What do you mean God speaks?

S3Post4: What I believe, and the stories we didn't cover

December 17, 2023 Paul Seungoh Chung Season 3 Episode 21
What do you mean God speaks?
S3Post4: What I believe, and the stories we didn't cover
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The final 3rd Season’s post-season episode returns to some issues to wrap up before we move on to Season 4. 

First, part of this Season wrestled with the question that historians today has raised regarding the historicity of the life-stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their family—as they are recounted in the book of Genesis. But, what do I personally believe regarding the position held by most historians today? Here’s why the answer to that is somewhat complicated (and oddly, why it is related to how I deal with the question of the multiverse raised by some scientists today). 

Second, we will return to explore two of the stories in Genesis we didn't cover in this Season—the stories of two women: Dinah, and Tamar. Listen to why we did not cover their tales in the main season, and why they are nevertheless quite important. And lastly, check out how the word, “sex,” was said more times in this single episode than the entire series so far put together!

 0:00     Why would I leave things out of an episode?           
 3:09     What I believe about “historicity”… and the multiverse             
 18:28     Story of Dinah             
 28:54     Story of Tamar        

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There are many, many topics and questions in Season 3 that we didn’t or couldn’t cover —though that’s just how it is for everything we’ll explore in this series. I mean, even the title, “What do you mean, God speaks?” is itself a question that is literally impossible to fully cover, since what Christianity means by “God speaking” is all of reality. So, for this series, I simply have to select the parts that we’ll explore and move on.

But, there were still some topics I really debated on covering in this Season, but in the end, didn’t do so for various reasons. I actually wrote parts of the script for it, and then cut them out at the last minute. 

So, I’m going to go over a couple of such topics, before moving on to Season Four.  

[ music ]

Welcome to “What do you mean God speaks?” I’m Paul Seungoh Chung, and this is the 4th post-season episode of Season 3, “On things I couldn’t cover in Season 3”.

[ / music ]

The biggest reason why I would decide to leave something out of an episode, if I initially went through the trouble of writing the thing, is that it disrupts the “flow” of that episode. Now, each episode, even though it does tend to branch out to different content and topics, does have a “flow,” which follows a single, overarching idea or thesis. Generally speaking, this flow is a kind of a “trajectory” toward the question or idea that is posed by the episode title itself: for example, “Why there is no job for God,” “Why Genesis is true for the ancients, us and the ETs,” or “What do you mean there’s no God”. So, even if some topic is quite relevant to what the episode is exploring, if going into it will disrupt this flow too much, I will leave it out. 

But, why would some relevant topic disrupt the flow? Well, one common reason is that it’s something that will require further in-depth explanation—this is especially the case when it is something that is prone for misunderstanding by people today. But, this will slow the episode too much, or even raise some other related questions that will lead the episode into a completely different direction. Now, that in itself is great; new questions can lead to new insights or understanding—or at least, open up new paths to explore. But, the thing is, we’re already exploring a particular question in that episode; so, what I need to do, is to leave that topic aside and return to it in some future episode or Season where it will “fit” with the flow better. In fact, you probably heard me say exactly that in a number of different episodes—that we’ll cover this or that in some other time.

Well, among those, there are topics that I don’t think will fit anywhere in the future episodes either, and I can only discuss them in an extra episode like this. Here’s one example from Season Three: the question of what I personally believe regarding the historicity of the life-stories of Abraham and his family in Genesis.

So, at the start of the third season, I said that there is a general, “scholarly consensus” regarding when the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis, was written—at least, the version that we are reading today. Most scholars hold that they were written more than a thousand years after the time of when Abraham is supposed to have lived, and this poses difficulties, to say the least, for connecting the Genesis accounts of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to actual history. And you’ll find out in the next Season that similar problems emerge regarding the accounts of Moses, and of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, and their journey across the desert to the land of Canaan. But, if you remember episodes 2 and 3 of this Season, there is a spectrum of positions among scholars on whether these biblical accounts describe historical events. On the one end are the maximalists, who argue that unless something in archeological and historical findings outright disprove these accounts, we should take their life-stories presented in the Bible as records of something that historically happened; so, all the stories, unless proven otherwise, happened in history. The other end are the minimalists, who argue that unless archaeological findings or historical records from that time confirm these accounts, we should believe that these events did not happen historically; so unless proven otherwise, they did not happen. Most scholars, I said, are sort of in the middle: something like, we have reasons to think that there are some historical roots to these accounts, which were passed down to later generations as stories. But, we don’t know what those roots are, exactly. So, something like these stories may have happened, but, we don’t know. So, unless proven otherwise, don’t rely on these accounts to know what happened in history. Yes, I’ve massively oversimplified these positions—but, I’m trying to give you an easy-to-understand picture of what views are out there. 

