David's Wrath; The Syrians Rally and Are Defeated
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. 41r)
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.
A messenger returns with news of the shameful treatment that David's envoys have received at the court of the Ammonite king, Hanun. Hanun, confident that David will attempt to avenge the indignity, hires thousands of Syrian mercenaries to strengthen the Ammonite army. It is to no avail, however, as Joab shortly leads the Israelites into battle and defeats the enemy. In this scene, as the last of the Israelite army rides forth, Joab lands a crushing blow with a battle axe that fells an enemy rider and his horse. (2 Kings 10:6–14)
The Syrians Rally and Are Defeated
Ashamed of their loss to Israel, the Syrians assemble a great army; men have come from across the Euphrates to join Shobach, commander of the Syrian army. David orders the Israelite army across the Jordan and engages the enemy head on. In the heat of battle, David encounters Shobach and runs him through with a spear; in total, forty-thousand Syrian soldiers are slain. (2 Kings 10:15–18)
Folio 41r (Latin)
Upper half: How David, disturbed by the injury done to his messengers and hearing that the children of Ammon had hired Syrian warriors, sent his army against them. A battle broke out and the principle enemy was defeated together with its mercenaries. (2 Samuel 10: 5–14)
Lower half: How the Syrians who were mercenaries in the former battle were vexed at their defeat. When they had gathered an army and were intending to take vengeance, David went to meet them, defeated the enemies, and struck and killed Sobach, the captain of their army. (2 Samuel 10: 15–18)
Folio 41r (Persian)
Upper left margin: Since they treated the ambassador in this manner, he [David] dispatched an army which slew them all.
Lower right margin: Once again, that king unleashed an army against David and was defeated.
Folio 41r (Judeo-Persian)
Left margin, middle: In Samuel 2, chapter 10, it is described [how] David sent an ambassador to Hanun b. Nahash and the capture of the ambassador and the shaving off of half of his beard.
Lower right margin, furthest right: Samuel 2, chapter 9, the arrival of the Ammonite army against David.
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