Archive for the ‘Chiasmi: Short and Sweet’ Category



There are quite a few chiasmi in Genesis.  I was reading through Genesis 8-10 the other day and noticed the following six:




20  Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  21  The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.


22  While the earth remains,

B    [Me:  moving from cooler time of the year to warmer time of the year?  Seedtime to harvest?:]

a    Seedtime

b    and harvest,


c    And cold

d    and heat,


d’   And summer

c’   and winter,


b’  (d”)  And day

a’   (c”)  and night

A’   Shall not cease.”



A    “Whoever sheds

B    the blood

C    of man

C’   by man

B’   his blood

A’   shall be shed …”



8  Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 


a    9  “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you;  

b    10  and with every living creature

c    that is with you,

d    the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth

c’   with you – of all that comes out of the ark,

b’   even every beast of the earth. 

a’   11  I establish My covenant with you;

B    and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” 

C    12  God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations;  13  I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.  14  It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud,  15  and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh;

B’   and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh

A’   16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”  17  And God said to Noah, This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

[Me:  There is a match between the center and the end, a common feature in chiasmus: bow in the cloud; remembering.  At the same time, the author is able to match A’ with A via his ending comment, “… the covenant which I established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth”.]



1 Now these are the records of the generations of

A    Shem,

B    Ham,

C    and Japheth, the sons of Noah; and sons were born to them after the flood. 

C’   2  The sons of Japheth were Gomer and Magog and Madai and Javan and Tubal and Meshech and Tiras.  …  …

B’   6  The sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan.  …  …

A’   21  Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born. 22 The sons of Shem were Elam and Asshur

a    and Arpachshad

b    and Lud and Aram.

b’   23  The sons of Aram were Uz and Hul and Gether and Mash.

a’   24  Arpachshad became the father of Shelah …


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A painting on wood, by Julia Stankova


This is a nice little chiasmus.  The center, v. 18-19, is likely based on Isaiah 61:1-2, a messianic passage:

1  The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2  To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord

Interestingly, there’s no mention of ‘healing blindness’ in the above passage, even though it’s at the center of Luke’s chiasmus.  Nevertheless, healing blindness is used elsewhere in Isaiah, including the following messianic passage:

“I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”  Is 42:6-7.

I think it’s fitting to have healing of blindness at the center of this chiasmus.  Not only did Jesus heal people of their physical blindness, He also healed people of their spiritual blindness.  The center serves double duty.  The spiritual aspect of Jesus’ job was ultimately at the core of his ministry: opening peoples’ eyes to who He was and what He came to do.


14  And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district.  15  And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.  16  And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom,

A    He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath,

B    and stood up to read.

C    17  And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him.

D    And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 


18  The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

E    Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.

F    He has sent Me to proclaim release  /  to the captives,

G    And recovery of sight to the blind,

F’   To set free  /  those who are oppressed

E’   19  To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” 


D’   20  And He closed the book,

C’   gave it back to the attendant

B’   and sat down;

A’   and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 

21  And He began to say to them, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”



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The following excerpt is from James L. Resseguie‘s book, “Narrative Criticism of the New Testament”, p. 58-60.  The excerpt is part of the book’s explanation for  “Chiasm (Chiasmus)”.

The book can be found here at Google Books, and here at Amazon.

The examples are short, but I enjoyed them.  I particularly liked his treatment of Luke 22:42 and Ephesians 1:2; 6:23-24.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as well.  🙂

The word chiasm is derived from the Greek letter chi (written X), which symbolizes the crossover pattern of words, phrases, clauses, or ideas that are repeated in reverse order.  The simplest type of chiasm is A B B’ A’ – a structure that comes full circle by highlighting key concepts in reverse order.  A chiastic pattern in Mark 2:27, for instance, keeps the reader’s or hearer’s attention focused on the main concepts.

A  The sabbath was made

B  for humankind

B’  not humankind

A’  for the sabbath.

Chiasms may draw attention to a theological or ideological perspective.  Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane is an example of literary artistry at its best.  The literary form reinforces the theological perspective.  In Luke 22:42, for example:

A  Father, if you are willing.

B  remove this cup from me;

B’  yet not my will

A’  but yours be done.

The first person singular (me, my) is placed within the second person singular (you, yours), which visually underscores that Jesus’ will is completely enclosed within the will of the Father.  This becomes a model prayer for all: our will needs to be conformed to God’s will, not the other way around.

Paul uses chiasms to wrap together an entire book with key theological concepts.  In the Letter to the Ephesians he brackets his correspondence with the words “grace” and “peace” (also in 2 Thess. 1:2 and 3:16, 18).