This series went with the position that I reported as being held by “most scholars” who are in the middle: the “Maybe? But, don’t rely” group. Or rather, we explored how, even if we were to hold that position, Christians can still rationally affirm the historical reality of God’s relation to people in the past, which these biblical accounts have described for us. Again, listen to the episodes in Season Three, if you want to know what I actually mean by that. But, there is still this question. What do I personally believe regarding these different scholarly positions: the minimalists, the maximalists, or the majority who are in the “the middle”? Am I assuming the “middle” stance? Well, the answer to that is complicated. And that requires a long explanation—and so, it was left out. But, what do I really think of the “scholarly consensus”, regarding how historically reliable are the biblical accounts of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and in the upcoming Season, Moses? 

To answer that, we’ll take a detour, and first talk about contemporary cosmology. Yes, it’ll connect later. Now, at several points in this series, I brought up the concept of the “Multiverse”. Specifically, how for Christianity, God speaking—the Logos—can bring forth not only our universe, but possibly an uncountable number of other universes, with even different laws of physics, which contemporary cosmology calls the “Multiverse.” And this may sound as if I believe the multiverse really exists. But, I don’t. Now, many scientists think it does, and I also think that it may exist. But, what science really tells us so far is that theoretically speaking, the multiverse can exist. That is, it is possible that it exists—just as it is possible, theologically speaking, that God speaks forth uncountable number of other universes. Now, some science-communicators write as if scientific findings today (such as the cosmic inflation, or the cosmological parameters of this universe) simply imply a multiverse, but that’s quite dishonest.[1] That’s because when you read their actual explanation, what science really implies is that other universes can exist—not that they do exist; that the cosmological inflation theoretically could have formed other universes, or that one explanation as to why this universe seems so finely tuned for complex matter and Life to exist, is by positing that there are other universes without such fine-tuning. And I’d retort here that it is also possible to explain this fine-tuning by positing that there is some divine, engineering design to this universe, but that neither is something that’s simply implied by science. And this is why, as far as I can tell, serious scientists do not affirm that the “multiverse” exists, essentially for the same reason why they won’t say that some god-like entity fine-tuned the cosmos. It’s because so far, there is no scientific evidence that it does exist. Nothing that we can scientifically examine now can tell us that the multiverse actually exists—only that conceptually, and logically, it can exist.[2] 

But, at the same time, the multiverse is a scientific proposal, and well-attested scientific theories like cosmological inflation do imply the possibility of its existence. So, I’m just holding my judgment until there is empirical evidence.[3] But, I still discuss the idea of the multiverse in this series because it could very well be true, and it is a scientific theory. Furthermore, this theory is too often used by atheists as an argument against God, though I find their arguments to be about as scientific as the Intelligent Design Movement they so detest. The truth is: Reality can include a multiverse, and likewise, Reality that is personal—namely, God—can imply a multiverse. In fact, any idea of God as the Creator of the cosmos raises the possibility of the multiverse about as much as current scientific theories do—though for different reasons. And I need to point that out and explain why, especially for those who think that one somehow disproves the other. Because while I don’t personally believe that the multiverse really exists, at least until further evidence, this series is about Christianity at large, and more broadly the belief in God, and not just my personal belief. There may be a multiverse; or there may not be. Christian belief in God accounts for both.[4]

Perhaps you may have realized where all this is going. What I believe regarding what scholars say about the historicity of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or in the upcoming season, Moses, is the same. Do I fully believe what scholars or historians say about the biblical accounts of their lives? Do I, for example, hold the view of those I called “most scholars in the middle?” And honestly? Not really. I can clearly say that I’m not a minimalist— they seem way too closed minded, and their position seem to go way past the available evidence, at least as much as the maximalists. But, this is about what I believe, rather than what I can say is backed up by evidence. And by just belief, I’d say I take the accounts of the Bible about the lives of people like Abraham to Moses as they are described, unless there are specific, undeniable reasons not to do so.  

