There is an episode in the Bible that seems rather cruel. After the Jews came out of the land of Egypt, they went on a forty-year journey through the desert in search of the promised land.
After some time, people began to murmur - the lack of water, food, and deprivation of the way made them doubt that slavery in Egypt was so bad. Then the angry Lord, who did not want to enter their position, sent rain from poisonous snakes to the earth.
As they fell, they stung the retreating Jews, and people, perishing, prayed for forgiveness. Then Moses, listening to the command of God, made a brass serpent and lifted it on a high column. Everyone who looked at him with true faith was healed, and soon everyone was healed.
Bruni's painting shows the culmination of this story. Snakes fall from the sky, scaring people. The prostrate body lies directly in the foreground, the children seek salvation from their parents, the young woman snuggles up to her husband, hoping that he will be able to protect her. A girl clings to a post with a snake, presses a child to the column, hoping in this way to relieve him of the disease. Confusion, despair, fear reign on the canvas and through the frightened crowd comes the prophet of God, Moses, raising his hands. Beside him, in priestly robes, is Eleazar.
People cover their heads with cloaks, trying to help stung. The prophets walk through them with a reminder that they themselves have chosen their destiny and fully deserve it.
However, for the viewer, they remain rather wrong. Children are not punished by killing them, and the Old Testament in modern times seems to be excessively cruel, a little creepy.
Crying beneath overhanging low, black and gray clouds carrying a serpentine thunderstorm.
The terrible God punishes those who dare to doubt him, and snakes fall from heaven, turn around, hitting the ground, and bring retribution and death to those who did not believe that a better life is behind the desert.
Bar In Foley Berger