Once More among the Prophets; Jonathan Consoles David; Sharp Words
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. 31v)
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.
Once More among the Prophets
Infuriated by the behavior of his officers, Saul decides to pursue David himself. But the king fares no differently than his envoys. When he finally catches up to David and Samuel, Saul is overcome by the spirit of the Lord. He begins to prophesy and pulls his mantle over his head; for a full day and night, the king will lay down naked and prophesy with the rest. (1 Kings 19:21–24)
Jonathan Consoles David
David, armed with spear and sword, secretly meets with Jonathan. The friends swear loyalty to each other and agree on a plan that will insure David's safety. Jonathan will approach his father on David's behalf in order to determine the king's mind. If the king is still intent on harming David, Jonathan will send warning. (1 Kings 20:1–17)
It is the feast of the New Moon. Servants bustle about the high table with wine and platters of fish. As an evil spirit whispers in his ear, Saul becomes aware of David's absence. Jonathan apologizes on behalf of his friend, explaining that David has traveled to Bethlehem to sacrifice with his family. Suspecting treachery, Saul curses Jonathan and prepares to hurl an enormous javelin at him. Jonathan escapes harm and is now convinced of his father's evil intentions. (1 Kings 20:27–33)
Folio 31v (Latin)
Upper left: How, when Saul had sent various messengers to capture David, and all of them, having forgotten the task for which they had been sent, had begun prophesying, at length the king himself went, furious, to that place. Still, before he had come there, the spirit of God was upon him and he went on his way, prophesying, and came to the place where Samuel and David were and prophesied before them and stripped himself of his own clothes. (I Samuel 19: 21–24)
Upper right: How David, still on the run, talks to Jonathan, the king’s son, and complains about his father’s wrongdoings. Now, the latter orders him to hide in the field on the next day, the first day of the month, promising him to go to the king, intervene on his behalf, and, if he finds something, to faithfully, yet secretly, report it to him by shooting arrows. (I Samuel 20:11–23)
Lower half: How, when Saul, sitting at the table, had asked why David did not come to dine with him, and Jonathan pretended that he had gone to Bethlehem to sacrifice, the king, angered, reproached his son with harsh words, ordering him to bring David to him that he might be killed. When Jonathan asked: ’What has he done to earn his death?’, the king, greatly disturbed, wished to pierce him with his spear. (I Samuel 20: 24–34)
Folio 31v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 13
Upper left margin: Thrice the king dispatched people to capture David, and all three times they stood in prayer and forgot to capture David. The king became angry at this and he himself rose and went after David but he [also] removed his clothes and stood in prayer and forgot David and he also did not capture [him].
Upper right margin: When David escaped, he came before the king’s son and said, "Why does your father bear enmity towards me?" The king’s son consoled him and said to him, "Tomorrow go to the countryside and hide in a corner, for tomorrow is the feast day and the king will go to the countryside and I will find out about your situation.
Lower half, below Latin inscription: And tomorrow which was the feast day, the king sat and they brought out the spread of food and he asked his son, "Why is not David present at the meal?" He replied that he has gone to a village to offer a sacrifice. The king said, "Go after him and bring him." The son said, "What sin has he committed that you wage war against him?" The king had a spear in hand and he charged toward his son.
Folio 31v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper half, below Latin: When David fled to the king’s son, he said to him, "Why is your father my enemy?" The king’s son, who loved David, said, "Go tomorrow into the plain and hide in a corner; when the festival is over I will come to you to inform you."
Lower half, above Latin: The next day was the first of the month, the king laid a table [for a feast]. Since David remained in Bethlehem, the king asked Jonathan why he [David] had not come. Jonathan answered, "He remained in Bethlehem." The king grew angry and he threw a spear to strike his head. The spear missed its aim, as it is written in Samuel, [chapter] 20.
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