Now, I think that questions about the historicity of the events described in the Bible, at least regarding Israel’s early history, are very difficult to clearly answer—and I mean, even to answer that they didn’t happen. I’d say it is more difficult than, say, finding out what likely happened in the first minute of this universe after the Big Bang, though that probably may sound strange to people. I’ll get more into that in the upcoming Season, but the short of it is, it isn’t just a matter of finding whether archaeology matches with what the Bible says, because there is existing debate about what the Bible really is saying about those things, even if we take it all as straight-forward historical accounts. Perhaps the numbers don’t mean what we think they mean, or the time, or the locations, and if so, archeologists and historians would’ve been looking at the wrong place or the wrong time to examine whether these biblical accounts are historical. None of this is to say that we can just ignore what archaeologists or historians say—not at all—but that we’re working with much more uncertainties than we’d like. 

And in that sense, what they say is rather like what scientists say about the multiverse. Ok, not quite like the multiverse—which is only theoretical, with no empirical evidence, whereas there are actual, archaeological sites, and artifacts and such. What I mean though is what scholars conclude about the historicity of biblical events—the life stories of Abraham to Moses—may be true, and there are good reasons to think so. But, there is so far, no mean to conclusively tell us that. Perhaps, the minimalists are correct. Or, perhaps, the maximalists were correct all along. Perhaps, we will find a copy of the Torah, dating back to the time of Moses, or discover that the Cave of the Patriarchs, which traditions say are the tomb of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, really are their tombs. (And there really is a complex of cave-tombs in Israel, which people, as far back as twenty six hundred years ago, believed were tombs that belong to Abraham and his family. That’s before the time that most scholars believe the life-stories of Abraham’s family in the book Genesis were written down in its present form. In fact, recent archaeological findings suggest that it was a pilgrimage site long before even that—twenty eight hundred years ago. But, of course, we don’t know why it was a pilgrimage site back then, and it still leaves a gap of several centuries from the time of Abraham. But, again, the point is: nothing is settled. ) 

Now, the problem is: I am not an expert in this field—the field of archaeology or biblical studies—I have only a passing familiarity with it, just enough to understand what I read, because of my training in a related, but different field. So, I can only report what people in these fields seem to be generally saying, rather than argue about which of them hold the best position. Again, this is rather like what I can say about scientific cosmology of our day—I can report what people in the field says, but my area is elsewhere. I cannot, for example, argue for nor against the multiverse. Neither can I argue for nor against any of the position in biblical studies. I can only tell you what is there so far.

What I can do, however, is explore what those things mean for the Christian worldview and its understanding of God—that’s more my field. The concept of God is such that God may be speaking forth uncountable number of universes. But, saying that does not mean that I’m saying the multiverse does exist. And I'm saying the same thing about what the scholars and archaeologists today say about the life-stories of Abraham and his family, or Moses and the Israelites in the desert. If there are problems that are being posed regarding the historicity of these stories, I can tell you what those are, and what they mean for Christianity. (Which is to say) we can examine in this series why the question of historicity is important for the Christian belief in God, and just how much, exactly, the seeming lack of connection between the Genesis account of Abraham’s family and current, historical findings, pose difficulties for that belief. And we concluded that what the Bible is conveying to us through their life-stories, which is about how God has spoken to real people and how real people have related to God in the past—that is not something that these problems about history have undermined. Again, review the first three episodes of Season Three for this. Now, they may undermine some specific details, but not its core. But, even saying all of that does not mean that I simply accept the current case against the historical reliability of Abraham’s life-story. I don’t, because it is far from conclusive. But, like the question of the multiverse, people often believe that these problems undermine Christian belief in God; my point is that they don’t, and they won’t, even if these problems were to be unanswered

See, some people seem to think that Christian beliefs are like this large, stained-glass windows, beautiful perhaps, but rigid, fragile things that easily breaks. But, that is not what it’s like at all. This “stained-glass window” that you see—these beliefs—are just our particular articulation of this vast vista we see before us; a vision that springs from our relation to Reality who speaks to us. So if these windows do break, we can craft another, like the old, but refined and renewed, because that vista is still before us, our relation to reality is still there, while our skills to express what we see has grown. 

