Archive for January, 2012




Chiasm was used as a literary device in the ancient world, in Babylonia, Israel, Greece, and Rome. It fell out of use, however, and in modern times the existence of chiasms in ancient literature was only recognized by a few scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries. This changed in the middle of the twentieth century, when Nils Wilhelm Lund wrote Chiasmus in the New Testament. “Since these seminal studies the study of New Testament chiasm has blossomed, until today recognition of chiastic structure is common in full-scale commentaries and other scholarly works. The study of Old Testament chiasms has likewise begun to come of age.”

From here.


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London’s Natural History Museum

Pic by Fabricio Pretti.   Here.

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Pic is from here.  Have a look at Josh’s other work!

I like this chiasmus.

In spite of its apparent harshness (Miriam receives a skin disease), this story seems to display a lot of compassion.

–  Miriam’s disease lasts a short time – 7 days.  Miriam is healed. 

–  Even though Miriam and Aaron, in a sense, rebel against Moses’ authourity (as well as his marriage, v. 1), Moses doesn’t get angry.  I suppose that’s in keeping with his humble nature (v. 2).  …  In fact, Moses, at the end, is quite willing to pray for Miriam, in spite of her earlier actions (v. 13).  Moses does seem humble and forgiving.

–  Israel waits 7 days for Miriam (v. 15-16) and then ‘receives’ her. 

– Overall, a chiastic understanding of the text displays compassion.  In the beginning, Aaron and Miriam seem to be motivated by a ‘dislike’ for Moses’ ‘outsider’ wife – a Cushite (A).  And at the end of the story, Miriam is made an ‘outsider’ as well by being put outside the camp with leprosy (A’).  There’s a balance here.  Both are women.  Both experience being ‘outsiders’.  Miriam is made to feel a bit of Moses’ wife’s ‘outsider’ pain.  Overall then, the writer creates room for compassion in Miriam and the reader re. the outsider, or foreigner.  …  Compassion IS the point. 

A nice chiasmus I think.



1    12:1  Then   (a)   Miriam and   (b)   Aaron spoke against   (c)   Moses because of the   (a)   Cushite woman whom he had   (b)   married (for he had   (b’)   married a   (a’)   Cushite woman);  2  and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?” And the LORD heard it. 

2    3  (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.)

B    4  And suddenly the LORD said to   (c’)   Moses

C    and   (b’)   Aaron

D    and to   (a’)   Miriam,

E    “You three come out to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out.

F    5  Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud

G    and stood at the doorway of the tent,

H    and He called Aaron and Miriam

I    When they had both come forward, 6  He said, “Hear now My words:  If there is a prophet among you,

J    I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

K    I shall speak with him in a dream.

L    7  “Not so, with My servant Moses: he is faithful in all My household.

K’   8  With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings,

J’   And he beholds the form of the LORD.

I’   Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?

H’   9  So the anger of the LORD burned against them

G’   and He departed

F’   10  But when the cloud had withdrawn

E’   from over the tent,

D’   behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow.

C’   As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous.

B’   11  Then Aaron said to Moses,


1    “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned.  12  “Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother’s womb!” 

2    13  And Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “O God, heal her, I pray!” 

Final Result/Punishment:    14  But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.”  15  So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.  16  Afterward, however, the people moved out from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

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