Ben-Hur, when you hear this name what do you think of? Do you think of the epic movie staring Charlton Heston that was based on the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ? Did you even know that there was a novel, and that there was more to the title?

Ben Hur cover Lew Wallace

Cover of my copy of Ben Hur.

Did you know that the name Ben Hur is in the Bible? However, it appears much earlier than the setting of the novel which is at the time of Christ.

    Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each man had to make provision for one month in the year. These were their names: Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim; Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elonbeth-hanan; Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher); Ben-abinadab, in all Naphath-dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam; Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (he had the villages of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars); Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he had taken Basemath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin; Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan. And there was one governor who was over the land. ( 1 Kings 4:7-19 ESV)

I really enjoyed reading Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ the last time I read it three years ago. I had a business trip planned for Crawfordsville, Indiana to visit one of our largest customers to conduct a training course. As always when I get ready to take a trip I decided to find out a little bit about where I was going. I quickly found out that Crawfordsville was home to the General Lew Wallace Study.

General Lew Wallace Study, Crawfordsville, Indiana, Ben Hur

General Lew Wallace Study

Since I planned on visiting the museum while I was there, I decided that it was once again time to read Wallace’s most famous novel.

General Lew Wallace served in the Mexican-American war, became a lawyer and was also a general for the Union in the Civil War. After the end of the Civil War he returned to Crawfordsville where he wrote most of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ while sitting under a beech tree near his house. The study shown above was not built until years later. Wallace finished the novel in 1880 while serving as the territorial governor of the New Mexico Territory. He then served as the U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire from 1881 – 1885. After returning to Indiana he had his study built so that he would have a place of solitude where he could spend time alone while studying or writing. He also needed a place to keep his small library of more than 1,000 books.

Interior of the General Lew Wallace Study, Crawfordsville, Indiana Ben-Hur

Alcove in the Study

I really enjoyed visiting the study. The main room of the study had bookshelves all the way around the walls with a large desk in the center of the room. Wallace had several different hobbies that  were also represented by items in the collection. There was also memorabilia from the different Ben-Hur movies that had been made. When I dream of building a study/library someday I always have components from this one in the plans.

After touring the study, I also visited the small museum that is located in the carriage house of the former Wallace home. Unfortunately the Wallace home no longer exists. However, I am glad that the study was preserved.

While at the museum I had the flyleaf of my copy of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ stamped with etchings of the study.

General Lew Wallace Study stamps, Crawfordsville, Indiana, Ben-Hur


I also bought a collection of DVD’s of the different movie versions of Ben-Hur, so that I could compare them with the book. Believe me, the book is much better than the movies. The book is so complex that they had to cut out many of the plot points and move the location of several of the events in the book to shorten the length of the movie. The Charlton Heston version is 212 minutes. Can you imagine a movie that is even longer? Another piece of trivia, Heston was not the first choice to play Ben-Hur. Can you imagine Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson or Leslie Nielsen in this role?

Maybe I will watch the movie again this week. I will be recuperating from having my wisdom teeth out on Tuesday.

I especially want to watch the chariot race again. While on my vacation to Israel we saw the remnants of several hippodromes. My first thought was always Ben-Hur.

So, if you are looking for a good book to read this fall, pick up a copy of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.



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13 Responses to Ben-Hur

  1. It’s on my shelf, but has never been much of a priority. You’ve bumped it up a few notches!

  2. Boomdeeadda says:

    That’s a really a cool looking building with the inviting porch and round windows in the basement. Do you know what happened to his house? Fun that you got your copy of Ben Hur stamped there at the Study. Good luck at the dentist, I had mine out years ago. They put me to sleep and so it was a breeze.

  3. Sheryl says:

    Interesting post–I would never have guessed that Ben-Hur was written in Crawfordsville Indiana.

  4. Glenda McDougal says:

    Steven, this may be your most interesting post so far!! Mainly because of my ignorance of the writer, his background, etc. Loved his alcove in the study! Thanks so much!! Ben-Hur is a fantastic read. In the passage you posted, I’ve always been amused by the name of Soloman’s daughter, Basemath 🙂

    • vanbraman says:

      Glenda, the name Basemath means Sweet Smelling or Perfume. There are also two other Basemaths in the Bible. They were both married to Esau and one was the daughter of Ishmael.

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