Judah Ben-Hur

May 17, 2009 § 1 Comment

I was reading Ben-Hur whilst relaxing in the student center the other day, and one part made me cry – very inspirational – and I thought I would quote it at length:

At the well the decurion halted, and, with most of the men, dismounted. The prisoner sank down in the dust of the road, stupefied, and asking nothing: apparently he was in the last stage of exhaustion. Seeing, when they came near, that he was but a boy, the villagers would have helped him had they dared.

In the midst of their perplexity, and while the pitchers were passing among the soldiers, a man was descried coming down the road from Sepphoris. At sight of him a women cried out, “Look! Yonder comes the carpenter. Now we will hear something.”

The person spoken of was quite venerable in appearance. Thin white locks fell below the edge of his full turban, and a mass of still whiter beard flowed down the front of his coarse gray gown. He came slowly, for, in addition to his age, he carried some tools – an axe, a saw, and a drawing-knife, all very rude and heavy – and had evidently travelled some distance without rest.

He stopped close by to survey the assemblage.

“O Rabbi, good Rabbi Joseph!” cried a women, running to him. “Here is a prisoner; come ask the soldiers about him, that we may know who he is, and what he has done, and what they are going to do with him”

The rabbi’s face remained stolid; he glanced at the prisoner, however, and presently went to the officer.

“The peace of the Lord be with you!” he said, with unbending gravity.

“And that of the gods with you,” the decurion replied.

“Are you from Jerusalem?”

“Yes.”

“Your prisoner is young.”

“In years, yes.”

“May I ask what he has done?”

“He is an assassin.”

The people repeated the word in astonishment, but Rabbit Joseph pursued his inquest.

“Is he a son of Israel?”

“He is a Jew,” said the Roman, dryly.

The wavering pity of the bystanders came back.

“I know nothing of your tribes, but can speak of his family,” the speaker continued. “You may have heard of a prince of Jerusalem named Hur – Ben-Hur, they called him. He lived in Herod’s day.”

“I have seen him,” Joseph said.

“Well, this is his son.”

Exclamations became general, and the decurion hastened to stop them.

“In the streets of Jerusalem, day before yesterday, he nearly killed the noble Gratus by flinging a tile upon his head from the roof of a palace – his father’s, I believe.”

There was a pause in the conversation during which the Nazarenes gazed at the young Ben-Hur as at a wild beast.

“Did he kill him?” asked the rabbi.

“No.”

“He is under sentence.”

“Yes – the galleys for life.”

“The Lord help him!” said Joseph, for once moved out of his stolidity.

Thereupon a youth who came up with Joseph, but had stood behind him unobserved, laid down an axe he had been carrying, and, going to the great stone standing by the well, took from it a pitcher of water. The action was so quiet that before the guard could interfere, had they been disposed to do so, he was stooping over the prisoner, and offering him drink.

The hand laid kindly upon his shoulder awoke the unfortunate Judah, and, looking up, he saw a face he never forgot – the face of a boy about his own age, shaded by locks of yellowish bright chestnut hair; a face lighted by dark-blue eyes, at the time so soft, so appealing, so full of love and holy purpose, that they had all the power of command and will. The spirit of the Jew, hardened though it was by days and nights of suffering, and so imbittered by wrong that its dreams of revenge took in all the world, melted under the stranger’s look, and became as a child’s. He put his lips to the pitcher, and drank long and deep. Not a word was said to him, not did he say a word.

When the draught was finished, the hand that had been resting upon the sufferer’s shoulder was placed upon his head, and stayed there in the dusty locks time enough to say a blessing; the stranger then returned the pitcher to its place on the stone, and, taking his axe again, went back to Rabbi Joseph. All eyes went with him, the decurion’s as well as those of the villagers.

This was the end of the scene at the well. When the men had drunk, and the horses, the march was resumed. But the temper of the decurion was not as it had been; he himself raised the prisoner from the dust, and helped him on the horse behind the soldier. The Nazarenes went to their houses – among them Rabbi Joseph and his apprentice.

And so, for the first time, Judah and the son of Mary met and parted.

– Wallace, Lew.  Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. New York: Nelson Doubleday, Inc. pp. 98-100.

§ One Response to Judah Ben-Hur

  • Sarah Ortiz says:

    This makes me want to add this book to me “read soon” list… it’s another I own and have yet to read.

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