The Pierpont Morgan Library, NY/Art Resource, NY

Looking like a medieval Crusader, David leads his men to slay the rich fool Nabal in this illumination from a 13th-century French picture Bible now in the Pierpont Morgan Library (on the manuscript’s history, see “David: A model medieval king”). According to 1 Samuel 25, David and his supporters, fleeing from Saul, have taken refuge on Nabal’s land and provided his farmhands protection in return. But when Nabal refuses them food and provisions, David vows to kill his hosts—literally, to kill everyone “who pisses against the wall.” As Peter J. Leithart shows, this crude phrase actually has a double meaning, lost when fastidious translators render the phrase simply as “Nabal’s men.” Through his crude choice of words, David is pointing out that Nabal has ungratefully “pissed” against the “wall” of protection he has provided to Nabal’s farmhands.