(שׂלָו [Keri, שׂלָיו].selv; Sept. ὀρτυγομήτρα; Vulg. coturnix) occurs in Ex 14:13; Nu 11:31-32; Ps 105:40, where it is mentioned as food of the Israelites while they were in the desert. According to Schultens (Orig. Heb. i, 231), the Hebrew שׂלָו is derived from an Arabic root "to be fat." The round, plump form of the quail is eminently suitable to this etymology; indeed, its fatness is proverbial. Josephus (Ant. 3, 1, 5), too, expressly names the bird referred to here ortyx, ὄρτυξ. In fact, the Hebrew word שׂלָיו is unquestionably identical with the Arabic salwa, a "quail." Nevertheless, various opinions have been held as to the nature of the food denoted by the Hebrew seldv, which on two distinct occasions was supplied to the Israelites in the wilderness (see Ex 16:13, on which occasion the people were between Sin and Sinai; and Nu 11:31-32, when at the station named, in consequence of the ju(dgment which befell them, Kibroth-hattaavah). Ludolf, for instance, an author of high repute, has endeavored to show that the selav were locusts (see hi is Disse-tatio de Locustis, cum Diatribau, etc. [Franc. ad Moen. 1694]). His opinion has been fully aldvocated and adopted by Patrick (Comment. on Nu 11:31-32). The Jews in Arabia also, as we learn from Niebuhr (Beschreib. von Amab. p. 172), "are convinced that the birds which the Israelites ate in such numbers were only clouds of locusts, and they laugh at those translators who suppose that they found quails where quails were never seen." Rudbeck (Ichthyol. Bibl. Spec. i) has argued in favor of the selav meaning "flying-fish," some species of the genus Exocetus. Michaelis at one time held the same opinion, but afterwards properly abandoned it (see Rosenmuller. Not. ad Bochart, Hieroz. ii, 649). A later writer, Ehrenberg (Geograph. Zeitschr. 9:85), from having observed a number of "flying-fish" (gurnards, of the genus Trigla of Oken, Dactylopterus of modern ichthyologists) lying dead on the shore near Elim, believed that this was the food of the Israelites in the wilderness, and named the fish Triglac Israelitarum. Hermann von der Hardt supposed that the locust bird (Patstor roseus) was intended by seladv; and recently Mr. Forster (Voice of Israel, p. 98) has advanced an opinion that "red geese" of the genus Casalrca are to be understood by the Hebrew term. A similar explanation has been suggested by Stanley (S. and P. p. 82) and adopted by Tennent (Ceylon, i, 487, note): this is apparently an old conceit, for Patrick (on Nu 11:31) alludes to such an expianation. Some writers, while they hold that the original word denotes "quails," are of opinion that a species of sand-grouse (Pterncles alchata). frequent in the Bible lands, is also included under the term (see Rosenmuller [Not. ad -Hieroz. ii, 649], Faber [in Harmar, ii, 442], and Gesenius [Thesaur. s.v. שׂלָו]). It is usual to refer to Hasselquist as the authority for believing that the Kata (sand-grouse) is denoted: this traveller, however, was rather inclined to believe, with some of the writers named above, that "locusts," and not birds, are to be understood (p. 443); and it is difficult to make out what he means by Tetrao Israelitarum. Linnaeus supposed he intended by it the common "quail." In one paragraph he states that the Arabians call a bird "of a grayish color and less than our partridge" by the name of Kattta. He adds "An Selaw?" This cannot be the Pterocles alchata. The view taken by Ludolf may be dismissed with a very few words. The expression in Ps 78:27, of "feathered fowl" (עוŠ כנŠ), which is used in reference to the selav, clearly denotes some bird, and Ludolf quite fails to prove that it may include winged insects. Again, there is not a shadow of evidence to support the opinion that selav can ever signify any "locust," this term being used in the Arabic and the cognate languages to denote a "quail." As to any species of "flying-fish," whether belonging to the genus Dactylopterus or to that of Exocetus, being intended, it will be enough to state that "fling-fish" are quite unable to sustain their flight above a few hundred yards at the most, and never could have been taken in the Red Sea in numbers sufficient to supply the Israelitish host. The interpretation of selav by "wild geese" or "wild cranes," or any wild fowl," is a gratuitous assumption without a particle of evidence in its favor. The Casorca, with which Mr. Forster identifies the selav, is the C. rutila, a bird of about the size of a mallard, which can by no means answer the supposed requisite of standing three feet high from the ground. "The large red-legged cranes" of which Prof. Stanley speaks are evidently white storks (Ciconia alba), and would fulfil the condition as to height; but the flesh is so nauseous that no Israelite could ever have done more than have tasted it. With respect to the Pterocles calchata, neither it, nor indeed any other species of the genus, agrees with the Scriptural account of the seldav. The sand-grouse is a bird of strong wing and of unwearied flight, and never could have been captured in any numbers by the Israelitish multitudes. It is at all times a tenant of the wilderness far from water, and, strictly taken, is perhaps not a clean bird, all the species subsisting, for the most part, on larvae, beetles, and insects. We much question. moreover, whether the people would have eaten to excess — for so much the expression translated "fully satisfied" (Ps 78:29) implies — of the flesh of this bird, for, according to the testimony of travellers, from Dr. Russell (History of Aleppo [2d ed.], ii, 194) down to observers of to-day, the flesh of the sand-grouse is hard and tasteless. The ὀρτυγομήτρα, or "quail-mother," of the Sept. should not be passed over without a brief notice. It is not easy to determine what bird is intended by this term as used by Aristotle and Pliny (ortygometra). According to the account given of this bird bv the Greek and Latin writers on natural history just mentioned, the ortygometra precedes the quail in its migrations, and acts as a sort of leader to the flight. Some ornithologists, as Belon and Fleming (Brit. Anim. p. 98) have assigned this term to the "land-rail" (Crex pratensis), the Roi des Cailles of the French, Re di Quaglie of the Italians, and the Wachtelkonig of the Germans, but with what reason we are unable to say. Probably the Sept. uses the term as a synonym of ὄρτυξ, or to express the good condition in which the birds were, for Hesychius explains ὀρτυγομήτρα by ὄρτυξ ὑπερμεγέθης, i.e. "a quail of large size." SEE PARTRIDGE.
