The War Effort; David Determined
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. 27v)
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.
The War Effort
Young David arrives at the battle with provisions for his brethren and passes supplies to the baggage officers. The cart is filled with armor to be used in the battle against the Philistines. (1 Kings 17:20–22)
The precocious David makes his way to the battlefield, where Saul confers with his men. While among the soldiers, David hears the taunts of Goliath and resolves to do battle with him, despite the chiding of his older brother. Meanwhile, the haughty Philistine giant continues to yell challenges and insults from across the battlefield. (1 Kings 17:23–30)
Folio 27v (Latin)
Upper half: How, as David came to the camp, he wished to offer what he had brought, but upon hearing the shout of the armies which were ready for battle, he leaves everything by the camp’s baggage under the care of the keeper, and rushes to the site of the battle. (I Samuel 17: 20–22)
Lower half: How, when David had come to the site of the battle and that giant was defying Israel, as was his habit, while they were fearing exceedingly, one man said that the king would give his daughter and many riches to anyone who could kill the giant, and would make him and all of his father’s house exempt from taxes. Upon hearing this, David asked diligently about the conditions. When he had learned all, he was scornful of that giant and made it clear that he had the highest hopes of victory, although his brothers were rebuking him severely. (I Samuel 17: 23–29)
Folio 27v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 17
Upper left margin: David arrived at the environs of the army [camp] and heard the voices of the army’s captives. And he entrusted all he had with him with someone there and he himself came amidst the army.
Lower half: And David reached the army. And once again, that tall fierce man came in the midst of the army [battlefield] uttering invectives. And on the orders of the king, someone proclaimed that, "Whoever drives away this giant and slays him, the king shall grant him his daughter and great riches and innumerable favors and he shall exempt him from tribute and property [sic.] and taxes." David, who heard this proclamation said, "I shall slay him." His brothers forbade him [saying], "How can you slay this giant?"
Folio 27v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: David, having come near the army, entrusted everything he had to a person, and came to the army himself.
Lower half, beneath Persian: Again, David arriving in Saul’s encampment, saw that the enemy Goliath was preparing to fight the Children of Israel and that no one dared to go into battle with him. A person from the king’s retinue cried out, saying, "Whoever kills this enemy, we shall give him much wealth and a letter of tax exemption." Upon hearing this, David said, "I will kill this enemy..."
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