Israel Triumphant; The Chariot of Abinadab
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.
The Philistines have learned that David is now king of all Israel and decide to take action against this new threat. David, sanctioned by the heavenly gaze of the Lord, rides forth with his army to deal with the enemy. At Baal Perazim (which literally means Baal is broken), the battle begins and the Philistines are utterly defeated. David, bearing a blue shield with a golden lion rampart, runs a Philistine horseman through with his javelin. The contrast between the well-organized ranks of Israelite cavalry at the left and the chaotic mass of fleeing Philistines at the right testifies to the military superiority of David's forces. (2 Samuel 5:17–20)
The Chariot of Abinadab
The king seeks to bring the Ark of the Covenant out of the house of Abinadab and into Jerusalem. But as David plays his harp at the head of a joyous procession of musicians, he is stopped suddenly by an awful sight. Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, reaches out to steady the Ark on the bumpy road. For this rashness, the Lord strikes him down where he stands. As the tragedy is pointed out to Uzzah's brother, Ahio, the king casts a concerned glance at the Ark. He decides to enshrine it temporarily in the house of Obed-Edom, who greets David from his doorway at the right. From the heavens, the hand of the Lord blesses Obed-Edom's house. (2 Samuel 6:2–11)
Folio 39r (Latin)
Upper half: How, when it was widely known that David was ruling over all of Israel, the Philistines gathered together and went out to seek him. But, the Lord having been consulted, David went ahead to meet them and prostrated them in a great massacre. (2 Samuel 5: 17–20)
Lower half: How David, together with all the people, led the ark of the Lord, laden on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, whose two sons were leading the cart. David and the people were then playing before it. Yet, when the oxen had kicked and the ark had started to lean aside, Abinadab’s older son put forth his hand and lay hold of the ark. On account of this harshness he fell down there, before the ark, struck by divine indignation. Seeing this, David was saddened and terrified. Fearing to lead the ark to his own house, he carried it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. (2 Samuel 6: 1–11)
Folio 39r (Persian)
Upper right margin: The idolaters who were the enemies of His Excellence David heard that David had ascended the throne. They mobilized armies and attacked His Excellence and a great war broke out. Since God was His Excellence’s guide, He favored him and he [David] defeated them.
Lower half, above and below Latin inscription: His Excellence David ordered that they bring the Ark of God to his citadel and the people went to receive the Ark and one of the sons of the priest touched the Ark. He died instantly and His Excellence pondered over the Ark and said, "Take the Ark to the house of one of those people." They did accordingly.
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