She gave him the roll he asked.
“‘But thou,'” he began reading- “‘but thou, Bethlehem Ephrath, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.’- This was he, the very child Balthasar saw and worshipped in the cave. Believest thou the prophets, O my master?- Give me, Esther, the words of Jeremiah.”
Receiving that roll, he read as before, “‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.’ As a king he shall reign- as a king, O my master! Believest thou the prophets?- Now, daughter, the roll of the sayings of that son of Judah in whom there was no blemish.”
She gave him the Book of Daniel.
“Hear, my master,” he said: “‘I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.’- Believest thou the prophets, O my master?”
“It is enough. I believe,” cried Ben-Hur.
“What then?” asked Simonides. “If the King come poor, will not my master, of his abundance, give him help?”
“Help him? To the last shekel and the last breath. But why speak of his coming poor?”
“Give me, Esther, the word of the Lord as it came to Zechariah,” said Simonides.
She gave him one of the rolls.
“Hear how the King will enter Jerusalem.” Then he read, “‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion…. Behold, thy King cometh unto thee with justice and salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass.’ Ben-Hur looked away.
“What see you, O my master?”
“Rome!” he answered, gloomily- “Rome, and her legions. I have dwelt with them in their camps. I know them.”
“Ah!” said Simonides. “Thou shalt be a master of legions for the King, with millions to choose from.”
“Millions!” cried Ben-Hur.
Simonides sat a moment thinking.
“The question of power should not trouble you,” he next said.
Ben-Hur looked at him inquiringly.
“You were seeing the lowly King in the act of coming to his own,” Simonides answered- “seeing him on the right hand, as it were, and on the left the brassy legions of Caesar, and you were asking, What can he do?”
“It was my very thought.”
“Oh my master!” Simonides continued, “you do not know how strong our Israel is. You think of him as a sorrowful old man weeping by the rivers of Babylon. But go up to Jerusalem next Passover, and stand on the Xystus, or in the Street of Barter, and see him as he is. The promise of the Lord to father Jacob coming out of Padan-Aram was a law under which our people have not ceased multiplying- not even in captivity; they grew under foot of the Egyptian; the clench of the Roman has been but wholesome nurture to them; now they are indeed ‘a nation, and a company of nations.’ Nor that only, my master; in fact, to measure the strength of Israel- which is, in fact, measuring what the King can do- you shall not bide solely by the rule of natural increase, but add thereto the other- I mean the spread of the faith, which will carry you to the far and near of the whole known earth. Further, the habit is, I know, to think and speak of Jerusalem as Israel, which may be likened to our finding an embroidered shred, and holding it up as a magisterial robe of Caesar’s. Jerusalem is but a stone of the Temple, or the heart in the body. Turn from beholding the legions, strong though they be, and count the hosts of the faithful waiting the old alarm, ‘To your tents, O Israel!- count the many in Persia, children of those who chose not to return with the returning; count the brethren who swarm the marts of Egypt and Farther Africa; count the Hebrew colonists eking profit in the West- in Lodinum and the trade-courts of Spain; count the pure of blood and the proselytes in Greece and in the isles of the sea, and over in Pontus, and here in Antioch, and, for that matter, those of that city lying accursed in the shadow of the unclean walls of Rome herself; count the worshippers of the Lord dwelling in tents along the deserts next us, as well as in the deserts beyond the Nile; and in the regions across the Caspian, and up in the old lands of Gog and Magog even, separate those who annually send gifts to the Holy Temple in acknowledgment of God- separate them, that they may be counted also. And when you have done counting, lo! my master, a census of the sword hands that await you; lo! a kingdom ready fashioned for him who is to do ‘judgment and justice in the whole earth’- in Rome not less than in Zion. Have then the answer, What Israel can do, that can the King.”