from the direction of “the sea.”
The sea in question was, no doubt, the sea they had crossed when the waters were peeled back to make a path for them as they fled Egypt. In other words, the quail came from the direction of Egypt, perhaps originating in Egypt itself. Moreover, God made it easy for them — the quail, no doubt exhausted from a long flight, weren’t able to get above 2 cubits off the ground, meaning they could be netted easily. And so it was, as the birds became entangled in the people’s nets, the people became ensnared in their own lusts. As a result, a plague broke out in the camp killing the instigators instantly while the meat was still in their teeth. Everyone else ate this quail until it was loathsome to them.
On one hand, God demonstrated that He could easily provide for their needs, but the point truly being made was, because they lusted after Egypt and what it had to offer, God gave them exactly what they wanted. However, He gave them what they wanted to teach them it was not what they needed. In later years, their descendants would cry out for a king in order to be like the rest of the nations. In response, God gave them Saul — things didn’t turn out so well then either. And so we must be careful what we ask for — we just might get it and when we do, we might wish we had not asked for it. Better to trust Him to make the decision about what we need so that, in the end, we benefit and prosper.
Blessings and Shalom,