You can even say that this is what this series has been doing. You may remember that I also brought up the topics about the multiverse, and historicity in a past extra episode; back then, I said that this series is exploring issues that are at a deeper, and more fundamental level—issues about frames. So, not just about whether the multiverse exists, but about what it means for God to create the world, and what that idea means if we’re living in a multiverse; so, not just about whether this or that specific event or person is historical, but the significance of history for the Christian belief in God, and what it even means for Christianity to affirm that something in the Bible is “historical,” which by the way, means something more than what historians today tend to mean. 

[ Pendulum ]

Ok, there’s another topic, or rather topics, we couldn’t cover in Season Three. Again, this is a “flow” problem, but this time, there was a very specific problem: context, and the sensitive nature of the topic. I can only explain by getting into it, so, here goes. 

First, we need to go back to the episode just after Jacob returned to his homeland with his family, the one where he wrestled with God, but before we turned to the life-story of Joseph—so, between episodes 14 and 15. There is a story in Genesis we skipped back then—well, ok, this series have, and will, skip many parts in the Bible, since we simply can’t cover them all. But, there was a specific reason why we didn’t cover this particular story other than just the lack of time.

After Jacob parted with his brother, Esau, he arrived at a town called Shechem, and bought from the inhabitants there some land nearby he can settle in. There, he built an altar to God—this btw was before his wife, Rachel died—and called the altar El Elohe Israel, which either means “mighty is the God of Israel,” or “El is the God of Israel”. 

Now, do you remember that other than the twelve sons, Jacob also had a daughter, named Dinah? If you don’t, well, you may be excused since she does not greatly affect the overall trajectory—the “flow,” you can say—of the Genesis narratives, and so, she is rarely mentioned. But, there are a couple of more reasons this series did not cover a brief story in Genesis where she is a central figure. First is, well, if you’re the type that needs trigger warnings, this story has one. So, if you are, fast forward like three minutes. Well, to be fair, quite a number of stories in the Bible are, shall we say, prone to trigger people. Anyway… Jacob and his family are settled near Shechem. Then, Dinah decided to visit the town and meet with the some women there; I suppose living with eleven brothers—Benjamin wasn’t born yet—was kind of stifling. 

While she was in town, a young man named Shechem—yes, it’s the same name as the town—who was the son of the ruler of that area, saw her and fell in love. And he acted on that love by… uh, raping her. Yeah, this just went from PG to R rating with a single word. Anyway, because he did love her, he then proposed to her, and convinced his father to meet with Jacob and arrange for their marriage—thereby winning history’s worst marriage proposal award. This is the second reason, because for those of us with modern sensibilities and morals, this will seem incomprehensible; problem of context.

See, the ancient Middle-Eastern culture’s outlook on sex and marriage or even sexual crime was quite different from ours, to say the least. We won’t get into it in this extra- episode, since it will likely come up again either in Season Four, or Five, but simply put, in that cultural context, what he did was considered shameful, but it was just barely within the legally allowable norm— that is, if Dinah was married, or was betrothed, then what Shechem did would’ve been branded a severe crime. But, she wasn’t, and this meant that as long as he was planning on marrying her, and if the family of the victim was willing to accept his proposal, then it could be overlooked. And this isn’t simply because women were considered chattel, or something—that’d be ignoring, again the cultural context. This is because both sex and marriage were considered as a kind of business transaction—yes, there were obviously elements of love and sexual attraction, and all that, but just as your job is often more about earning a living first, and then your passion or meaning, so sex and marriage was more about contract and agreement between families. And yes, men had more power in that transaction—that was the culture, and we may be thankful that our society is more equal, but it isn’t simply that. But, such a way of thinking is quite foreign to us today, even with this explanation. 

