Case Study on Revenge

Watched it again this evening (Easter Sunday). Pulled out the old VHS cassette and RCA player to watch the conclusion of the epic film Ben Hur (MGM 1959). This remains one of my favourites.  It stars Charlton Heston, Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Haya Harareet, Sam Jaffe and Hugh Griffith (the bright-eyed Arab horseman).

In the second reel we had gotten past the accident which sends Judah Ben Hur's family into Roman custody, the slave procession through the desert, a chance meeting with Jesus the carpenter, the Roman galley ships in battle, the oarsman Ben Hur falling into the favour of the Roman commander, and the pomp in Rome where this Jewish nobleman receives Roman adoption.

Returning whole and hale to Jerusalem he stuns his boyhood friend turned nemesis, the Roman commander Massala. He was responsible for locking up Judah's family. The chariot games are scheduled before the new Governor Pontius Pilate, and the Jew is bent on victory and revenge in defeating and out-wagering Massala, master charioteer. The presentation of the crowds, the arena and the thundering chariots was a masterpiece for all time in cinematography. Suffice it to say that Massala's infractions of the rules of the event cost him an upset and his life, but not before telling the Jew that his mother and sister are living skeletons in the Valley of the Lepers (transferred with the plague from their prison).

The Hur house servant, and romantic interest, the beautiful Esther, has been giving them extra care for years, but they now dread seeing the estranged son and brother in their horrible condition. She tries her best, but unsuccessfully, to keep him away.

It appears that the Jew is about to launch organized revolt in his hatred of Rome. A chance encounter on a hillside with Esther puts him within yards of one of Jesus' captivating out-of-doors messages. An old man named Balshazar, and an acquaintance of Hur's for years, encourages him to come hear the wonderful words of the Nazarene. "I have found him, and am thoroughly convinced that He is the Son of God."

Without a word Hur gets up as if to leave. The other sighs, "You still choose death".

I had forgotten that line, but it aptly describes Hur's angry hold on life through the years for sake of revenge by the sword. Those who reject the message and promise of the Christ still choose death.

I will sum up briefly. Hur finds his way with family and Esther to the Via Dolorosa and Calvary's Hill. He witnesses the Man of Sorrows in extremis but without any show of hatred. The impact of this sight is life-changing.

I will never forget the scene where the blood from the Cross co-mingles with storm rainwater and flows abroad. In that storm Judah's mother and sister, speaking good words of the Nazarene, are healed of their contagion.

Believers all. Happy reunion in the Hur household. The hate forgot.

The last spoken words by Ben Hur: "When I heard His (Christ's) voice, the sword left my hand."

Pastoral scene of a shepherd leading his flock. The End.


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