The Pierpont Morgan Library/Art Resource, NY

David slays 200 Philistines for their foreskins in this scene from a sumptuous 13th-century French illustrated Bible known as the Book of Kings, now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Philistines were an exception to the norm in ancient Syria-Palestine in not practicing circumcision; the Bible commonly refers to them as “the foreskinned.” With this exploit, the young David is seeking to pay King Saul’s requested bride-price of 100 Philistine foreskins to marry one of his daughters, Michal; by doubling the request, David gets Michal’s sister Merab as well.

The story, told in 1 Samuel 18:17–27, alludes rather humorously (unless you are a Philistine) to the older practice of becoming circumcised preparatory to marriage. Presumably, Saul’s prospective son-in-law is already circumcised, so instead he bids the young warrior to circumcise his conveniently “foreskinned” enemies.