The objections which have been urged by Patrick and others against "quails" being intended are very easily refuted. The expression "as it were two cubits [high] upon the face of the earth" (Nu 11:31) is explained by the Sept., by the Vulg., and by Josephus ( Ant. 3, 1, 5) to refer to the height at which the quails flew above the ground, in their exhausted condition from their long flight. As to the enormous quantities which the least successful Israelite is said to have taken (viz. "ten homers") in the space of a night and two days, there is every reason for believing that the "homers" here spoken of do not denote strictly the measure of that name, but simply "a heap;" this is the explanation given by Onkelos and the Arabic versions of Saadias and Erpenius in Nu 11:31. Indeed, the inspired historian has himself shown that a complete covering of the ground with a compact mass is out of the question. For he has informed us that the people "spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp." This was in order to dry them in the sun for keeping, and it would require to be performed before decormposition had begun to set in; therefore the ground about the camp was free and clean for the drying process, which could not have been if it had been covered a yard deep with birds, twenty bushels to the square yard. As it was, however, the store they collected in thirty-six hours lasted them for a whole month. The bodies, after having been split and cleansed, may have been simply dried in the sun without any antiseptic; for desiccation having once taken place, which a few hours of sunshine would be sufficient to accomplish, the stock would be preserved in the arid climate of the desert for an indlefinite period. Thus the flesh of animals taken in hunting is simply sun-dried in South Africa, and thus the stock-fish of the Norwegians is prepared from the cod, without salt. It is possible that a portion of the preserved meat may have been salted. The Egyptians used a large quantity of salt provisions, particularly fish and fowl; and the processes of splitting and salting geese are well depicted in the paintings of the tombs. The Hebrews would thus be sufficiently familiar with the art; and we know, from the ordinances concerning sacrifice (Le 2:13), that they carried salt with them. But that they had, or could on the spur of the occasion procure, salt enough for the curing of a hundred millions of bushels of quails (allowing twenty millions to have been consumed in the fresh state), is altogether improbable. A comparatively small quantity may have been so preserved, but the bulk was doubtless simply sun-dried. The Egyptians similarly prepared these birds (see Herodotus [ii, 77], and Maillet [Lettres sur L'Egypte, 9:21; 4:130]). SEE EXODE.
Quails form a subdivision of the Tetraonidae, or grouse family, being distinguished from partridges by their smaller size, finer bill. shorter tail, and the want of a red naked eyebrow and of spurs on the legs. There are several species, whereof the common, now distinguished by the name of Coturnix dactylisonans, is abundant in all the temperate regions of Europe and Western Asia, migrating to and from Africa in the proper season. Thus it crosses the Mediterranean and Black seas twice a year in vast multitudes; but being by nature a bird of heavy flight, the passage is partially conducted by way of intermediate islands or through Spain, and inl the East. in still greater numbers, along the Syrian desert into Arabia, forming, especially at the spring season, innumerable flocks. This quail, the only species of the genus known to migrate, has, in fact, a very wide geographical range, being found in China, India, the Cape of Good Hope, and England, and, according to Temminck, in Japan (see Col. Sykes's paper on The Quails and Hempodii of India [Trans. of Zool. Soc. vol. ii]). Enormous flights of this bird, after crossing( an immense surface of sea, are annually observed at the spring and fall to take a brief repose in the islands of Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Crete, in the kingdom of Naples, and about Constantinople, where on those occasions there is a general shooting-match, which lasts two or three days. This always occurs in the autumn. The birds, starting from the Crimea about seven at night, and with a northerly wind, before dawn accomplish a passage of above sixty leagues in breadth, and alight on the southern shore to feed and repose. In the vernal season the direction of the flight is reversed, and thev arrive in similar condition on tIhe Russian coast. The same phenomena occur at Malta. etc.; and as gregarious birds of passage are known to guide their course by given landmarks, which they distinguish with unerring precision, and which, unless they have been driven out of their usual direction by storms of wind, they invariablv arrive at or over before they take a newv flight, sou also quails congregate in Arabia in numbers proportionate to the surface of Western Asia, whither they are proceeding. The providential nature of their arrival withiln and around the camp of the Israelites, in order that they might furnish meat to a murmuring people, appears from the fact of its taking place where it was not to be expected; the localities, we presume, being out of the direction of the ordinary passage; for, had this not been the case, the dwellers in that region, and the Israelites themselves, accustomed to tend their flocks at no great distance from the spot, would have regarded the phenomenon as a well-known periodical occurrence. Aristotle (Anima. 8:14) mentions the habit; and Pliny (Hist. Nat. 10:23) states that they sometimes alight on vessels in the Mediterranean and sink them! Belon found quails alight in autumn onn a vessel bound from Rhodes to Alexandria; they were passing from the north to the south, and had wheat in their craws. In the preceding spring, sailing from Zante to the Morea, he saw flights of quails going from south northwards. Buffon relates that M. le Commandant Godelun saw quails constantly passing Malta during certain winds in May, and repassing in September; and that they flew by night. Tornefort (Voyage, i, 329) says that all the islands of the Archipelago at certain seasons of the year are covered with these birds. Col. Syles states that such quantities wiere once caught in Capri, near Naples, as to have afforded the bishop no small share of his revenue, and that in consequence he has been called Bishop of Quails. The same writer mentions also (Trans. Zool. Soc. l. ii) that 160,000 quails have been netted in one season on this little island. M. Temminck says that in spring such prodigious numbers of quails alight on the western shores of the kingdom of Naples, about Nettuno. that one hundred thousand are taken in a day (Yarrell, Brit. Birds [2d ed.], ii, 404). It is interesting to note the time specified: "it was at even" that they began to arrive; and they, no doubt continued to come all the night. Many observers have recorded that the quail migrates by night, though this is denied by Col. Montagu (Ornithol. Dict. s.v.). "On two successive years I observed enormous flights of quails on the north coast of Algeria, which arrived from the south in the night, and were at daybreak in such numbers through the plains that scores of sportsmen had only to shoot as fast as they could reload" (H. B. Tristram). When the numbers, however, are very great, and the distance to be achieved remote, we can lwell imagine that both day and night would be spent on the wing, as on the second occasion recorded in the sacred text. The expression "quails from the sea" (Nu 11:31) must not be restricted to denote that the birds came from the sea as their starting-point, but it must be taken to show the direction from which they were coming. The quails were, at the time of the event narrated in the sacred writings, on their spring journey of migration northwards, an interesting proof, as Col. Sykes has remarked, of the perpetuation of all instinct through some 3300 years; the flight which fed the multitudes at Kibrothhattaavah might have started from Southern Egypt and crossed the Red Sea near Ras Mohammed, and so up the gulf of Akabah into Arabia Petra. The Israelites would have had little difficulty in capturing large quantities of these birds, as they are known to arrive at places sometimes so completely exhausted by their flight as to be readily taken, not in nets only, but by the hand. See Diod. Sic. (i, 82 [ed. Dindorf]), Prosper Alpinus (Rerum Egypt. 4:1), and Josephus (Ant. iii, 5). Sykes (l.c.) says "they arrive in spring on the shores of Provence so fatigued that for the first few days they allow themselves to be taken by the hand." Diodorus tells us (i, 60) that the inhabitants of Rhinocolura, a town on the border of Palestine and Egypt, placecd long nets made of split reeds along the shore a length of many furlongs, in which the quails were arrested thatLhad crossed the sea in flocks; and that they then preserved them for future subsistence. In the northern parts of Persia and Armenia, according to Morier, quails are taken in great abundance, and with great ease, with the simplest possible machinery. The men stick two poles in their girdles, on which poles they so stretch a coat or a pair of trousers that the sleeves or the legs shall project like the horns of a beast. Thus disguised, they prowl about the fields with a hand-net, and the quails, simply supposing the strange object to be a horned beast, and therefore harmless to them, allow him to approach, till he throws the net over them. Rude as such a contrivance seems, the Persians catch quails thus with astonishing rapidity (Second Journey, p. 343). The flesh of the quail, though of an agreeable quality, is said by some writers to be heating, and it has been supposed by some that the deaths that occurred from eating the food in the wilderness resulted partly from these birds feeding on hellebore (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 10:23) and other poisonous plants; but this is exceedingly improbable, although the immoderate gratification of the appetite for the space of a whole month (Nu 11:20) on such food, in a hot climate, and in the case of a people who at the time of the wanderings rarely tasted flesh, might have induced dangerous symptoms. "The plague" seems to have been directly sent upon the people by God as a punishment for their murmurings, and perhaps is not even in a subordinate sense to be attributed to natural causes. See, in general, Bochart, lieroz. ii, 648 sq.; Bartlett, Forty Days in the Desert, p. 40; Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 229; Wood, Bible Animals, p. 430 sq.; Bible Educator; i, 157, 250; iii, 88.