Preceding discussions have explored the mythic acts of God, performed in sympathetic participation with the history of Israel. These dramatic expressions are frequently linked in the midrashic homilies and teachings of late antiquity with the theme of divine affliction or travail. Notably, this is portrayed as God being 'with' Israel in its times of difficulty—both the labour of Egypt and the servitude of exile. Left out of these accounts are the expressions of sorrow or anguish experienced by God, whether in response to Israel's cry of suffering or as a matter of personal loss or anguish. It is to just this broad emotional spectrum that we now turn, formulated with bold mythopoeic force. In the process, the volatile personality of the God of Hebrew Scriptures is greatly augmented, even as its portrayal of a punishing and wrathful deity is radically transfigured or re-evaluated.
Certain mythic features of ancient Near Eastern literature may provide a helpful perspective. Two elements converge. The first of these is a variety of laments over the destruction of temples and cities preserved in Sumerian literature from the last centuries of the third millennium BCE and thereafter. Among these are texts referring to the ruin of the shrines of Lagash (by Lugalzagesi of Umma); 1 Ur; 2 Eridu; 3 Uruk; 4 Nippur; 5 Kesh; 6 and Agade. 7 Although it has been questioned whether such diverse sources constitute a literary tradition as such, given the variations in form and the gaps of evidence, the overall generic similarities seem to outweigh these issues and even allow for comparative perspectives. 8 From this perspective, the