Chapter VI, of book 4
Ben-Hur is part of a procession of people going to the Grove. He finds an opportunity to leave the group aside and trails off into the thick overgrowth of the woods. He stays for some time there, enjoying the beauty of the blooming trees and the creatures who dare show themselves to him. He quickly chides himself for having happy feelings when his mother and sister are lost.
As he works on getting away from the Grove, he notices from a bridge that what he is in is actually a wall-less temple, built strictly out of nature’s own materials.
Chapter VII has Ben-Hur going with Malluch to the stadium, where competitors will gather for the chariot races. He learns that one of the drivers is none other than Messala, looking as haughty as ever. An instance of near death-by-chariot to a woman and her father, she on camel-back, tells us that the father is Balthasar, one of the 3 wise men we met in the beginning of the story. (Malluch was who was ordered to follow Ben-Hur; I forgot to tell you that, didn’t I?)
The opportunity presents itself for Ben-Hur to race against Messala, on the morrow, at what they call the Circus. He is quickly off to see the Sheik whom is the owner of a beautiful chariot and steed of horses, said to be descendants of the 1st Pharaoh’s horses.
As Malluch and Ben-Hur travel to the Sheik, Malluch describes the story of Balthazar, as Ben-Hur recalls the man at the fountain whose life he saved from the chariot driven by Messala was one and the same.
Further on, Malluch returns to Simonides and reports on what he learned of Ben-Hur. He states with confidence that Ben-Hur is whom he claims to be, by the things he had told him and the way he behaved. Simonides daughter Esther seems especially happy about this as well, and her father is not sure if it is because he would be their ruler or because she loves him. (I find it amazing how fast people fell in love back then, don’t you?) She confesses that she does indeed love Ben-Hur, and wishes for him to not attend Circus, and race against Messala. Simonides ponders this information as he also ponders knowing that the King to Be was indeed born, and expecting him to make his appearance in his lifetime.
The story then turns back to Messala, and a gathering of soldiers and followers amongst who he begins to hear the tale of a Roman and a Jew, whom was adopted by Quintas Arrius, yet Messala fails to make any connection to his former young friend.
Again we go back to Ben-Hur, who has now arrived at the tent of the Sheik of whose horses and chariots he wishes to command in the race at the Circus. After discussing his plans for revenge with the Sheik, he again meets Balthazar, whom is also there with the Sheik. As they quietly eat dinner, it becomes clear that of this gathering of an Arab, a Jew, and an Egyptian, all believers in One True God, it is Balthazar that must tell his story of searching for and finding the baby Jesus.
The author kindly lets you know that from here-on-out, Jesus will be referenced to throughout the story, as this is the timeframe of when he began his ministry.
A quote from Balthazar that literally took my breath away (or I was holding my breath…)
“There is a kingdom on the earth, though it is not of it–a kingdom of wider bounds than the earth–wider than
the sea and the earth, though they were rolled together as finest gold and spread by the beating of hammers. Its
existence is a fact as our hearts are facts, and we journey through it from birth to death without seeing it; nor
shall any man see it until he hath first known his own soul; for the kingdom is not for him, but for his soul.
And in its dominion there is glory such as hath not entered imagination–original, incomparable, impossible of
increase” (Wallace, 1880, pg 166).
I have heard the kingdom referred to as already being here on earth from several different authors, including C.S. Lewis, who ended the Narnia series with everyone going up, up, higher into the garden that continued to become more bright and beautiful.
I think that is more than enough for today; I hope I am not boring you with this story, I have to say, it is one of the better books I have read! And yes, I still want to see the movie.
Wallace, L. (1880) Ben-Hur. Harper and Brothers Publishing.