A Plea for Help; Marshaling Forces
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.
A Plea for Help
As Saul drives oxen in from the fields, he is met by anguished messengers from Jabesh-Gilead. Nahash the Ammonite has encamped outside the city and threatened to gouge out the right eye of every inhabitant. The king, enraged, slaughters two oxen and cuts them into pieces. The pieces are sent throughout Israel with a message: either follow Saul and Samuel into battle or expect the same to be done to your oxen. (I Samuel 11:1–7)
Saul, crowned, bearing a scepter, and seated on an ivory throne, greets the warriors of Israel. The foremost kneel before the king and pledge their fealty. A standard bearer rides along in a supply cart. Behind Saul, a royal attendant assures a messenger from Jabesh-Gilead that help is at hand. (I Samuel 11:7–9)
Folio 23r (Latin)
Upper half: How when Nahash the Ammonite began waging war against Jabesh-gilead and the people of Jabesh were finding no equity in him except this term by which he offered to pluck their right eyes, they, terrified by such threats, were telling all of this to the people of Israel, so that all the people were moved to tears and pity. Now, Saul was then coming out of the field with his oxen and upon hearing about the savagery of Nahash, great anger overtook him and he cut his oxen into pieces, sending them throughout the borders of Israel, making it known to all that whoever did not come forth and follow Saul and Samuel so would it be to his oxen. (I Samuel 11: 1–7)
Lower half: How three hundred thousand of the children of Israel and thirty thousand of the tribe of Judah unanimously came together to the king. (I Samuel 11: 7–8)
Folio 23r (Persian)
Upper right margin: And they sent the idolaters before Saul’s assembly [saying], "Each one of you, branding [yourself], send the right eye, otherwise I will gather troops [and] come to annihilate you." Saul demanded a cow and cut it to pieces and sent each piece to a city [threatening], "if you do not fall upon the enemy, just as I tore the cow I shall do onto you the same."
Lower right: After that time, Saul gathered three hundred and thirty thousand persons and attacked the enemy.
Folio 23r (Judeo-Persian)
Upper right margin, corner: Here Nahash the Ammonite, having sent [a message] to the Children of Israel [saying], "If each one of you will pluck out your eye, well and good, otherwise I will come and destroy you," [when] Saul was informed of this, he chopped up an ox [and sent a piece to every (Israelite) city].
Lower right, beneath Latin: Here Saul assembles three hundred and thirty thousand people and leads [them] against the enemy.
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