Moses strikes the rock (Numbers 20:1-13)

Moses strikes the rock (Numbers 20:1-13)

After leaving Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. Dying of thirst, they protested to Moses about the lack of water available for their families and their animals. So Moses and Aaron consulted God in prayer. Moses was told to strike the rock at Meribah with his staff, causing water to miraculously gush forth for everyone to drink.

From the Early Church onwards, this miracle of the water was understood as a symbol of baptism (cf 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). In keeping with this, the image is found within the baptistery of the imposing church of St James, Spanish Place, in London. It accompanies other biblical scenes symbolising baptism, including Noah’s Ark and the Temple in Ezekiel.

The window dates to 1925 and is the work of Geoffrey Webb, a Catholic artist whose stained glass studio was based in Suffolk. Interestingly, Webb also created a quirky stained glass scene of the nativity for the Anglican church of All Saints, Daresbury. Daresbury was the birthplace of Lewis Carroll and as such, the window also depicts characters from Alice in Wonderland, including the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat.

Where to find this work of art
St James, Spanish Place

Read the relevant passage
Numbers 20:1-13

On a similar theme

  • From the Old Testament: While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God miraculously provided food for the community in the form of the heavenly manna.
  • From the New Testament: The baptistery where this window is found includes scenes of other water miracles from the Bible, such as Christ turning the water into wine.

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