"Job, I wanted to tell you where I am today. I continue to think about your mental state when God stops talking to you at the end of ch.41. In order to get some understanding of that, I need to have a theory of the role of Elihu in the book and the effect of God's speeches on you in 38-41. We can take your reaction in 42:1-6 as "evidence" of how you were affected by the Elihu and God speeches, but the evidence may have an inconclusive nature to it. Thus, let me lay out for you now some of my thoughts about these questions.
Well, actually what I am going to "lay out" for you is a thought from the real end of the book--a kind of conclusion that will help me then zero in on the question of your mental state at the beginning of 42. I am impressed by God's statement that you are right in 42:7,8. I have argued elsewhere that this means that you are right ab initio, but here all I want to contend is that you are right in 42. You are right to say that vision of God, rather than hearing of God, is at the heart of your faith. You don't have to understand everything. Thus, the theological tradition in which you were nurtured, the wisdom theology, fades away or, better said, is incinerated in the glow of the vision of God. Theology and theological systems are unimportant compared to the vision of God.
I think that is what you say and God agrees with you in 42:7,8. You have spoken "right" about God means, among other things, that you, Job, have gotten it right that vision is at the heart of faith. God, too, subordinates the wisdom tradition to the realities of vision. Whew. Big step. Pretty controversial. The wisdom tradition is therefore brought down a notch. Or two. But then, in the last eight verses of the book, you were restored, Job. You got it all back. And, a first reading of this section makes it look like this is just the typical "wisdom tradition" happy ending. You got it all back double, except of course for the kids (and no servants are mentioned). Thus, the close of your book may be read as a vindication of the same tradition that you and God just agreed was not right.
Oh, don't worry, Job, there are "answers" or "explanations" for this that scholars have advanced. They have maintained, some of them at least, that your book is imperfectly edited, that the conclusion at 42:6 was so potentially controversial and of double-meaning that someone had to end a nice ending to clean things up. This may be true but it is irrelevant in the way that I look at your book, Job. It is irrelevant because we have one book to deal with, one final product that we have to try to understand or make sense of. And, what does that one final product tell us? That there is a contradiction at the end of the Book of Job. The wisdom tradition is at once demoted and promoted, trashed and rehabilitated.
Here is the significance of the point I am trying to make, Job. All along, in the book, you were mightily bothered because you could not abandon either your pain or your God. You had to believe that at the heart of the universe was a just God or, if not God, a principle of justice and rightness that would recognize that you were right, that you had suffered a disproportionately great loss--disproportional to anything that you "deserved." You knew that you had a redeemer who would proclaim you "right." But the effect of this manner of belief was that it really reinforced the notion that there WAS consistency, or a principle of goodness or justice, at the heart of the universe.
What the last verses of the Book of Job say to me, Job, is that this just isn't true. You have seen God and give up your quest for rightness, your quest for being declared just. God and you both denigrate the wisdom tradition. Vision is everything. And then the wisdom tradition comes back to trump everything. The wisdom tradition gets the last word. It drowns you out, Job. It drowns out God. What this means is that when all is said he done (he says using the favorite American cliche), contradiction is the operative principle of the universe. Tangle. Inconsistency. We may try to sort out all we want, but it the end, we are ruled by principles which we know are simply not true. And God is ruled by them, too.
This may not mean much to lots of folks, Job, but it tends to mean a lot to me. I try to sort things out; to establish some kind of meaning, consistency, clear explanation, believing as I do that clarity is better than fogginess. But now I am not so sure. Absurdity and contradiction even trumps God. Is that your final word, Job? Silent again? So uncharacteristic of you. Maybe the reason that you do not speak a word after 42:6 is that you have figuratively been struck dumb. You have nothing more to say because the contradiction in it all is just too much to bear. You have your kids, you become rich, but maybe you just go through life in a kind of big daze now. Is that going to be your final word, Job?
Well, I am leaving for California now, Job, and maybe that is good. I can just tune in, turn on and drop out and float along with the energy fields that emanate from there. Maybe that is best. Because, otherwise, Job, I don't really know what to say.