edited the summary of Ben Hur Saturday, November 20, 2010.
Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. His old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. They become bitter enemies. Because of an unfortunate accident, Ben-Hur is sent to slave in the mines while his family is sent to leprosy caves. As Messala is dying from being crushed in a chariot race, he reveals where Ben-Hur's family is. On the road to find them, Ben-Hur meets the Christ as he is on the road to Golgotha to be crucified. That day changes Ben-Hur's life forever, for that is the day he becomes a believer.
Mikie edited the summary of Ben Hur Tuesday, May 18, 2010.
Part OneBiblical references: Matt. 2:1-12, Luke 2:1-20
Three Magi have come from the East. One, Balthasar, sets up a tent in the desert. Melchior, a Hindu, and Gaspar from Athens join him and as the three men each tell their stories and they realize they have been brought together by their common goal. As they prepare for the journey to come, they see a bright star shining over the region, and they take it as a sign that they are to leave. They follow the star through the desert towards the province of Judaea.
At the Joppa Gate in Jerusalem Mary and Joseph are travelling through on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They stop at the inn at the entrance to the city but there is no room. Mary is pregnant and, as labour begins, they head to a cave on a hillside behind the inn and here Jesus is born.
In the pasturelands outside the city, a group of seven shepherds are keeping watch over their flocks. Angels from heaven announce the Christ's birth. The shepherds hurry towards the city. They are rebuked by one of the men supervising the khan but nevertheless, inspired by the angels' message, they enter the caves on the hillside and worship Christ. They spread the news of the Christ's birth and many come to see him.
The Magi arrive in Jerusalem and inquire for news of the Christ. Herod the Great is angry to hear of another king challenging his rule and asks the Sanhedrin to find information for him. The Sanhedrin brings out a prophecy, written by Micah, telling of a ruler to come from Bethlehem Ephrathah, interpreting it to signify the Christ's birthplace.
<edit> Part TwoBiblical references: Luke 2:51-52
Judah Ben-Hur is a prince descended from a royal family of Judaea. Messala, his closest childhood friend, the son of a Roman tax-collector, leaves home for five years of education in Rome. He returns as a proud and avaricious Roman. He mocks Judah and his religion and the two become enemies. Judah decides to go to Rome, as Messala had, for military training but use his skills to fight the Roman Empire.
Valerius Gratus, the fourth Roman prefect of Judaea, passes by Judah's house. As Judah watches the procession, a rooftile is loosed, falls into the street and hits the governor. Messala betrays Judah, who is arrested. There is no trial; Judah's family is secretly imprisoned in the Antonia Fortress and all the family property is seized. Judah vows vengeance against the Romans. He is sent to become a slave aboard a Roman warship. On the way to the ship he meets Jesus, who offers him water, which deeply moves Judah.
<edit> Part ThreeIn Italy, Greek pirate-ships have been looting Roman vessels in the Aegean Sea. The prefect Sejanus orders the Roman Quintus Arrius to take warships to combat the pirates. Judah is a galley slave rowing chained on one of the Roman warships. He had survived three hard years, fuelled by his passion for vengeance. Arrius is impressed by Judah and finds out more about his life and his story. The ship is attacked by pirates and the ship is sunk. Judah uses a plank as a raft. Arrius surfaces besides him and the two of them hold on until a Roman ship appears and rescues them. They return to Misenum and Judah is adopted by the influential Arrius, becoming Roman citizen.
<edit> Part FourJudah Ben-Hur trains for five years in the Palaestra in Rome and becomes the heir of the deceased Arrius. Judah goes to Antioch on state business. On the voyage, he learns that his real father's chief servant, Simonides, lives in a house in this city, and that his father's possessions had been entrusted to him. He pays a visit to the house and tells his full story to Simonides, who demands more proof. Ben-Hur replies he has no proof, but asks whether they know the fate of Judah's mother and sister. He says he knows nothing and Judah Ben-Hur leaves the house with an apology. Simonides hires his servant Malluch to spy on Judah to see if his story is true and find more information. Malluch meets and befriends Judah in the Grove of Daphne and they go to the games stadium together. There, Ben-Hur finds his old rival Messala racing one of the chariots, preparing for a tournament.
