Sunday, September 21, 2014

Business as Usual at Horeb?

The elements are familiar: Moses, rock, water, people prepared to receive the water. But you might not expect to see the episode of Moses striking the rock as a monument in a public park. This particular statue, dedicated in 1893, is in Washington Park, Albany, NY.

Often in pictures we see Moses standing beside a rock, more in the pose of Christ standing at the door and knocking. Here, though, Moses will be more in the way of Nanny McPhee, tapping her cane on the ground to effect action. Here Moses is standing on the rock, though the Exodus passage tells us that God has promised to be standing on the rock (Exodus 17:6: I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink). Additional bronze figures on the lower part of the statue represent stages of human life - infancy, maturity, youth, old age, reminding us that all people need to drink of this water.

The statue (both rock and bronze figures), designed by John Massey Rhind, is also called the King Memorial Fountain. Commissioned by Henry King as a memorial to his father, Rufus King, the chosen subject was the Rock of Horeb. The subject was chosen not for its demonstration of faith in God's providence but rather, apparently, as a comparison to Rufus King's skills in banking and commerce. A general interpretation is that the people were "able to drink" of progress, because of Rufus King's skills.

Is that a comparison we would make today? The water from the commerce? In other times and places, the rock at Horeb has served as a typology for poets and for the resurrection. What might the act of getting water from a rock symbolize for us today (in addition to drinkable water, which remains out of reach to many people in the world)?

For additional information on the fountain, see: For additional information on the rock at Horeb as symbol/typology, see: and

For thoughts on John 4 and Exodus 17, click here.

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