The Quail – Desire and Slavery

For my Lenten Discipline this year, I’ve decided I’ll be reading (and blogging) about Debbie Blue’s book, Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible. 

The Israelites in the wilderness in Leviticus decided they were tired of manna and started kvetching for meat. God said, “I’ll give you meat,” and thousands of quail blew in on the breeze. They were really happy, except “while the meat was still in their teeth”, they were struck by a plague and a lot of them died.

“Desire is huge and complicated. We long and we lack and our longing and lacking make us create beautiful paintings and poetry: I draws us to one another. We don’t just grow turnips – we desire more, so we grow heirloom tomatoes and spicy basil. We long for something other than processed food so we make organic gardens.”

So here are the Israelites, tired of wandering, and God gives them manna and quail to eat, and they still aren’t satisfied. They’ve been freed from slavery, but they still aren’t satisfied.

All that 40 years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, God was providing for them – bread, meat, and water. Maybe God was trying to get them to let go of the idols they had in Egypt. We are still enslaved to idols.

“I don’t think the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, learning to know God – is mere an item of biblical history. These are stories that help us understand what our lives are like with God. We still wander, we doubt, we wonder if it has been foolish to follow God, because we often find ourselves in the desert. The quail in the Bible are both a sign of God’s extravagant care and a sign that the Israelites’ desires need transforming. We are not exempt from the desert wanderings – but how else would we be transformed?”



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