A Sorrowful Homecoming; A Grisly Message; Civil War
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.
A Sorrowful Homecoming
The Levite throws his wife's body over an ass and, striking the animal with a whip, begins the journey home. Men gather round to express their sympathy and outrage at the behavior of the Benjamites. (Judges 19:28)
A Grisly Message
Upon his return to Ephraim, the Levite dismembers the corpse of his wife. Her body is to be cut into twelve parts and carried by messengers to all the territories of Israel. The outrage among the tribes over this egregious crime will begin a great war. (Judges 19:29)
Four hundred thousand Israelite men have sworn vengeance against their brethren from the tribe of Benjamin because of the outrage committed against the Levite's wife. For three days a battle rages around the city of Gibeah. On the third day, the opposing tribes spring a successful ambush and slay over twenty five thousand of the Benjamites. As the victorious cavalry kill fleeing horsemen, foot soldiers deal harshly with men attempting to escape to the city. The victors capture the battlements and begin the destruction of Gibeah. (Judges 20:29–35)
Folio 16v (Latin)
Upper left: How the man lay up his dead wife upon his ass and carried her back to his house. (Judges 19:28)
Upper right: How when he had reached his house, he cut his wife’s body, sending each part to each one of the twelve tribes of Israel, in order that the indignity of the crime might excite their hearts and cause them to retaliate. (Judges 19:29)
Lower half: How the people of Israel, unanimously conjoined by the atrocity of the deed, invade the city where such a crime was perpetrated. When only the tribe of Benjamin was very eagerly defending it, engaging in many battles, eventually, as both the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and the city was almost utterly destroyed, it was lay waste by flame and sword with its citizens and with other cities of Benjamin. (Judges 20)
Folio 16v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 28
Upper left margin: And the traveler lay his murdered wife across the back of an ass and returned to his own city.
Upper right margin: The traveler, having brought the murdered wife to the city, cut her up into twelve pieces and sent each piece to a group in the country.
Lower left margin: And a group descended upon that sinful tribe and slew them all.
Folio 16v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: The woman’s companion tied the woman on the ass and brought her to his town.
Upper right margin, furthest right: The woman’s husband cut up into twelve parts the woman who died from fornication and sent them to [each of] the twelve tribes in order to inform them of this incident.
Lower right margin: And the Children of Israel gathered together against this community which had fornicated, who were of the tribe of Benjamin, and killed five thousand persons.
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