A prosperous Arab of Antioch, Sheik Ilderim, announces that he is looking for a chariot driver to race his team in the coming tournament. Judah, wanting revenge on Messala, decides to drive the sheik's chariot and defeat Messala. Meanwhile, Balthasar and his daughter Iras are sitting at a fountain in the stadium. Messala's chariot nearly hit them but Judah intervenes. Balthasar thanks Ben-Hur and presents him with a gift. Judah heads to Sheik Ilderim's tent. The servant Malluch follows him there, and along the way they talk about the Christ and Malluch relates Balthasar's story of the Magi. They realize that the man rescued at the fountain was the same Balthasar that saw the Christ's birth.
Back at Simonides' house, Esther, Simonides and Malluch talk together, and conclude that Ben-Hur is who he claims to be, and that he is on their side in the fight against Rome.
Messala realizes that Judah Ben-Hur has been adopted into a Roman home and his honour has been restored. He threatens to take revenge.
Meanwhile, Balthasar and his daughter Iras arrive at the Sheik's tent. With Judah they discuss how the Christ, approaching the age of thirty, is ready to enter public ministry. Judah takes increasing interest in the beautiful Iras.
<edit> Part FiveMessala sends a letter to Valerius Gratus about his discovery that Judah is alive and well, however Sheik Ilderim, intercepts the letter and shares its contents with Judah. He discovers that his mother and sister were imprisoned in a cell at the Antonia Fortress and Messala has been spying on him.
Ilderim is deeply impressed with Judah's skills with his racing horses and is pleased to chose him as charioteer.
Simonides the merchant comes to Judah and offers him the accumulated fortune of the Hur family business, of which Simonides has been steward. Judah Ben-Hur accepts only the money, leaving property and the rest to the loyal merchant. They each agree to do their part to fight for the Christ, whom they believe to be a political saviour from Roman authority.
A day before the race Ilderim prepared his horses and Judah appoints Malluch to organise his support campaign for him. Meanwhile, Messala organises his own huge campaign, revealing Judah Ben-Hur's real identity to the world as an outcast and convict. Malluch challenges the Messala and his cronies to a vast wager, which, if the Roman loses, would bankrupt him.
The day of the race comes. During the race Messala and Judah become the clear frontrunners. Judah deliberately scrapes his chariot wheel against Messala's and Messala's chariot breaks apart. Judah is crowned winner and showered with prizes, claiming his first strike against Rome.
After the race, Judah Ben-Hur receives a letter from Iras asking him to go to the Roman palace of Idernee. When he arrives there, he sees that he has been tricked. Thord, a Saxon, hired by Messala, comes to kill Judah. They duel, but before it is over Ben-Hur offers Thord four thousand sestercii to let him live. Thord returns to Messala claiming he has killed Judah - so collecting money from both Messala and Judah, returning to Rome to open a wine shop. Being supposedly dead, Judah Ben-Hur goes to the desert with Ilderim to plan a secret campaign.
<edit> Part SixSimonides bribes Sejanus to remove the prefect Valerius Gratus from his post, as a service to Ben-Hur. Soon after the accession of the new prefect, Pontius Pilate, Ben-Hur sets out for Jerusalem to find his mother and sister. Pilate orders a review of the prison records which reveals great injustice and that Gratus was deliberately trying to conceal the existence of one walled up cell. Pilate's troops reopen the cell and find that there are two leprous women inside - Judah's mother and sister. They are released and stop for a while at the old vacant Hur house. Here, they find Judah sleeping on the steps, and they offer thanks to God. They don't wake him but weep that, as lepers, they are to be banished, never seeing him again. They leave.
Amrah, the Egyptian maid that once served the Hur house, discovers Ben-Hur, wakes him, and they are reunited. Amrah reveals that she has stayed in the Hur house for all these years. She had also kept in touch with the loyal Simonides and discouraged many potential buyers of the house because they thought she was a ghost.They pledge to find out more about the lost family. Judah discovers an official Roman report about the release of two leprous women. Amrah hears rumours of the mother and sister's fate.
Meanwhile, a plan is approved to use funds from the corban treasury, of the Temple in Jerusalem, to build a new aqueduct. This is seen as sacrilegious by the Jewish people, who petition Pilate to veto the plan. Pilate sends his soldiers in disguise to mingle with the crowd. At the appointed time, they massacre the protesters. Judah kills a Roman guard in a duel, and becomes a hero in the eyes of a group of Galilean protesters.
