Scala/Art Resource, NY

Desert wilderness as divine laboratory. Both scenes depicted around an entrance to the Chapel of Eleonora of Toledo, in the Palazzo Vecchio, in Florence, show the Israelites being tested by God. Italian artist Agnolo Bronzino (1503–1572) has painted Moses (at upper left) striking a rock to obtain clean water for the thirsty and grumbling Israelites at Meribah. In the Book of Psalms, God describes the scene: “In your distress you called and I rescued you, I answered you out of a thundercloud; I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7).

On the right side of the doorway, Israelites are gathering manna in large clay jugs. When the Israelites cried out for food in the desert, God said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4). God specified that the people should leave behind no food, and that on the day before the Sabbath they should gather twice the usual amount, because no manna would appear on the Sabbath. Only by testing the Israelites, and not by reading their minds, could God determine what the Israelites were really thinking.