I argued earlier that my reading of the third cycle of speeches suggests that Job interrupts Bildad in the middle of his speech (Job 25), probably because he is just beginning to rehash old lines from Eliphaz, and that he doesn't permit Zophar or any of the other friends to speak again. Job is so upset and bitter at the friends by this time that he feels they have nothing else, really, to say. I also argued that the words in Job 26 (5-14) and 27 (13-23) that seem more appropriate in the mouths of the friends really are said by Job in mockery of the friends' theology. The friends have mocked Job (21:3); now turnabout it fair play. This mini-essay tries to show in more detail how the flow of Job 26 is consistent with this explanation.
At the beginning of Job 26, Job is livid. With dripping sarcasm he says, "How you have helped one who has no power! How you have assited the arm that has no strength! How you have counseled one who has no wisdom and given much good advice (26:2-3)!" Then, in a transitional thought, he asks, "With whose help have you uttered words, and whose spirit has come forth from you (26:4)?" That is, Job is saying that the friends really did not have the skill or capacity to come up with such words; they needed help. So, Job proposes to give them help in the remainder of the chapter. He will give them more mocking words.
So Job engages in his mockery in 26:5-14. Buj, as Professor Good has pointed out, the way Job portrays God in these verses is not really the way the friends would have done so. It is God with a twist. More specifically, the God of Job 26 seems to be a tyrannical God, making the dead bodies in Sheol quake with fear (26:5), making the heavens likewise quake (26:11). God is a deity who likewise stilled the sea, who smashed Rahab and pierced the serpent (26:12-13). And, to top it off, these activities are only the "outskirts" of his ways (27:14). When Zophar referred to the "deep things" of God, whose limit Job could not explore, he was thinking of deep principles of God's secret activity in the world (11:7). But, twisting that concept nicely, Job now implies without saying directly that if the "outskirts" of God's ways show God's tyrannical energy, how much more might the "deep things" of God terrify us? The friends' God is nothing more than a power-hungry, battling divinity who smashes, pierces and wipes out at his pleasure.
Returning to Bitterness
When Job "again" takes up his discourse, in 27:1, deep emotion is still with him. He invokes God as his witness, which is decidely strange since he doesn't seem to trust God very much at this stage, and then launches into a four verse assertion of his integrity (27:3-6). But before he gets to that assertion, he states his bitterness, "As God lives, who has taken away my right, and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter (27:2)." Job's words in 27:2 are fully consistent with his thoughts in 26. He mocks the friends. The mockery leads to mocking words. The mocking words lead Job to even more bitterness. His oath of integrity in 27:3 has to be understood in that context. When we fully appreciate the venomous nature of Job's words in 26 and 27, we see the need for the "break" in Job 28 on wisdom, and understand Job's final,vigorous, three chapter, speech of vindication in 29-31.