God: A Great Personality

The biblical God is a God we can relate to.

Print this page Print this page

The complex image of the biblical God that emerges in this passage captures everything we mean when we attribute personhood to God. God cares about society; God does not tolerate wickedness; but God has other commitments here, to do what is just and right. God also has a prior relationship with Abraham; Abraham has been "singled out" because he shares these commitments. These two impulses are in conflict, so God has to deliberate what to do and whether to invite Abraham's reaction. Note that Abraham understands that he has not only the right, but indeed the obligation, to challenge God, which he then proceeds to do. Despite Abraham's self‑abnegation throughout—he is but dust and ashes, he fears God's anger—Abraham clearly knows his rights, appreciates his power, and is fully prepared to use it on behalf of innocent people. Even more, God and Abraham share a commitment to the moral law. That, together with their relationship, forms the basis for the entire story. Astonishingly, God welcomes Abraham's challenge.

Consider the image of God portrayed in this story. God deliberates, is conflicted, has feelings, invites consultation, is willing to change the divine plan, is open to negotiation, and needs to be true to previous commitments. Above all, God has an intense relationship with an individual human being. This is what we mean when we attribute personhood to God.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Dr. Neil Gillman

Dr. Neil Gillman is Aaron Rabinowitz and Simon H. Rifkind Professor of Jewish Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.