©Estate of Ben Shahn/Vaga, NY/Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Speak if you have understanding,” God demands of Job, in the passage quoted in Hebrew at the bottom of this 1964 painting by the American artist Ben Shahn. Speaking from the whirlwind, God continues: “Do you know who fixed its dimensions or who measured it with a line?…Who set its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the divine beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4–7). In the painting, the morning stars shine in gold leaf at top; God is represented by a large hand that cradles the swirling whirlwind.

In the accompanying article, author Paul D. Hanson explores how the Israelites understood God. To do so, Hanson proposes, requires an understanding of the events, whether natural—say, the whirling wind—or historical—a fierce battle—in which they discerned God’s presence.