Israel and Judah at War; Joab's Brother Slain
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. 36v)
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.
Israel and Judah at War
The forces of Abner, commander of Ishbosheth's army and Joab, commander of David's forces, encounter each other at the pool of Gibeon. After sizing each other up, the two commanders agree to a contest pitting twelve men from each army against one another. A bloody struggle ensues, each man catching his foe about the neck and stabbing him. The remainder of the armies join in combat, and Abner's force is bested. As Joab observes the conflict from the left, Abner and his dejected followers flee at right. (2 Kings 2:12–17)
Joab's Brother Slain
Joab and his forces pursue Abner and his fleeing army. Asahel, Joab's fleet-footed brother, catches up to Abner and attempts to kill him. Twice Abner warns Asahel to retreat, wishing to avoid a personal feud. Asahel will not listen. Abner, his hand forced, turns about and runs Asahel through with a spear. (2 Kings 2:18–23)
Folio 36v (Latin)
Upper half: How, when at the same time David had started ruling over Juda and Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, over the rest of Israel, it happened that twelve of David’s servants and as many of Ish-bosheth’s begun some bloody game and all of them died. Thereupon a war broke between the people of each of the two kings which was won by David’s part. Ishbosheth’s part and Abner, the captain of his army, fled. (2 Samuel 2: 12–17)
Lower half: How, fleeing with his army, Abner kills one of the sons of Zeruiah, Asahel by name, who pursues him too obstinately, piercing him through with a spear. (2 Samuel 2: 18–21)
Folio 36v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 8
Upper left margin: A young son of King Saul had survived. A group [of men] took him to make him king. His Excellence David was the king of another party. War broke out between them and they fought and His Excellence David overcame them.
Lower left margin: One from among the group set out to slay the commander of the army. The commander threw a spear at him and slew him.
Folio 36v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: One of Saul’s surviving sons became king. David went to war against him and defeated 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