A king and his rebellious son struggle to control the kingdom.
A warrior is caught by his hair on a tree branch, dangling and vulnerable to an enemy who has a sword.
And a powerful man sees a woman taking a bath, decides he must have her, and orders her husband into the most dangerous part of a battle, where he is sure to be killed.
All this drama can be found in 2 Samuel, an Old Testament book young members of the Wyoming Valley Falcons Pathfinders Club have been studying to prepare for an international competition affectionately called “the Bible Bowl.”
“Set BLANK in the BLANK of the BLANK and BLANK from him,” Fred “Papa” Herman said during a recent practice at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Hudson section of Plains Township.
“Set Uriah in the forefront of the battle and withdraw from him, that he may be struck down and die,” one of the young Pathfinders said, filling in the blanks in a message King David sent to arrange the death of Uriah the Hittite.
Some of the 90 questions to be asked on Saturday in Takoma Park, Md., where more than 80 teams from North America, the United Kingdom and the Philippines are expected to compete, will need to be completed that way, Herman said.
Other questions might take a different format, such as: “What was the message Bathsheba sent to David?”
“I am with child,” one of the girls said.
What kind of tools did the people of Rabbah use?
“They used saws, iron picks and axes.”
When David told a foreigner named Ittai to go home, how did he respond?
“As the Lord lives, and as my Lord the king lives, wherever my Lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”
The Pathfinders, whose Bible-centered club sports uniforms similar to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, seemed to know all the answers word for word.
Or they came close.
At one point Herman asked about a woman named Tamar. Fifteen-year-old Adam McElwee said her clothes were torn and she had ashes on her head to show she was in mourning.
Herman shook his head. “Not ashes but dust,” he said.
Later, Herman said that if a scorer at the international competition were to deem “ashes” incorrect, the students have a right to appeal to judges, perhaps pointing out that “ashes” and “dust” can mean the same thing.
The Pathfinders, who recently had a first-place finish at the regional Union Level Bible Experience in Worthington, Ohio, are excited about their trip to Maryland, but they all said winning is not as important as learning the Scriptures.
“It will help you in life,” McElwee said.
Asked for an example, 16-year-old Shae-lyn Briggs said, “I can be a perfectionist sometimes, and I like to think of the verse, ‘I can do all things through God who strengthens me.’ Then I won’t be so hard on myself.”
The story about King David taking Uriah’s wife and having Uriah killed teaches a lesson that “if you sin you can always come back and God will forgive you,” the students said.
“But you’ve got to ask,” McElwee added.