Jack Miles has responded to a number of theses concerning the character of his deity. Many biblical critics have suggested the early books present several gods lumped together by editorial fiat. Miles insists that the god of the Hebrew Bible is but one. That circumstance, uniqueness and solitude, is the cause of various character changes this god went through in the course of history. He has neither siblings nor peers. It's a very human story, but Miles doesn't portray this god as a human personification with superior powers. On the contrary, this god is unaware of the powers he possesses until he tries them out. They become, predictably, addictive with the passage of time. As the god develops, he exhibits changes in character that would be considered "growing up" in people. Finally, for unknown reasons, but perhaps just fatigue, the god retires from human contact. People are left only with previous lessons to follow.
Although "God" is the result of intensive knowledge of the Hebrew Tanakh, Miles dismisses the notion that his study is a psychoanalysis of the god, but that's because he's dealing with a divinity. The character variations Miles chronicles, the creator, destroyer, family patriarch, liberator and others, could be applied to any complex character. Any good biography of a national leader might evince the same personifications. The depiction might manifest as many, if not the same, characteristics. Miles' demurral may be overlooked, since his presentation is a compelling account delivered with lively writing skill. He is able to achieve a cool detachment, but not clinical aloofness, in presenting a deity to which he retains some level of adherence.
Miles' personal faith doesn't restrict what minimal judgments he offers on this god. He accepts that the god reneges on promises, is a genocidal killer of some note, and punishes even those he claims to love with spontaneous wrath. In early days, he doesn't seek worshippers, just obedient subjects. We learn his sacrifices must be living creatures instead of agricultural crops, but the issue rises with Cain and repeats frequently. It's an arbitrary decision, enforced with vigour, but the motivation remains hidden. It all seems to boil down to whimsical expressions of power. The power is challenged, however, in the outstanding chapters in this book, the account of Job. Job's story has been retold countless times in various arenas, but Miles has analysed the account with fresh, engrossing insight. In his view, Job wins the encounter by simply accepting the god enjoys greater power than he, responding "So what?". It's a given. Job's not contesting the point, so why the terrible punishments? Miles' god is here shown as lawgiver, but not an administrator of justice. Miles, too, accepts the condition - the god has simply grown old and too irascible to reason with.
The shade of Samuel Langhorne Clemens hovered nearby during the reading of this book and writing this review. Silently, the spectre seemed to point repeatedly at Miles' text. Comment wasn't required, the message was clear: why would any person venerate such a creature? Miles fails to answer this question, in fact, he doesn't even pose it. For him, faith in this deity is a given. He doesn't adore mindlessly, but clearly accepts the conditions laid down as valid history. For some, the detachment seems inhuman, but that doesn't detract from the value Miles' portrayal has offered us. The story is too well presented to ignore.