Maybe this comparison will be more helpful, though it is a very clumsy comparison; for people back then, what Shechem did seemed to be about shameful as how we would view a very promiscuous young man today, who seduces a naïve young girl he met at a party into sleeping with her, and then getting her pregnant. But, he then very sincerely promises that he’ll “take responsibility,” and marries her. Of course, you could say if he pressured her, even that can be considered a crime—but, that should illustrate the grey zone that Shechem was in for the people in that cultural context. Except again, for those of us living with our modern moral standards, especially with the progress with women’s rights, this is very difficult to wrap our heads around. 

However, this isn’t the end of the story. Shechem really did love Dinah, and his father tried very, very hard to convince her family to let them marry. He said he would pay Dinah’s family whatever the bridal price they wanted, no matter how high. But, Jacob’s family was very angry, and Dinah’s two brothers, Simeon and Levi, were particularly livid about what happened. But, they hid their emotions, and came up with a plan. You may remember that God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male member of his family as a sign of their relationship, and faith in God’s promise? Well, they used it here. They pretended to accept Shechem’s proposal, but they said, “Sure, but we can’t let her marry someone who’s not circumcised.”  

So, Shechem and his father convinced every men in the entire town to get circumcised, convincing them that this will bring Jacob’s wealthy caravan to be part of the town’s community. And well, circumcision is very, very painful procedure, especially for grown men. They were simply unable to move for several days, while they recovered. Simeon and Levi then went to town and killed all the helpless men, and then took the women and children as slaves. Yes, that also happened, part and parcel of the kind of brutal world the people back then seem to have lived. But, it was considered excessive even by the standard of that time, as Jacob then reprimands them saying, “What you’ve done has made us the entire people of this region into our enemies. Now, if they decide to take vengeance on us for what you did, what’re you going to do?” His sons then replied, “Well, what? You were gonna let him get away with treating our sister like a prostitute?” And again, remember the business transaction-nature of sex and marriage back then.

And the whole story is narrated simply and grimly, without a single commentary on what is happening—not a single scene in which God speaks to people involved—as if the whole incident is reported to highlight the sheer lawlessness of that time. Now, the Law —this will become an important theme in the set of ideas and insights of Christianity and the Bible that we will explore in the next Season. You may have noticed that there is no mention of a legal system in this story. No one is appealing to the courts or some law regarding what Shechem did to Dinah, or what Simeon and Levi did to Shechem and his townspeople. Nor is there ethical or moral consideration here. For the people involved, this entire incident was understood as kind of grave insult against a girl and her family, who then responds with retribution. Even Jacob’s reprimand to his sons is worded in terms of being concerned with further retribution, a kind of inter-racial blood feud. In contrast, we’d view this as moral and legal issue, of crime and punishment—or rather, in this case, lack of such framework. So, keep this in mind, because the need for laws becomes central in the next Season, with the book of Exodus and beyond. 

But, now the length of what we explored so far, should tell you why we couldn’t go into it; it’s a complicated story on its own, filled with, well, cultural minefield. But, why am I bringing this story back up here? Sentiment, really; it just seemed unfair to me that only time Dinah gets any spotlight in the Bible was this story, and then she never appears again except when her name is mentioned in a list of children of Jacob. We’re not told how she felt about what happened to her, or what happened to her afterwards. We don’t know if she married someone else and had a family like her brothers did; now, there are Jewish legends outside the Bible that she later married a widowed prophet named Job—another key figure in the Bible we’ll meet in a future Season. But, that’s just folktale. So, I wanted to at least tell her story here. 

Her story started one further, and very significant ripple in the future though, at the closing of the book of Genesis; we skimmed over it, but remember how before Jacob died, he called all of his sons to him and spoke of what the future holds for them—what God will speak forth in the time of their descendants? Well, because of what Simeon and Levi did, Jacob upbraids them for their unrestrained anger and vengefulness, and says that their descendants will be scattered among the other tribes of Israel. This is why, Judah, the fourth son is named as the leader of the other sons, along with Joseph. This in turn describes the prominence of the tribes of Judah and the two tribes of Joseph, named after his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, among the people of Israel. 

