Archive for January, 2011

(Picture from here)


   3:1  For behold, the Lord GOD / of hosts   

b    is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah


Both  (1)  supply and  (2)  support,

a    (1′)    the whole supply of bread, And the whole supply of water

b   (2′)    The mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder,  3  the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the expert artisan, and the skillful enchanter.

C    4  And I will make mere lads their princes And capricious children  /  will rule over them,

D    5  And the people will be oppressed  –  each one by another, and each one by his neighbor;

C’   The youth will storm against the elder, And the inferior against the honorable.


b’    6  When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying, “You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler, And these ruins will be under your charge,”  7  On that day will he protest, saying, “I will not be your healer,

a’    For in my house there is neither bread  / nor cloak; You should not appoint me ruler of the people.”


b’    8  For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen,    

a’    because their speech and their actions are against the LORD, to rebel against His glorious presence.




– Comments:

–  A and A’ have a chiastic relationship:  A (a, b), A’ (b’, a’).

–  Matches:

–  Both  Aa and A’a’ refer to the Lord God, or Lord.  Both references seem to refer as well to ‘others’ – perhaps in God’s presence (Lord of hosts, to rebel against His glorious presence).

–  Both Ab and A’b’ refer to Jerusalem and Judah.


–  Comments: 

–  B and B’ have a chiastic relationship:  B (a, b), B’ (b’, a’).

–  B uses parallelism:  (1) supply, (2) support, (1′) examples of supply, (2′) examples of support

–  B’ could also be broken down as a chiasmus:  A:  cloak, ruler, negative: I will not be your healer … B:  bread … A’:  cloak, ruler, negative: You shall not apoint me ruler.

–  Matches:

–  Both Ba and B’a’ mention bread.

–  Both Bb and B’b’ refer to the issue of leadership.  Bb gives many examples of leadership positions, while B’b’ gives only one (healer).


–  In C and C’, society’s hierarchy is turned upside-down.  Those who should not rule, will rule – the young will rule over their elders.


–  In D, the specificity of  C/C’ is lost.  Generality wins the day (and the chiasmus’s center):  “And the people will be oppressed  –  each one by another, and each one by his neighbor”.  …  In other words, even the idea of the young ruling over the elders is abandoned.  ‘Ruling’ (and order) seems to be abandoned completely.   Anyone can ‘oppress’ anyone.  

Chaos rules.

Judgement on Jerusalem and Judah (A/A’) is complete.


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A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

A    O LORD,

B    how my adversaries have increased  [Possible translation: 10,000] Many  [Possible translation: 10,000]  are rising up against me.  2  Many  [Possible translation:10,000]  are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.   

   3  But Thou, O LORD, art a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

D    4  I was crying to the LORD with my voice,  and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

C’   5  I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD  sustains me.

B   6  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.   (1)    Arise,

A’   (2)    O LORD;

A    (1′)    Save me,

B    (2′)    O my God!

C    For Thou hast smitten

D    all my enemies

E    on the cheek;

E’   The teeth

D’   of the wicked

C’   Thou hast shattered

B’   8   to the LORD

A’   Salvation belongs;

Thy blessing be upon Thy people! Selah.


Here’s a Psalm with 2 chiasmi – back to back.  The latter chiasmus is pretty obvious and fairly well known.  I’ll concentrate my comments on the first chiasmi.

The A/A’ connection is obvious (O Lord/O Lord). 

B/B’ has a few connections.  First, “rising up” in B matches with “arise” in B’.  Secondly, “increased” and “many” (used twice) matches with “10,000” in B’.  In fact, “increased” and “many” can be translated as 10,000!  Thirdly, there’s a contrast between hopelessness (“there is no deliverance”) in B and confidence (“I will not be afraid”) in B’.  The contrast is between what others are saying (hopelessness) and what the writer is experiencing (confidence).  …  The source of the writer’s confidence is God. 

C/C” are both positive statements about God.  God is the writer’s “shield” (C), making it possible for the writer to sleep – in spite of the circumstances – and wake up again (C’).  God “lifts [his] head” (C) and “sustains” him (C’).  There may be a slight match between “lifts my head” in B and ‘waking’ in B’. 

In D, we see that the writer was “crying to the Lord”, seeking protection and salvation and we see that God answers his request.  E produces a nice center.  There’s a plea and an answer from God’s “holy mountain”.  

I rather like that the center basically ends* with a mention of God’s “holy mountain”.  It produces a nice central illustration for the chiastic structure.  An example where choice of words fits the structure’s design – the ‘center’ is the ‘high’light of the chiasmus.  A central ‘peak’.

…  *The center actually ends by asking the singer, listener, reader to contemplate the psalmist’s central point – God’s salvation. 

We are asked to pause and consider God’s goodness. 




