For several years it happened that we were driving in the car with our kids on the way to an Independence Day family barbeque, when flipping through the radio stations we found the Bible Contest final. We tried to answer the challenging questions along with the contestants and were proud when any of us knew even one of the answers.
The International Bible Contest Grand Final has been a central feature of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations since 1963. Listening to these Israeli high school students answer incredibly hard and obscure questions is awe-inspiring.
Prime Minister David Ben Gurion was an ardent lover of the Hebrew scriptures and helped launch the first Bible contest (for adults) in 1958 when the state of Israel turned 10 years old. The contest, called “Hidon HaTanach” in Hebrew, received an overwhelming response with more than half of the Jewish Israel population tuning in on radio.
In 1963 the Bible contest for youth became the main event. (See the list of the youth winners going back over 5 decades.)
Each year the contestants are given a list of over 400 chapters out of 929 total chapters in the Hebrew scriptures (“Old Testament”) from which the questions will be taken – including all the history chapters and the major prophets.
Unfortunately, in recent years the Bible contest has not been getting as broad of a reception in the general Israeli public as it used to. The average secular Israeli seems to be drifting away from rooted-ness, connection and familiarity with the Hebrew scriptures. Furthermore, the ministry of education is hard-pressed to find enough Bible teachers for the Bible lessons that are still given in Israeli public schools from elementary through high school (typically 2-4 hours a week).
And now, just before we get to the contest questions, here are a few scriptures for context, illustrating how central the words of God and the accounts of his dealings with Israel are (or at least should be) to the identity of Israel:
- Moses instructed: “Take this Book of the Law, and put it inside the ark of the covenant of the Lordyour God, so that it may be there for a witness against you.” (Deuteronomy 31:26)
- God himself told Joshua: “Do not let This Book of The Law Depart from Your Mouth; Meditate on it Day and Night, so That You May be Careful to do Everything Written in it.” (Joshua 1:8)
- “Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’ “ (Jeremiah 1:12)
This year the first and second place winners of the Bible Contest were for the first time, both young ladies. The 1st place winner Emuna Cohen told how she prepared intensively for 3 years a few hours a day, and for the last few months – full time. Emuna used melodies to help her retain the material. Like her, most first place winners learn their appointed 400 chapters very nearly by heart in order to be able to answer even the most obscure of questions, often quoting the associated verses from memory in the final. Seventeen year old Emuna learns in an ulpana high school for orthodox young women and is considering a career as a bible teacher in Israeli schools.
Here we bring you a selection of average questions from recent years…
Try your hand at QUESTIONS taken from the Bible contest, and feel free to let us know your score in the COMMENTS section – but don’t let it “go to your head.”
(Mark your answers on a piece of paper and then check yourself against the answers at the end of the article.)
1.) Who said to whom: “If I have truly gained Your favor, please let me know Your ways”?
2.) A Biblical figure spoke these words of lament over fallen heroes of Israel: “Your splendor [HaTzvi], O Israel, has been slain upon your hills. How the mighty ones have fallen.” Who said these words of lament and what were they lamenting? [By the way, “HaTzvi” is the name of the newspaper founded in 1884 in Jerusalem by Eliezer Ben Yehuda who almost single-handedly restored Hebrew as a modern spoken language].
3.) What young woman asked her father for an inheritance with a water source since he was giving her land in the Negev desert? [By the way part of Ben Gurion’s vision was to settle the Negev Desert in southern Israel, and he himself moved from Tel Aviv to S’de Boker south of Be’er Sheva when he retired from politics.]
4.) Who said to Moses: “You will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone”?
5.) Complete the verse: “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint, but …”
6.) A man of Israel who saved a land from famine, received authority from the foreign king, “You shall be over my household, and your word shall settle every matter. Only the throne will be kept beyond you.” What was the name of the man; and what was the honorific title he was awarded?
7.) A man was asked to bring good news of comfort to the people of Israel when they were in hardship: “I shall bring you to the land I have lifted my hand to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am the LORD.” Who was the man and what was the response of the children of Israel when they heard these words?
Answers – but please don’t peek until you have tried to answer on your own:
- Moses to God
- David; the death of Saul and Jonathan
- Achsah, the daughter of Caleb
- “But happy is he who keeps the law.”
- Joseph; Tsaf’nat Paneach [The revealer of hidden things]
- Moses; The children of Israel did not listen to Moses due to the hard labor they were under.
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