We turn now from myths of divine agon and triumph against a primordial enemy (the primeval waters or sea dragon), at the time of world origins and later foundational moments, to divine acts performed in the course of Israel's sacred history—and beyond. Here, too, myth is present as the correlation between divine activity and events in the world and history. What is particularly striking is the dramatic symbiosis between them. According to one distinguished historian of ancient religions, the involvement or participation of gods in the events of origins or ends is one of the defining characteristics of myth—it being (in part) a type of narrative 'in which the gods themselves are set in a milieu which is vaster than themselves and which in various ways transcends them and in which they are not only the subjects but also the objects of events'. 1 Certainly YHWH's active involvement in the great events of Israelite redemption, or the various modes of His providential intervention (punishment, exile, and restoration), are major topics of the scriptural record; but as we shall now see, this involvement is radically transformed in rabbinic literature—resulting in diverse myths of divine self-limitation and/or participation in the events befalling the nation (especially servitude and suffering).
A transitional moment is marked in Hebrew Scripture itself, as we may observe from a certain textual difficulty found in Isa. 63: 8-9. Ostensibly, this passage is part of a prologue proclaiming the graciousness of YHWH (v. 7) and His glorious acts on behalf of Israel (vv. 8-9)—specified in subsequent lines (vv. 11-14). As part of this introit, particular mention is made of God's special relationship to Israel and His providential care and beneficence for them. 'And He said: “Surely they are My people”…; so He became their deliverer (v. 8). In all their troubles (be-khol tzaratam) He was troubled (lo (the qere) tzar), and the angel of His presence delivered them. In His love and pity He Himself redeemed them, raised them and exalted them all the days of yore' (v. 9). The recitation goes on to record YHWH's acts of redemption, in the hope of arousing His favour and deliverance from the present bonds of exile (vv. 15-19).
This seems clear enough; but how is one to understand the blatant contradiction between the emphasis on God's direct act of redemption (v. 8), and