Additional Comments:

1)  I really like the parallelism at the end of the first chiasmus and the beginning of the second.  It nicely ties the 2 chiasmi together.

1    Arise,    2    O Lord;  (end of first chiasmus)

1′   Save me,    2′    O my God!  (beginning of second chiasmus)

Nice touch. 

2)  Both chiasmi begin and end by acknowledging God.  (O Lord  …  Arise, O Lord  Save me, O God  …  to the Lord salvation belongs).  As well, the first chiasmus ends and the second chiasmus both begins and ends by asking for God to act on behalf of the writer.  These outside themes also match the strong center of the first chiasmus:  “I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain.”  God and his salvation is the focus of this psalm.

3)  There’s a contrast between the centers of these 2 chiasmi.  The center of the first chiasmus is positive, while the center of the second chiasmus is negative.  As well, the center of the first chiasmi is singular (unmatched), while the center of the second chiasmus is doubled (matched).  This is interesting.  A chiastic writer can use a singular center when he wants to emphasize the center, and use a double center when he wants to de-emphasize the center.  In effect, this writer may have chosen to chiastically emphasize the positive center of the first chiasmus while de-emphasizing the negative center of the second chiasmus, which, to me, seems fitting and wise.  The positive is emphasized.  The negative de-emphasized.

4)  It’s interesting that the psalmist ends his Psalm with the line “Thy blessing be upon Thy people! Selah.”  For one, the line stands outside of the chiasmi.  It stands alone.  In this way the reader/listener is asked to focus on the line by itself.  The addition of the contemplative “Selah” simply re-emphasizes the psalm’s structural effect.  Selah:  Think about this.  …  Finally, the writer has switched his focus in the last line.  While the 2 chiasmi are focused on the writer’s personal salvation (I, me, my), the final line is focused on God’s blessing (or salvation) for all his people.  The writer extends his own experience and story to God’s people at large.

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1    (a)    20    Wisdom shouts    (b)    in the street,    

2    (a’)    She lifts her voice    (b’)    in the square;   

1′   (b)    21  At the head of the noisy streets    (a)    she cries out;   

2′   (b’)    At the entrance of the gates in the city,    (a’)    she utters her sayings:

B    22  “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge?

C    23  “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit  /  on you; I will make my words known to you.


1    24  “Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention

2    25  And you neglected  /  all my counsel, And did not want  /  my reproof;


(a)    26  I will even laugh    (b)    at your calamity;

(a’)    I will mock     (b’)    when your dread comes,

(b’)    27  When your dread comes    (a’)    like a storm,

(b)    And your calamity comes on    (a)    like a whirlwind,


1’    When distress and anguish come on you. 

28  “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me

2’    29  Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD. 

30  “They would not accept  /  my counsel, They spurned  /  all my reproof

C’   31  “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices.

B’   32  “For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them.

A’   33  “But he who listens to me shall live securely, And shall be at ease from the dread of evil.

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A    35  And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him,

B    saying

C    to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”  36  And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 

D    37  And they said to Him, “Grant

E    that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.”

F    38  But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

G    39  And they said to Him, “We are able.”

F’   And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.

E’   40  “But to sit on My right or on My left,

D’    this is not Mine to give;

C’    but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

B’   41  And hearing this,

A’    the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

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Symmetry in Modern Design

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In my previous entry I pointed out a case in which knowing a passage is chiastic may aid in the text’s translation.  In this entry I want to point to a blog entry at “Better Bibles Blog” which discusses chiasmus and translation.  I’m not sure I agree with the author’s approach.  I would far rather see the chiasmus arranged as a chiasmus, exposing the chiasmus – arranged something like I do here on this blog – than see it adjusted to modern tastes.  I think I’d rather see us adjusting to the original writers, than the original writers being adjusted to us.

The post is here.

Here’s a quote from his opening few paragraphs:

Structured text has form. And ancient languages utilize forms that are quite foreign to us. Just like a foreign word is not understood by someone, larger linguistic structures are also not understood. Or, sometimes, it’s worse. Sometimes they are misunderstood.

We use indentation and space between our paragraph units. It’s the form we use. People who lived and breathed the original languages were different. They used no space—even between words. They tie their paragraphing more tightly to the semantics of the paragraph. We rely more heavily on syntax. One such paragraphing technique they used was the chiasmus. I’ll use this specific formal structure to illustrate a point in just a moment.

Rarely do our translations translate these forms. They leave the larger formal structures largely untouched. When dealing at the word level, translations replace the original forms with ones appropriate to the destination language. But with the larger linguistic structures, at best, we do this replacement poorly.

The results are many: general misunderstanding of what the text says, a sense the text has a special, even secret, meaning, an unfounded assumption that the reason the text can be trusted is because it sounds special (in a novel way), the reader is not impacted by the text because he or she simply can’t understand it, the reader deems the text as irrelevant, they are frustrated, or they may even …


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