Fol. 5v

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Dreams of a King; Searching for Answers; Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams; A Powerful Post

Old Testament miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions

France, Paris
1240s
390 x 300 mm

Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1916

MS M.638 (fol. 5v)
Item description: 

The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, is not only one of greatest medieval manuscripts in the Morgan, it also ranks as one of the incomparable achievements of French Gothic illumination.

The miniatures represent one of the greatest visualizations of Old Testament events ever made. Some of the stories and their heroes are well known, but there are also accounts of other Israelites who fought for the Promised Land—stories that resonate to this day. There are incredibly violent battle scenes where the implements of war are so accurately depicted they could be replicated. And there are scenes not only of murder, everyday life, and love, but also of hate, envy, adultery, and rape—all set in the scenery and customs of thirteenth-century France.

Page description: 

Dreams of a King
In his dreams, Pharaoh sees seven fat cattle feeding by the water's edge. The same cattle are attacked and eaten by seven lean and sick cattle. Also, Pharaoh dreams of seven strong and healthy ears of corn, but these are devoured by seven thin and blasted ears of corn. (Genesis 41:1–7)

Searching for Answers
Pharaoh is worried by his dreams. What could these visions mean? To find the answer, he consults wise men from all over Egypt, but no one is able to grasp the significance of the dreams. (Genesis 41:8)

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dreams
Pharaoh's chief butler remembers how Joseph interpreted dreams in prison. Joseph is summoned and explains the meaning of Pharaoh's dream: the Lord shall bring seven years of plenty to Egypt, but these will be followed by seven years of great famine and scarcity that will destroy the abundance. (Genesis 41:14–31)

A Powerful Post
Pharaoh is pleased with Joseph's wisdom and sets him the momentous task of preparing for the great famine. As symbols of his new authority, Joseph receives Pharaoh's own ring and a rich silk robe. Afterwards, the young Hebrew is placed in a royal chariot and hailed by the people as governor of all Egypt. (Genesis 41:41–43)

Translation: 

Folio 5v (Latin)

Upper left: How there appeared in Pharaoh’s dream seven cows, pleasant to the sight and plump and as many thin ones which devoured them; and likewise seven full ears of corn and as many empty ones which devastated them. (Genesis 41: 1–7)

Upper right: How the king, having woke up and summoned his wise men, found none who knew how to interpret these dreams. (Genesis 41:8)

Lower left: How Joseph who had been led out of the prison and brought before the king explained that seven years of plenty and as many years of famine were predicted in these dreams. (Genesis 41: 9–36)

Lower right: How the king honored Joseph with a ring and arranged that he be driven around in a chariot, ordering through a herald that all should bow their knees in front of him. (Genesis 41: 37–43)

Folio 5v (Persian)

Persian foliation: 39

Upper left margin: This image is of the king of Egypt who saw in a dream that seven lean kine devoured seven fat kine and then he saw that seven weak stalks of wheat destroyed seven strong stalks; these occurrences were a portent of the seven-year famine in Egypt.

Upper right margin: When the king awoke from that sleep, he summoned interpreters and learned men and told them of his dream. The interpreters were unable to interpret that dream and it remained unsolved.

Lower left margin: Afterwards they told the king of Egypt that there is someone sitting in the prison who knows the interpretation of this dream. They fetched Joseph and His Excellence Joseph interpreted each of the seven as signs of the seven-year famine [to come to] Egypt.

Lower right margin: And since Joseph, peace be upon him, had related the interpretation of the king’s dream, the king gave his ring to Joseph and exalted Joseph; they placed him upon a chariot and the court grandees rose to show [their] respect to Joseph.

Folio 5v (Judeo-Persian)

Upper left margin, furthest left: The king [Pharaoh] dreams about the fat and lean cattle.

Upper right margin, furthest right: The king seeks out dream interpreters to interpret his dream.

Lower left margin, furthest left: The ruler of Egypt is informed that there is a person in [his] prison who knows how to interpret dreams well.

Lower right margin, furthest right: Joseph interprets the king’s dream and the king bestows his ring upon Joseph.

Credits: 

Content consultant: Richard Leson

Persian translated by Sussan Babaie

Judeo-Persian translated by Vera Basch Moreen

Latin translation by Eran Lupu

After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch