Building Plans; David is Satisfied; Syria Subdued
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. 40r)
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.
Dissatisfied with the tabernacle he has built for the Ark of the Covenant, David consults with the prophet Nathan. The king points to the ornate roof of his home, questioning if it is right that the Ark should rest in a shelter poorer than his own house. The Lord speaks to David through Nathan, revealing that the building of the new Temple shall fall not to David but to his son, Solomon. (2 Kings 7:2–13)
David is Satisfied
David accepts this judgment and gives thanks in the tabernacle for the Lord's many blessings. (2 Kings 7:18–29)
The Israelite conquest continues; David destroys Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and subdues his Syrian allies. As David pursues Hadadezer, Israelite forces lay waste to Damascus. (2 Kings 8:3–6)
Folio 40r (Latin)
Upper left: How David talked to Nathan the prophet, saying that it was disgraceful that, while he dwelt in a house of cedar, the ark of God dwelt in an unworthy house. At first, Nathan told him to do what he had in his heart, for the Lord was with him. Then, a divine response having been obtained, he announced to him many and glorious promises of God, and among other things that a son would come out of his loins who would reign most happily after him and would build a house for God and a temple for his name. (2 Samuel 7: 1–17)
Upper right: How, having heard God’s promises from the prophetic mouth, David bends down before God with great obedience, giving thanks and praying. (2 Samuel 7: 18–29)
Lower half: How David subdues the Philistines and the Moabites, having killed many, having captured many, and having taken much booty, and makes them pay taxes to him. (2 Samuel 8: 1–8)
Folio 40r (Persian)
Upper left margin: His Excellence David met with Natan [Nathan] the prophet and said, "Is it not strange that I own fair houses and the Ark of God remains without a house? Pray, and whatever God inspires you, tell me to do accordingly." The prophet prayed and said, "Whatever is necessary [for] the house of God, prepare for it, and your son, Solomon, shall build it."
Upper right margin: Thus the prophet prostrated before the Ark and raised his hands in prayer.
Lower half: And His Excellence David fought every king in his environs and captured their people.
Folio 40r (Judeo-Persian)
Lower left margin: David said to Nathan the prophet, "It is a strange thing that I dwell in good houses while God’s Ark is homeless; pray you to God, whatever He commands thus shall I do."
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