[ Short pendulum ]

Another story we did not cover, happens during an episode in Joseph’s life-story. And it again features a woman as a central figure, though this time, she is quite proactive, and her name does appear again later in the Bible. So, in episode 17, we briefly mentioned that two of Judah’s sons died as a young man, and how this may be a key reason why he changed by the time he met his brother, Joseph, again. The story does not tell us what led to their deaths, other than that God brought it about—but of course, everything that happens, in some way, is what God speaks forth. We are also told though that these two men were evil before the LORD, but not what really happened between them and God—again, because this is not their story. This is simply set up for the real story.

Well, ok, we are told one thing that the second son did that was considered quite evil. His action is now known by his name: “Onanism.” But, again the cultural gulf between our time and their time makes it so that the entire story needs much more explanation. 

So, for whatever reason, Judah’s oldest son, Er, dies. Then, Judah tells the second son, Onan, to have sex with Er’s now widowed wife, Tamar, so that she will have a child in his brother’s name. This practice, now called Levirate marriage, probably seem strange to modern readers, but, remember what I said about the business-transaction aspect of sex and marriage in that culture. The main goods, so to speak, of that transaction is the union that will produce children. That’s because in that culture, your children are your primary legacy; this is why it was such a big deal that Abraham and Sarah remained childless in their old age. Yes, there was also obviously the love between parents and children we so well know today—I mean hopefully we know it well—but it was also more than that. Your children carry on your name and memory, or in a sense, your continued existence, though we still think like this to some extent. And if you left no child, you would in a sense cease to exist—or worse, it’d be as if you never existed. There is, of course, also the more immediate concern of the widowed woman being left alone with no family of her own to support her. So, if a married man died without leaving a child, it was the responsibility of the man’s nearest male relative, to marry his widow and have a child with her. In doing so, both the dead man and his widowed wife would have someone who will carry on their name and legacy, and inherit their property, and the child would also take care of their widowed mother once they grew up. 

But, it seems Onan did not like that idea. For some reason, he did not want his brother to have someone carry on his name or inherit his property. He also likely did not want to support his brother’s widow and her child who, legally speaking, won’t be his. So, when he had sex with Tamar, he, uh, spilled it outside so she wouldn’t get pregnant. But, this wasn’t just a rather unreliable form of birth-control; for that time and culture, what he did was tantamount to, say, pissing on his brother’s corpse and then his wife, you know, to show his contempt. And yes, I’m deliberately using that imagery. And this was considered quite a repugnant thing to do, and God brings about his death. 

And this meant that now their younger brother, Shelah, would need to have sex with Tamar until they have two children, for both Er and Onan. But, Judah became afraid for his last, remaining son. I mean put yourself in his shoes. Yes, Genesis reports that God brought about the deaths of his older sons because they were evil, but that isn’t helpful for Judah. I mean, firstly, they are his sons, whether good or bad; secondly, everything that ever happens is in some way what God brings about anyway; and third, it’s not that God brings about the death of every wicked person there is. So, the problem for him is how does he ensure that it won’t happen again? And it seems that Judah’s frantic mind noticed that his sons have a habit of dying when they have sex with his daughter-in-law. So, he decided not to risk his last remaining son’s life by pairing him up with Tamar. But, I think he also realized how crazy and paranoid that sounded, so instead, he told her to wait until his son became old enough to give her a child, and sent her back to her family to live as a widow. 

Now, Judah had lost his wife some years ago—again, I think this loss of his wife and sons made Judah really understand the pain and fears that his father, Jacob, experienced. It was probably why Jacob was willing listen to Judah when he promised him to keep Benjamin safe. Anyway, after Judah finally recovered from his grief, he decided to go to town with his friend, to, well, come out of his shell again and “live it up”. And come out of his shell he did, as he saw a young woman, sitting by the road toward the town, and approached her, thinking she was a prostitute. Her face was veiled, so he couldn’t see it clearly, but he called out, “I want your services tonight!” “Well, what’s your offer?” She asked. “A young goat from my flock.” She seem to consider it, and then said, “Can you give me your seal and cords, and your staff, as a pledge that you’ll bring me that goat as you promised?” “Deal!” he replied.

