James Kugel’s previous books have introduced a broad public to the Bible’s history, showing that the stories of Genesis, Exodus, and other books have not always been understood to mean what we believe today. Now he tries to go even deeper and enter the spiritual world of the ancient Israelites, attempting to see God through their eyes and on their own terms.

The God of Old was not invisible or abstract. He appeared to people – usually unexpectedly; He was not sought out. Often, He was not even recognized. Many biblical stories thus center on a “moment of confusion,” in which an encounter with god is at first mistaken for an ordinary, human meeting. In the biblical world, Kugel shows, the spiritual and the material overlapped: everyday perception was in constant danger of sliding into something else, stark but oddly familiar. God was always standing just behind the curtain of ordinary reality.

Kugel suggests that this way of seeing, far from being a primitive relic, actually reflects a sophisticated but profoundly different understanding of how God interacts with people. Most of the Bible’s favorite stories and psalms are based on this different way of seeing, and it is one that is, paradoxically, very relevant to today’s world. This is a book to treasure side by side with the Bible, and for years to come.