Who was Hur in the Bible?

There are three separate men named Hur mentioned in the Bible, all in the Old Testament. The least-known of the three is mentioned by name in Nehemiah 3:9. He was the father of Rephaiah, one of the rulers of Jerusalem who repaired a section of the walls of Jerusalem when Nehemiah was overseeing the rebuilding process (see the book of Nehemiah for more about the reconstruction of the Jerusalem walls after the Israelites returned from their exile in Babylon and Persia). Another Hur in the Bible was one of the five rulers of Midian in the time of Moses. When this Hur appears in Scripture, the Israelites were wandering in the desert as God’s punishment for their lack of trust and obedience concerning taking possession of the Promised Land (Numbers 14). While God’s people were in the land of Shittim, the Midianites there deceived them, leading them into sexual immorality and idolatry. So God commanded Moses to take revenge on the Midianites and their chiefs: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba. Every Midianite man was killed, including all five chiefs (Numbers 31:7–8). This battle was the last that Moses led before his death.

The most well-known Hur appears in the book of Exodus. He is described as being from the tribe of Judah. As Hur is most often mentioned in conjunction with Aaron, Moses’ brother and high priest of the Israelites, Hur also had a place of authority among the people. Hur is one of the two men who held up Moses’ arms during the Israelites’ battle against the Amalekites. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the battle, staff in hand, and raised his arms in a position of prayer (Exodus 17:8–9). As long as Moses’ arms were raised, the Israelites prevailed, but, when he lowered his hands, the Amalekites began to overtake the Israelites (verse 11). So, when Moses’ arms grew tired, he sat on a stone and Aaron and Hur stood beside him to hold up his arms. Due to Aaron and Hur’s support, “Moses’ hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword” (Exodus 17:12–13). Previously, when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he left Aaron and Hur in charge of the people. They did a poor job, for, when Moses returned, he found that the people had created a golden calf to worship in place of the Lord. Aaron himself cast the idol (Exodus 32:2–4). While Hur’s involvement in the idolatry is unclear, as a leader in Israel, Hur was either complicit or complacent in the matter. The last piece of information the Bible gives us of Hur of the tribe of Judah is that he was grandfather to Bezalel (Exodus 31:2), the craftsman who was filled with God’s Spirit to oversee the construction of the tabernacle and the Ark of God. According to one Jewish tradition, Hur was married to Moses’ sister, Miriam. Another tradition says that Hur was Miriam’s son. Yet another Jewish tradition has Hur standing up to the idolaters at Mt. Sinai and being murdered by them—after which Aaron was much more compliant with the crowd’s demands. Such speculations are interesting but cannot be confirmed in Scripture.

The name “Hur” is also known due to the character “Judah Ben-Hur” in the movie Ben-Hur. However, the character in the movie is not based on any of the men named “Hur” in the Bible. Ben-Hur is in the Bible, but it’s not the Ben-Hur that most people think of when they hear the name. First Kings 4:1–19 gives the names and responsibilities of several chief officials appointed by Solomon during his reign as king over Israel. Ben-Hur was one of the twelve district governors, “And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision.” 1 Kings 4:7. Ben-Hur was from the hill country of Ephraim, the first administrative district. The personal name Ben-Hur means “son of a camel” or “son of Horus.” While ben is the Hebrew term for “son of,” the word Hur is of Egyptian origin. The more well-known Ben-Hur is a fictional character created by General Lewis Wallace, who had served in the Union army during the American Civil War. Wallace’s 1880 novel titled Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was the best-selling novel of the 19th century. The book was turned into a play (1925), a silent movie (1925), and then a famous Hollywood movie starring Charlton Heston in 1959 (the movie was later remade again in 2016). Wallace’s story is about a young Jewish nobleman named Judah Ben-Hur, who overcomes injustice, prejudice, hatred, and racial superiority after an encounter with Jesus the Christ, who wholly transforms his life. Through the power and compassion of Christ, Ben-Hur gives up his quest for vengeance and finds all that had been broken in his life is restored. As a work of historical fiction, Ben-Hur does a good job balancing the historical with the fictional. Ben-Hur’s interactions with Jesus are infrequent, do not speculate too much on what Jesus might have done in extrabiblical situations. The result is a believable account of life in the first-century world. But the story is fiction, and its main character, Ben-Hur in this account, is not found in the Bible. The only actual person named Ben-Hur in the Bible was Solomon’s high official in charge of supplying food and provisions needed by the royal court for one month each year. No other details are given about him, and there is no other Ben-Hur in the Bible.

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