So, Judah had a wild night out, and then went home. But, when he sent her the goat, she was nowhere to be found. Then, about three months later, he heard the news that his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, was pregnant. Now, this was a grave breach of contract—again, the business aspect of marriage—punishable by death. And no, sleeping with a prostitute, or being a prostitute for that matter, is not covered by this strict contract, if you were wondering. Anyway, as she was being led out, Tamar sent a message to her father-in-law, saying, “Before you punish me, take a look at this seal and cord, and this staff. These belong to the child’s father. Do you recognize them?” 

Tamar had realized that Judah had no intention of keeping his promise to give her his youngest son, so she can have a child. That was a breach of contract too. So, when she heard that her father-in-law had finished mourning his wife, and planned for an outing with his friend, she came up with a plan. She took off her widow’s mourning attires, and wore a veil to hide her face, and sat by the road, waiting for him. She had figured that if her brother-in-law wasn’t going to give her a child, then her father-in-law was going to fulfill that responsibility, willingly or unwillingly. 

Judah recognized his own seal and cord, and his staff, and said, “She’s in the right. I’m the one who did wrong,” and brought her back into his family. 

Tamar then gave birth to two sons, and they were named Perez and Zerah. And this is a very significant point, because for Perez, her son, is listed as the direct ancestor of King David in the future. And for Christianity, since the human lineage of Jesus comes from David, Tamar is included in his ancestry. In fact, Tamar is one of the few women who is listed specifically by name, in both the genealogy of King David in the Hebrew Bible (or the Christian Old Testament), and in the genealogy of Jesus in the in the New Testament—which obviously makes her quite a significant character.   

So, why was she left out in the main episodes? Well, again the “Flow” issue. The sheer length of the cultural context that needed to be explained to understand what is going on, require a separate episode like this—except it didn’t quite fit anywhere in the narrative flow of what was happening with Jacob and Joseph. 

However, the presence of the lives of these women subtly sets the background on which the larger life-stories of not only the individuals in Genesis, but that of their descendants centuries or even millennia afterwards. Which is why I felt I just needed to return to their stories before moving on to Season Four. 

This, however, also raises an issue we have so far left untouched; the role of women in the Bible. But, like so many other questions and topics in this series, that will have to be some other time, some other episode, and Season.

[ Short S4(?) Music ] 

So, please join me next time, as we begin the next, Fourth Season: “They were born in the Desert.”

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[1] Sean Carroll, for example, I find, is an especially egregious example.

[2] In a sense, I find that the argument for the multiverse has the same logical force as the theistic, ontological argument for God. Logically speaking—granted the all the premises and definitions—the concept of God and concept of perfection, and existence, implies that God exists. But, that does not mean God does exist, at least according to Kant whose argument against it really can be summed up as you can only declare the existence of something through empirical investigation—at least as far as human knowledge claim goes. Well, for me, same with the multiverse. 

[3] You could say, it’s not that I believe there is no multiverse; it’s that I “lack” a belief in the multiverse until further evidence. Now, an atheist may then ask me why I don’t likewise “lack” a belief in God, like I “lack” a belief in the multiverse. Well, I may lack a belief in the multiverse, but that does not—and cannot—mean that I lack a belief in reality as a whole. Reality exists, obviously; it’s that my understanding of reality does not include a confirmed existence of the multiverse. And God… is reality. Of course, reality as a whole may not be personal—you can believe that—then, one’s understanding of reality is something that is not “God” in a full sense, though there would still be partial overlaps, such as the notion that reality have structures, principles, and laws, and even the notion that reality is like a speech (Or more precisely, that our speech is like reality). Neither position is simply a “lack” of belief—it is a particular belief, which can be, or be very distant from, the Christian conception of God.  

[4] God may have spoken forth just a single universe, precisely structured to bring forth complex matter and Life, or God may have spoken forth uncountable number, but chose for this universe to be capable of Life and eventually, us

Why would I leave things out of an episode?
What I believe about “historicity”… and the multiverse
Story of Dinah
Story of Tamar