Joshua Defeated at Ai; A Costly Transgression Revealed; Achan Stoned
Old Testament miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1916
The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, is not only one of the 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 less familiar Israelites who fought for the Promised Land—tales that resonate to this day. There are incredibly violent battle scenes in which the implements of war are so accurately depicted they could be replicated. And there are scenes of everyday life, love, hate, and envy, as well as adultery, rape, and murder—all set in thirteenth-century France.
Joshua Defeated at Ai
This is the first of the Picture Bible's great battle scenes. Joshua has taken a small contingent of the army to destroy the Amorite city of Ai. As soon as the Israelites arrive at the city gates, they are repulsed by a small force of defenders, including a crossbowman who takes aim from atop the portcullis. Thirty-six men of the expedition are killed as Amorite horsemen vengefully pursue and strike down their assailants. Joshua, shown again in brown tunic and with tri-point shield, narrowly escapes with his life. Nearby, an Amorite breaks his spear in the side of an Israelite horseman whose mount has collapsed beneath him, and a disoriented Israelite foot soldier is trampled by the fleeing cavalry. (Joshua 7:1–5)
A Costly Transgression Revealed
Confused and aggrieved by the defeat at Ai, Joshua prostrates himself before the Ark of the Covenant (depicted here as a rich reliquary chest) and begs for an explanation. It is discovered that Achan, a man of the tribe of Judah, took forbidden spoil from the accursed town of Jericho. Later Achan confesses the sin to Joshua; he and his family show Joshua a bar of gold (here painted silver), a rich garment, and two hundred shekels. The Lord points accusingly at the greedy family from the heavens. To appease Him, they must be destroyed. (Joshua 7:19–23)
Although Joshua appears loathe to do so, he orders the stoning of Achan, his entire family, and his cattle. Later, the Israelites will destroy Achan's thatched dwelling; all the possessions of the transgressor must be done away with in order to appease the Lord. (Joshua 7:24–25)
Folio 10r (Latin)
Upper half: How Joshua sent ahead three thousand warriors against the city of Ai and the men of the city went out, defeated them and killed some, a thing which was brought about by the anger of God who had commanded through Joshua’s mouth that Jericho be destroyed and its men be killed; the city itself was to be accursed and no spoils were to be taken. But one of the children of Israel had taken of the spoils and concealed it against God’s command. (Joshua 7: 3–12)
Lower left: How Joshua, upon hearing about his men’s flight, sat down before the ark and prostrated himself before God who indicated what was the cause of his anger and ordered that lots be cast and the one who was to blame be found. This was done and the person, once found, revealed his sin, and he brings forth the gold and silver and the precious cloth which he had stolen by stealth. (Joshua 7: 6–23)
Lower right: How Joshua brought about that this transgressor, Achan by name, be stoned with all the spoils and with his sons and daughters, his cattle and sheep, and his tent with its content, as the judgment of God is indeed just but hidden. (Joshua 7: 24–25)
Folio 10r (Persian)
Upper left margin: And Joshua with a company came to capture a city and the people of that city came out and the company of Joshua was broken up.
Lower left margin: And Joshua prayed to God [imploring Him], "Why has my company been defeated?" And God the Exalted said, "There is a sinner among you."
Lower right margin: Joshua searched for the sinner and they found him and killed him.
Lower right: Wherever Joshua is mentioned the intention is Yavush the son of Nun.
Folio 10r (Judeo-Persian)
Upper right margin: Here it is that the Israelites were defeated by the people of Ai.
Lower left margin, closest left: Joshua b. Nun supplicates before God on account of the defeat of the Children of Israel by the people of Ai.
Lower right margin, bottom corner: Here it is that they are killing Achan the son of Carmi.
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