Here's a synopsis of the Exodus 16 account:
The Israelites travel to the wilderness of Sin on the 15th day of the second month after departing Egypt. The whole congregation of the children of Israel complains against Moses and Aaron because of their hunger, saying how they remember the flesh-pots of Egypt. God tells Moses that He is going to rain down bread from heaven and on the people will have to gather a double portion. This will be a test to see if the people will keep His law. Moses and Aaron say that their complaints are against God and not them. Moses has Aaron tell the people that God has heard their complaints and the people see God's glory in the clouds. At night quails come up and cover the camp. In the morning there is a layer of dew and when it evaporates, there is the manna (a fine, scale-like thing.) Everyone is told to gather an omer. Some gather more, some less, but when they measure, it is an omer. They aren't supposed to leave any over to the morning; when they do it gets wormy and rots and Moses gets angry. On the sixth day they gather two omers each - Moses tells them tomorrow is the Sabbath - and the double portion doesn't rot. Some people go to gather it on the Sabbath and don't find any - God responds that the people aren't keeping the commandments. The people give it the name "mann". It looks like coriander seed, is white, and tastes like wafers made with honey. Moses tells Aaron to store away an omer for all generations. "The children of Israel ate manna forty years until they came to the borders of Canaan." [Obviously an indication that this section was written long after the fact]. An omer is 1/10 of an ephah.
And now the Numbers 11 account:
The people complain. God gets angry and his fire consumes the edge of the camp. The people cry, Moses prays, the fire stops. The place is called Taberah ("burning"), because God's fire burned them. The mixed multitude crave meat and the children of Israel also weep. They recall the fish and veggies from Egypt and they have nothing to eat but manna. The manna is like coriander seed, and has a pearl-like luster. The people gather it, grind it up, cook it and make cakes. It tastes like cake baked with oil. The dew falls upon the camp at night, and the manna falls on the dew. Moses hears the people weeping; God gets angry and Moses is displeased. He complains to God: "These people are too much of a burden. Where am I going to get meat? Please kill me God!" God says to gather 70 elders and He will give them some of the spirit that is on Moses. He says that the people will get flesh not only tomorrow, but for a whole month until it is coming out of their nostrils and is loathsome. This is a punishment for rejecting God. Moses says, God, how are you going to feed 600,000? God says, no problem, I'm God. Short interlude of the Elders, Eldad, and Medad prophesying. A wind brings in quails from the sea; they are flapping around all over the camp for a distance of one day's journey on each side. The people gather large amounts of quail, and are afflicted with a plague while the meat is still between their teeth. The place is called Kivroth HaTaavah ("Graves of Craving"), because there they buried the people that craved. They then journey to Chazterot.
Note that although the events of each story are similar, the themes are quite different. The Exodus account uses the story of the manna to convey important lessons regarding the Sabbath, trusting in God, etc. The Numbers account goes into great detail regarding the despair that Moses felt and how some of his burden was relieved by granting others the power of prophecy.
Here is a chart that summarizes the two accounts of "the Manna and the Quail".
|Exodus 16||Numbers 11|
|When||Iyar, 1st year||Nisan, 2nd year (Numbers 9,10)|
|Protagonist(s)||Moses and Aharon||Moses|
|Who Complained||All Israel||First mixed multitude, then Bnai Israel|
|The Complaint||They wanted meat||They wanted meat|
|What The People Remembered||Meat in Egypt||Fish & veggies in Egypt|
|God's Reaction to the Complaints||He'll give them manna||Very angry|
|What God Said They'd Get||Meat & bread||Meat (they've already been eating bread/manna)|
|When The Manna Came||With morning dew||Fell with dew at night|
|The Manna Looked Like||White coriander seed||Coriander seed, pearl-like or resinous|
|The Manna Tasted Like||Wafers made with honey||Cake baked with oil|
|When the Quail Came||At night||Wind blew them in during the morning|
|After Eating the Quail||Nothing mentioned||The people died as a result of eating it|
|God Gets Angry Because||People were gathering manna on Sabbath||People were complaining|
|Mose's Reaction to the Complaints||"People are Complaining Against God"||He despairs from the burden|
|Sabbath||Central Theme||Nothing mentioned|
|Prophecy of Elders||Nothing mentioned||Central Theme|
I had never before seen this mentioned in my readings on various theories of the Torah's multiple authorship and it hit me like a lead pipe: of course these are two variants of the same story! It is so obvious; complaints about wanting meat and remembering Egypt, the quail that God then provides, the description of the manna's appearance and taste. But I wasn't so naive to think that this was my own chiddush - scholars must have noticed this before. And, indeed, a web search quickly showed me that this was the case. But the real shocker were the links that mentioned the 12th century commentator, R. Joseph ben Isaac, otherwise known as the Bekhor Shor. A French tosafist and a student of Rabbeinu Tam and the Rashbam, R. Isaac "noted that a number of wilderness narratives in Exodus and Numbers are very similar, in particular, the incidents of water from the rock, and the stories about manna and the quail. He theorized that both of these incidents actually happened once, but that parallel traditions about these events eventually developed, both of which made their way into the Torah."
A Rishon who admitted to a multiple authorship theory?? Now when an OrthoFundie challenges me I no longer have to rely only on the authority of James Kugel!