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Esther was one of the primary characters of the Lew Wallace novel Ben-Hur and subsequent movie adaptations. Esther was the daughter of Simonides - the steward of the House of Hur. She later became the wife of Judah Ben-Hur.

1959 Film

At the beginning of the film Esther travelled with her father to Jerusalem. Simonides was due to give an accounting of his business to his master Judah Ben-Hur, and Esther went to seek permission to marry. Hur gave his consent for Esther to return to Antioch and marry.

When the Hur family was taken prisoner at the order of Hur's old friend Messala, she and her father went to the Roman garrison to plead for on behalf of the Hur family. This backfired as Simonides was taken prisoner by the Romans.

Esther was forced to remain in Jerusalem to await her father's release, breaking off her upcoming marriage. She stayed at the Hur family estate, and when her father and his friend Malluch were released from prison she took them in to care for him. By then her father was paralyzed from the torture at the hands of the Romans.

After being adopted by Quintus Arrius after saving his life in battle, Hur returned to Jerusalem. Returning to the family estate Hur found Esther, Simonides, and Malluch living in the house. Esther revealed to Hur that the marriage was called off since she was forced to remain in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile Messala's aide was sent to the prison to free the women, but it is found that the two women have contracted leporsy during their long stay. They are freed and the cell is burned out. The two women return to their house one last time, and tell Esther to tell Hur that his mother and sister are dead, not wanting Hur to see them in their current condition, and knowing that under Mosaic law he would have to reject them now. Esther makes up a story that she had seen the bodies of Tirzah and Hur's mother shortly after their initial imprisonment, and Hur storms off in anger.

Hur's mother and sister left for the Valley of the Lepers. Esther and Malluch would visit often, delivering goods for Hur's mother and sister. When Hur found out he tried to see them but was blocked from doing so by Malluch.

During this time Esther encountered a young preacher from Nazareth and was won over with his radical ideas of the Kingdom of God. She tried to convince Hur to let go of his anger but he would have none of it, still bitter over what happened to his mother.

When he learned that his sister was dying, Hur went to the Valley and retrieved his sister, deciding to see if the young preacher could help her. Ultimately his mother and sister were healed by Christ at the moment of his own death. Hur came back from the crucifixion to reveal to her that Christ asked his Father to "forgive them, for they know not what they do." He revealed that he felt the sword being taken out of his hand at that moment.

Esther turned to reveal to Hur that his mother and his sister were fully healed, allowing them a joyful reunion.

Novel

In the novel Esther married Judah Ben-Hur a short time later. Five years after the crucifixion she and Hur have small children and are living in Misenum - an Italian town near the Gulf of Naples. She is approached by Iras - the daughter of Balthazar - who had left to become Messala's lover. Iras revealed that she had suffered much abuse at the hands of Messala and finally slew him. Refusing entreaties from Esther to remain as Hur had forgiven her, Iras left, ostensibly to commit suicide.

The novel ended in the 10th year of Nero's reign in 64 AD. Her father Simonides was still alive then. Esther and her husband traveled to Antioch to see Simonides with their children as he sold off the last pieces of the family business. News had reached them of the persecution of Christians in Rome, and they decided to go to Rome to help. While in Rome Esther's husband gave his fortune to help finance the construction of what would later become known as the Catacomb of Callixtus.

Trivia

  • The role of Esther was played by the Israeli actress Hyra Harareet. As of present Harareet is the last surviving primary cast member of the 1959 Ben-Hur movie.
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