Humphreys on God as a Character

From The Character of God in the Book of Genesis by W Lee Humphreys:

In spite of a certain reluctance to engage him as such, God is, I assert, the most compelling character in the book. He is, in fact, the one figure whose presence ties it together from beginning to end. From creation to the settlement of Joseph’s family in Egypt, God in one way or another is central as he interacts with other characters. This character God gives, as we will see, a coherence and structure to the extended narrative of Genesis that is often otherwise experienced as quite episodic. God is again and again focal in the sequence of events that comprise the narrative and in the lives of the other characters who appear for more limited spans of text. Indeed, if Genesis is a story about men and women exploring ways of living in the presence of a God “in search of” them, then it would seem paramount that we attend to this searching God as the most central character in Genesis.

To claim that Genesis is about God should occasion no surprise. To claim that the way it is about God is to present him as one character interacting with other characters in a story-world, as a character created by readers who engage this extended narrative, calls for more attention. Others speak of God in Genesis, but generally with a degree of abstractness and distance that belies the particularities of his appearances again and again in the text. They see him often as a presence, more a force above the story-world in which the other figures move and into which we as readers enter than a character in that world.

Often-in fact, most of the time-elsewhere God is directly and immediately present in the text, just like Joseph and all the other characters. Rather than an unseen force behind or above the immediate story-world of events and other characters, he appears and talks, acts and reacts, as other characters do. God is a character made of words-a “fictus,” to use Baruch Hochman’s term.” Most of the various means of characterization used to depict the human figures in the book of Genesis are used to depict God as well. As the one character to appear from beginning to end, he is indeed the central character in Genesis.

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