Saul's Envy; Madness; A Dangerous Post
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.
Saul is enraged and envious when the victorious David, bearing the head of Goliath, receives greater praise than he. "Saul slew his thousands," the Israelite women sing, "and David his ten thousands." (I Samuel 18:6–9)
Later, as David plays for Saul, the evil spirit re-enters the king's ear. Saul aims a spear at David, who neatly steps aside and avoids the blow. Now, the king is sure that the Lord has given his favor to David. (I Samuel 18:10–11)
A Dangerous Post
His fear of David mounting, Saul schemes to rid himself of the young warrior by bestowing upon him the dangerous duty of captaining a thousand men. (I Samuel 18:12–14)
Folio 29r (Latin)
Upper half: How, as David was returning with the head of Goliath, the women of all the cities of Israel run to meet the king, dancing and singing to the sound of the drums, saying: ’Saul has smote a thousand and David ten thousand.’ Now this angered the king and he began to feel jealousy and bitter hatred toward David whom he had loved dearly till that day. (I Samuel 18: 6–9)
Lower left: How, when the evil spirit had come upon the king, and David was playing before him as he was accustomed, the king, holding his spear threw it suddenly at him, thinking to nail him to the wall. David perceived this, fled, and avoided the danger. (I Samuel 18: 10–11)
Lower right: How, when Saul had reflected upon the matters and began to fear David, for the Lord was with him and had departed from himself, he decided to send him away. And thus he summoned David and made him a captain over a thousand men. (I Samuel 18: 12, 13)
Folio 29r (Persian)
Upper right margin: And His Excellence David brought the severed head of the fierce man to the city. The people of the city came to receive him and female entertainers, with tambourine and instruments, were all talking and singing that King Saul has killed a thousand and David has killed ten thousands. When the king heard these words, he was displeased with David and took it to heart.
Lower left: And Satan lured King Saul into harming David. He seized a spear and summoned His Excellence David. David came to the assembly with his musical instrument. The king threw the spear at him; David stepped aside and fled the scene.
Lower right: The king’s heart was overcome with the fear of David and he summoned David and consoled him and made him the captain of a thousand men.
Folio 29r (Judeo-Persian)
Upper right margin, corner: His Excellence David, holding the head of the enemy in his hand[s] entered the city...the women singing with musical instruments...came out [to meet him], saying "If Saul killed a thousand persons, David killed ten thousand." When Saul heard these words, vengeance [grew] in his heart against David.
Lower left margin: The king was brought to such a state by Satan that he wished to aim at David. Taking the spear in his hand, he looked for David and when David came into the assembly with his instrument, he threw his spear at David. David drew back, left the assembly and fled.
Lower right margin: Fear of David entered the king’s heart. He summoned David, showed him affection and made him commander over a thousand persons.
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