A    Grace to you

B  and peace

B’  Peace be to the whole community. …

A’  Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ

(Eph. 1:2; 6:23, 24)

Paul comes full circle, underscoring an important theological perspective: where there is grace, there is peace, and where there is peace, there is evidence of God’s grace.  Paul also uses interlocking chiasms to highlight the mystery of the Christian faith.  In 1 Tim. 3:16, for example, an interlocking pattern  explains “the mystery of our religion.”

[Jesus] was revealed in flesh,

vindicated in spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed among Gentiles,

believed in throughout the world,

taken up in glory.

Two sets of overlapping chiasms bring two separate worlds together – this world and the world above.  One set – flesh (A), spirit (B), angels (B’), Gentiles (A’) – is joined by a second set – angels (A) Gentiles (B), world (B’), glory (A’).  The interlocking pattern suggests that Jesus brings together in balanced harmony two worlds that were separated or at odds with each other.


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 worship .

This chiasmus comes from two sources.

The first source is here – on p. 243.  And here’s the writer’s brief description of the book of Amos, followed by his outline of the chiasmus:

Amos opens with eight judgment speeches to the seven nations surrounding Israel before announcing punishment for Israel in the eighth (Amos 1-2).  Immediately following is a “hear this word” speech with three parts.  Part 1 (3:1-5) explores punishment as an obligation of God’s covenant with Israel.  Part 2 (4:1-17) reminds Israel that they ignored the LORD’S past warnings.  Part 3 (5:1-17) takes up their death.  The third part opens (5:1-3) and closes (5:16-17) with a funeral lament.  Sandwiched in between is a description of the behavior that leads to death and that which leads to life, distinctions between what Israel does and what God is capable of doing (5:4-15).  There is a symmetrical structure to this section:

First Lamentation (vv. 1-3)

First Admonition (vv. 4-6)

First Accusation (v. 7)

Hymn (v. 8a)

The LORD is His Name

Hymn (v. 9)

Second Accusation (vv. 10-13)

Second Admonition (vv. 14-15)

Second Lamentation (vv. 16-17)

The second source for this chiasmus can be found here

The first source for this chiasmus presents the chiasmus in 9 parts, while the second source presents the chiasmus in 7 parts.  In presenting the chiasmus below, I’ve used the 9-part chiasmus of the first source, while borrowing the 7 descriptors, or titles, of the second source.  ( … I’m trying to take the best of both ‘worlds’ 🙂 .)

Here’s my description of the various matches in the chiasmus:

A and A’ refer to potential judgment on the house of Israel.  Funeral language is used: dirge, wailing, mourning. 

B and B’ call for repentance.  The key phrases in these sections use the word “seek”:  B:  “Seek Me and live”; “Seek the LORD that you may live”; B’:  “Seek good and not evil that you may live”.  … There’s an opportunity here to avoid judgment.

C and C’ offer the reasons for God’s judgment.  C gives a general description, while C’ fills in the details. 

D and D’ present God, the judge, in terms of ‘overwhelming’ power.  God is the one who controls all of nature.  D refers to the two constellations, the ongoing cycle of night and day, and the destructive force of the seas, while D’ refers to storms – specifically, highlighting lightning.  In this context, both the surging seas and the flashing lightning illustrate judgment and destruction.

E centers on the LORD God himself – which is fitting.

Once again, a choice is required.  Staying the course leads to judgment.  Seeking God allows for salvation. 

A warning delivered.  Humility required.  Action required.

(A nice chiasmus – imo.)

I would also like to point out that there are a number of smaller chiasmi within this larger chiasmus.  This time around, I’ve decided to display the smaller chiasmi on there own, following the larger chiasmi.  I think, in some ways, it makes for a clearer overall presentation of the varied chiasmi.  Some brief comments will be attached to the smaller chiasmi. 

But first, the larger chiasmus:


A    Description of certain judgment:    1 Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel.  2  She has fallen, she will not rise again– The virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; There is none to raise her up.  3  For thus says the Lord GOD, “The city which goes forth a thousand strong Will have a hundred left, And the one which goes forth a hundred strong will have ten left to the house of Israel.”

B    Call for individual repentance:    4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, “Seek Me that you may live.  5  “But do not resort to Bethel, and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal will certainly go into captivity, and Bethel will come to trouble.  6  “Seek the LORD that you may live, Lest He break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, And it consume with none to quench it for Bethel,

C    Accusation of legal injustice [Me: general description]:    7 For those who turn justice into wormwood And cast righteousness down to the earth.”

D   Portrayal of a sovereign God (D, E, D’):    8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion And changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the surface of the earth,

   The LORD is His name. 

D’   9  It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong, So that destruction comes upon the fortress.

