Yahweh's Quail





         Joseph Francis Alward  
            © Copyright 2004 


In this article I compare two descriptions of the rain of quails delivered by the Lord to the Hebrews.  The first is from a Bible skeptic in 1926 who calculated the number of quail per minute each person would have to have gathered, while the second is from a researcher in 1999 who did the same thing, but without acknowledging the pioneering work of the first.




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One of the greatest Bible skeptics of all time was Joseph Wheless, who in 1926 wrote, Is It God's Word.   In Chapter Four of that book,  Wheless 78 years ago described the mathematical impossibilities in the story of Yahweh's quails:

Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction.   All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail.  (Numbers 11:31-32)

As you will see in the table below, Wheless methodically leads the reader through the mathematics, and show us how many square miles, square feet, and cubic feet of quails there must have been, estimates the volume of each quail, calculates how many quails there were, then divides by the number of people and the number of minutes available to gather the quails to calculate how many quails each person would have to have gathered each minute, without resting for 36 hours. 

More than seven decades later, Farrell Till, former Church of Christ minister, and former atheist editor of The Skeptical Review, and owner of the email biblical errancy discussion list, ii-errancy,3  sent a post to his forum in which he led the members through an analysis in which he, too, calculated the number of quails each person would have to have gathered each minute, without resting for 36 hours.  Till did not inform his readers that this analysis had already been done long ago by Wheless, who apparently is the only one on record as having performed it in the 73 years prior to Till's calculation.  

The post I refer to is one Till sent to his errancy forum under the thread name, "Yahweh's Quails," dated Thursday, 20 May 1999. 

Listed below in the table are the parallels between Joseph Wheless's 1926 analysis, and the one Farrell Till's offered—apparently as if it were original work--to his readers 73 years later.  In the left column are words lifted verbatim from Wheless's book, Is It God's Word.  In the right column are words taken from Farrell Till's post to his inerrancy forum.


Readers will note that Till follows the same line of reasoning as did Wheless, except that he uses different estimates of the relevant quantities.





Joseph Wheless (1926)

Farrell Till (1999)

A biblical "day's journey," according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, is 44,815 meters (1 meter is 39.37 inches, or 1.1 yards), which equals 49,010 yards, 27.8 miles

Wheless provides citation.

Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states that
a day's journey was a distance of 20-25
miles and quotes Josephus as a
reference to support this figure (1987,
p. 267).  Note:  Just as Wheless did, Till
opens his argument with a citation about "a
day's journey."

for the sake of a minimum of miracle, and therefore of strain on faith,
Wheless minimizes the miracle.

To give as much benefit of the doubt

as possible to the biblical story,
 Till also minimizes the miracle.

[I will assume] that this stack of quails began close to the four sides of the camp and extended for 27.8 miles in every direction

Uses smaller distance.

I will use the lower estimate of 20 miles
in my calculations
Uses smaller distance, too.

The quails were stacked up "two cubits high" for a distance of "a day's journey round the camp."
Stacked two cubits high over a day's journey.

the quails fell to a depth of two cubits
(about one yard) for a day's journey
Stacked two cubits high over a day's journey.

As to the space occupied, one quail, packed tight by the weight of the mass, might be compressed into about 3 inches of space each way, which would amount to 27 cubic inches of space per quail,
Volume of quail is estimated

A quail is not a large bird, so if one
quail occupied an area 5 inches by 5
inches by 5 inches or 125 cubic inches
   Volume of quail is estimated

4425.76 square miles of quails piled 44 inches high.
Number of square miles, two cubits high

1250 square miles covered with three

feet of quails 

Number of square miles, two cubits high

64 quails to the cubic foot
Number of quails per volume

373 quails in each cubic yard

Number of quails per volume

28,953,902,579,712 quails
Total number of quails

1,155,404,800 quails

Total number of quails

Every soul of the 2,414,200 of the "hosts of Yahveh" therefore had the liberal allowance of 11,993,167 quails
Number of quails for each person

385,000 quails for every man, woman, 
child, and infant in the Israelite horde
[of] 3 million Israelites
Number of quails for each person 

" all that day, and all that night, and all the next day" [is 36 hours]

Assumes sunrise to sunset the next day.

working the entire 36 hours implied in
"all that day and all the night and all the 
next day,"  
Assumes sunrise to sunset the next day.

gather up, each one, 335,366 quails per hour
Quails per hour

gather 10,698 quails per hour
Quails per hour

5589 quails every minute,
Quails per minute

178 quails per minute

Quails per minute

and no time to eat, or sleep, or sacrifice, or die,

Wheless assumes; Bible doesn't say this.

with no time off for rest

Till assumes the same thing Wheless did.



3.  http://lists.topica.com/lists/ii_errancy/read