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115. Job 12-14, With Introductory Remarks on the Second Cycle of Speeches (Job 12-20)
Job 12 begins the Second Cycle of speeches between Job and the friends (Job 12-20). Almost all commentators recognize a difference in tone between the First and Second cycles, especially Job’s tone as he speaks. Whereas his words in the First Cycle were raw, angry, and cynical, his tone becomes calmer and more introspective in the Second Cycle. To be sure, the ridicule of the friends and sarcasm is still there, and Job’s occasional emotional outbursts are there, but a different emotion seems to anchor Job’s thoughts. Rather than the outward-looking emotion of anger will be the inward-looking emotion of grief. It is almost as if the adrenaline coursing through Job’s veins after he experienced the combined assaults of Chapters 1-2 has now subsided, and ruminative or reflective emotions have replaced his raw vitriol.
But something else of major significance happens for Job in the Second Cycle. His confidence returns, and that confidence is reflected in two ways: 1) the drawing up of a case or formal complaint against God and, 2) the discovery of a second source of help, seemingly different from God, to whom he might appeal. These are significant intellectual developments over the First Cycle, for they bring us to a Job who, though still angry and defensive, can now explore his options with greater discipline and confidence. By the end of the Second Cycle (Job 20), Job will have confidence that a Redeemer in heaven exists for him; that he has an airtight case against God; and that he only thing still wanting is an actual confrontation with God.
The purpose of this section of the commentary is not just to bring out the meaning of words, but to follow the flow of the argument as Job wrestles with his grief, seems sometimes to abandon hope, but then regains his strength to put together a case with confidence. That he will appeal to a witness in heaven and then the Redeemer of his life means that he has raised issues in this section that are almost too scary to pursue: that there may be ultimate hope for Job outside of a traditional faith in the covenant God. So as not to get ahead of ourselves, let’s return now to the opening speech of the second cycle. Apart from Job’s final speech in Job 29-31, this is the longest speech that Job gives.