King Maker; Saul, the Lord's Anointed; "Is Saul Also among the Prophets?"; Saul, King of Israel
Old Testament miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
390 x 300 mm
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1916
MS M.638 (fol. 22v)
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.
Samuel, now a very old man, is approached by the elders of Israel. They desire that he choose a king for them, so that they might be like other powerful nations. Uncertain, Samuel consults the Lord. Let them do as they wish, the Lord tells Samuel, but explain to them the hardships they will face under the rule of a king. Samuel shares the Lord's words with the elders, but they are stubborn in their desire for a mighty leader. (1 Kings 8:4–22)
Saul, the Lord's Anointed
The Lord has chosen Saul, a tall and handsome man from the tribe of Benjamin, to free Israel from the oppression of the Philistines. After he dines with Saul, Samuel dismisses a servant, who departs at the right. Samuel privately anoints Saul with holy oil, a sign that he is to become king over the children of Israel. (1 Kings 9:26–10:1)
"Is Saul Also among the Prophets?"
This miniature should depict Saul among the prophets, after his departure from Samuel. The painter appears to have confused the story, however, for here it is not Saul but Samuel that prophecies in the midst of the seers. The biblical account relates how Saul encountered a group of prophets and suddenly received the spirit of the Lord. (1 Kings 10:9–13)
Saul, King of Israel
Samuel assembles the tribes of Israel and before the elders proclaims Saul as king. Saul's great height inspires the people, who cheer "Long live the King!" (1 Kings 10:17–24)
Folio 22v (Latin)
Upper left: How, when Samuel was old, the children of Israel came to him and asked him to make them a king as other nations had. But he dissuades them from this intention, reminding them of the manner and authority of the king and of the pains of his subjects. (I Samuel 8: 1–18)
Upper right: How, as Samuel’s counsel had found the children of Israel unwilling to calm down, Samuel anointed Saul to be a king, his identity having been revealed by God. He was a man of mighty stature, taller than all of Israel from his shoulders upward. Now, Samuel anointed him at the gate of the city, after he had ordered his servant to go forth and pass on. (I Samuel 9: 2–15 – 10: 1)
Lower left: How, when Saul had been anointed to be a king, at once the holy spirit came upon him, as Samuel had foretold, and he began prophesying among the other prophets. (I Samuel 10: 9–13)
Lower right: How Samuel, having called together the people of Israel, presents before them the one whom God had chosen for a king, showing that there was none like Saul among the people. This having been made known, all the people shout: ’Long live the king’. (I Samuel 10: 17–74)
Folio 22v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 22
Upper left margin: This is the image of the prophet Samuel to whom the company of the believers said, "There must be a king amongst our tribe." Samuel said, "Whoever becomes your king, he shall harm you and kill you." They said, "We accept whatever he does."
Upper right margin: One of the believers was named Saul and he went before the prophet and Samuel, according to God’s command, made him king and anointed him and kingship was granted to him.
Lower left: And Saul, in the presence of the community, was given prophethood by God.
Lower right, above and below Latin inscription: And the prophet Samuel presented Saul to the people and said, "This is your king." They consented and said, "Long live the king!"
Folio 22v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: Samuel is saying to the Children of Israel, "If you want to have a king, the king [will bring] oppression..."
Upper right margin, furthest right: Samuel’s anointing of Saul so that he would become king.
Lower left, beneath Latin: Saul, as Samuel had said, fell into the circle of prophets and he also prophesied.
Lower right, beneath Persian: Samuel brings Saul among the Children of Israel, saying: "This is your king." They accept him.
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