Jonathan, a Prince; The Battle is joined
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.
Jonathan, a Prince
Encamped outside of Gibeah, Saul rests beneath a pomegranate tree and advises his warriors. Meanwhile, without informing his father, Saul's son Jonathan bravely scales a mountain to attack a Philistine garrison. Accompanied only by his armor-bearer, Jonathan engages the enemy; together they kill twenty men. (I Samuel 14:1–14)
The Battle is Joined
Sounds of battle have been heard in the Philistine camp, so Saul has assembled his army. It is discovered that Jonathan and his armor-bearer are missing. As the priest Ahijah bears the Ark of the Covenant into battle, Saul issues a bold command: the army is not to partake of food until all of the Philistines are destroyed. Jonathan, riding ahead, does not hear his father's instruction. Cradling his great helm in his left hand, he leans from his horse and spears a honeycomb to eat. (I Samuel 14:17–27)
Folio 24r (Latin)
Upper half: How when the Philistines had gathered a huge army against Israel and all the people had fled in terror and were hiding in caves, as Saul was nevertheless sitting in his camp under a pomegranate tree, accompanied by only six hundred men, Ionachas [Jonathan], his son, without his father’s knowledge, went up with a single armor bearer through steep and rugged mountains and rocks to the enemy’s garrisons, and, having defeated those whom he had encountered first, he came back miraculously victorious. (I Samuel 14: 1–14)
Lower half: How, after Ionachas’ victory, a marvelous tumult had arisen in the Philistine camp and every man’s sword was turned upon his neighbor. Now, as his army, which had been first seemingly reduced to nothing by the men’s fear, had already started to be revived with inspiring confidence, king Saul, shouting, went to battle with the ark of God, ordering his men not to eat till the evening and cursing disobeyors. Yet his son, Jonathan [Ionachas], who had not heard his father’s command, having by chance found a honeycomb, reached to it with a staff he was holding, directed the honey to his mouth, and was much strengthened. All were greatly weakened by hunger and indeed, on that day, a great victory was obtained over the Philistines. (I Samuel 14: 15–27)
Folio 24r (Persian)
Upper right margin: Then the son of king Saul, with only one of his servants, fell upon the enemy and defeated them.
Lower right margin: And king Saul, with his own army, fell upon the enemy and defeated them.
Folio 24r (Judeo-Persian)
Upper right margin, furthest right: Here it is that Jonathan, the son of Saul, went with some men and fought the Philistines without his father’s knowledge, as it is written in Samuel [chapters] 14 [and] 15.
Lower right margin, furthest right: Saul goes to fight and defeats 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