<edit> Part SevenBiblical references: John 1:29-34
At a meeting in Bethany, Ben-Hur and his Galileans organise a resistance force, an army which wil revolt against Rome. Judah asks Simonides and Ilderim for help, and they establish a training base in Ilderim's territory, deep in the desert. After training for some time, Malluch sends him a letter announcing the appearance of a prophet who he believes to be the Christ. Judah journeys to the Jordan to see the Christ, and on the way meets Balthasar and Iras again, travelling for the same purpose. Judah does not accept Balthasar's reasoning of the Christ as a saviour rather than an earthly king, and continues with his plan to fight. They reach Bethabara, where a group has gathered to watch John the Baptist. A man walks up to John, and asks to be baptized. Judah recognizes him as the same man that gave him water at the well in Nazareth many years earlier, and Balthasar worships and almost faints at once again seeing the Christ.
<edit> Part EightBiblical references: Matthew 27:48-51, Mark 11:9-11, 14:51-52, Luke 23:26-46, John 12:12-18, 18:2-19:30
During the next three years, Jesus preaches his gospel around Galilee, and Ben-Hur becomes one of his followers. He starts to believe that Balthasar may be right, when he sees that Jesus chooses fishermen, farmers and similar people, considered "lowly", as apostles. Judah believes Jesus to be wasting valuable time by not proclaiming himself king immediately. Yet, he has seen Jesus perform miracles, and is convinced that the Christ really had come.
During this time Malluch, armed with the Hur fortune, has bought the old Hur house and renovated it, restoring it to splendour. He then invites Simonides and Balthasar, with their daughters, to live in the house with him, and they become regular occupants of the house. Judah Ben-Hur seldom visits the house. The day before Jesus plans to enter Jerusalem and, finally proclaim himself, Judah returns and gives them a full account of what has happened through the years he has followed Jesus. When he tells of the healing of ten lepers, Amrah realizes that Judah's mother and sister could be healed, and the next morning, alone, hurries to the lepers' cave to tell them the good news. The three wait along a road, and amidst all the rejoicing and din during the Triumphal Entry, they ask Jesus to heal them, and their request is granted. When they are cured, Judah sees them and Amrah and the family are finally re-united.
Several days later, Iras talks with Judah, saying he has trusted in a false hope, for Jesus had not started the expected revolution. She says that it is all over between them, saying she loves Messala. Ben-Hur remembers the "invitation of Iras" that led to the incident with Thord, and accuses Iras of betraying him and spying on him for Messala's gain. That night, he realises how different Balthasar and his daughter are, and resolves to go to Esther.
While he is lost in thought, he sees a parade marching down the street, and falls in with it, confused. He notices that Judas Iscariot is leading the parade, and many of the temple priests and Roman soldiers are all marching together. They go to the olive grove of Gethsemane, which confuses Ben-Hur even more, and he sees, ahead of him, Jesus walking out to meet them. Ben-Hur understands the betrayal, is spotted by a priest who tries to take him into custody; he breaks away and flees. When morning comes, Ben-Hur learns that the Jewish priests have tried Jesus before Pilate, and although he was originally ruled "not guilty", has nevertheless been sentenced to crucifixion at the crowd's demand. Ben-Hur is shocked at how his legions have all deserted him in his time of need. They head to Calvary, and Ben-Hur resigns himself to watch the crucifixion of Jesus. The sky darkens. Ben-Hur offers Jesus wine vinegar to return Jesus' favour to him. Jesus utters his last cry.
Ben-Hur and his friends commit their lives to Jesus, who they now realise is not the earthly king they had previously hoped for, but a heavenly king and a saviour of mankind.
<edit> EpilogueFive years after the crucifixion, Ben-Hur and Esther have married and had children. The family is now living at a villa in Misenum. Iras visits Esther, marvels at the children she might have had, and informs Esther that she has killed Messala, saying she has finally discovered that Romans were brutes. Esther tells Ben-Hur of the visit and he launches a fruitless search for the woman.
In the tenth year of Emperor Nero's reign, Ben-Hur is staying at Simonides' house. Simonides' business has been successful, and he, with Ben-Hur, has given most of the fortunes to the church of Antioch. Now, as an old man, he has sold all his ships but one, and that one has returned for probably its final voyage. The Christians in Rome are suffering persecution under the hands of Emperor Nero, and Ben-Hur and his friends decide to help. Ben-Hur, Esther, and Malluch set out from Antioch, on the last of Simonides' ships to Rome. They decide to build an underground church - surviving through the ages and becoming known as the Catacomb of San Calixto in Rome.