C’   Accusation of legal injustice [Me: detailed description]:   

10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, And they abhor him who speaks with integrity.  11  Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor And exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, Yet you will not live in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine12  For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, You who distress the righteous and accept bribes, And turn aside the poor in the gate.  13  Therefore, at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.

B’   Call for individual repentance:    14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said!  15  Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

A’   Description of certain judgment:   

16 Therefore, thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the plazas, And in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’  They also call the farmer to mourning, and professional mourners to lamentation.  17  “And in all the vineyards there is wailing, because I shall pass through the midst of you,”says the LORD.



And now, here are 6 smaller chiasmi that can be found within the larger chiasmus: 

From section B:    

a    “Seek Me that you may live.   

b    5  “But do not resort to Bethel,   

c    And do not come to Gilgal,   

d    Nor cross over to Beersheba;   

c’   For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity,   

b’   And Bethel will come to trouble.   

a’   6  “Seek the LORD that you may live

Comment:  There’s a contrast here between the outside (a/a’) and the inside (b/c/d/c’/b’) of this chiasmus. Do you trust the LORD, or the cities? 

From section D:  

a    8  … And changes deep darkness

b    into morning,

b’   Who also darkens day

a’   into night …

Section C’:

a    10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,

b    And they abhor him who speaks with integrity

c    11  Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them,

d    i   though you have built houses of well-hewn stone,    ii   Yet you will not live in them;

d’   i’  You have planted pleasant vineyards,   ii’   yet you will not drink their wine

c’   12  For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great,

b’   You who distress the righteous and accept bribes,

a’   And turn aside the poor in the gate

13  Therefore, at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.

Comment:  I like the parallelism in the center.  Because of their transgressions, the oppressors will not be able to enjoy their stone houses and pleasant vineyards.  Punishment is incurred.

From section B’:

a    14 Seek good

b    and not evil  … …

b’   … …  15  Hate evil,

a’   love good

Comment:  This is a nice example of a ‘delayed’ chiasmus.  There’s actually some words between b and b’, which I’ve left out here.

Section A’:  

a    16 Therefore, thus the LORD God of hosts, the Lord,

b    says

c    There is wailing   [Me: Hebrew: mispedin all the plazas, and in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’

d    They also call the farmer  /  to mourning   [Me: Hebrew: ebel],

d’   and professional mourners  /  to lamentation   [Me: Hebrew: nehi]. 

c’   17  “And in all the vineyards there is wailing   [Me: Hebrew: misped]    because I shall pass through the midst of you,” 

b’   says

a’   the LORD.

Comment:  The distinction between c/c’ and d/d’ is location (c = plazas and streets / c’ = vineyards) versus people (d = farmers / d’ = professional mourners).    c/c, d/d’ is also a nice example of how an author can choose between matching words directly (c/c’ = Hebrew:  ‘misped’) or indirectly, (using synonyms; d/d’ = Hebrew:  ‘ebel’ / ‘nehi’).  The use of synonym sometimes offers variety to a text, spicing it up.  (I love cinnamon.  It’s a nice spice.  …  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

From section A’:

a    16 …  “There is wailing   

b    in all the plazas,   

b’   And in all the streets   

a’   they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’

Comment:  The wailing in a is given voice in  a’: ‘Alas! Alas!’.

Overall, I think there’s some very nice chiastic work done here by the author.  Seven chiasmi in all!!!  (In some ways it reminds me of the numerous chiasmi found in Mark 3:20-35.)  Nice!

The main message in the overall chiasmus is “Seek God, that you may live.”  It’s matching section adds, “Seek good and not evil, that you may live”.

Repentance and change of course is required.

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Just thought I would mention the 1984 Ronald E. Man article, “The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation” – available online.  The paper contains a number of nice chiasmi. 

Eventually I would like to place some of the chiasmi on this blog.

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Some excellent examples of chiasmi in Jeremiah – both short and longer – can be found in chapter 3 of Jack R. Lundbom’s 1997 book, “Jeremiah: a Study in Ancient Hebrew Rhetoric”.


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In this entry I’ll be placing lots of small chiasmi.  Small chiasmi are not my primary focus so it may take some time to ‘fill this up’.




Old Testament:



A    God created man

B    in His own image,

B’   in the image of God

A’   He created him


A    This is the account of the heavens

B    and the earth

C    when they were created,

C’   in the day that the LORD God made

B’   earth

A’   and heaven.


A    8  But Noah  /  found favor

B    in the eyes of the Lord

C    9  These are the records of the generations of Noah.

D    Noah was a righteous man,

D’   blameless

C’   in his time  [Me: ‘among his peers’];

B’   with God

A’   Noah  / walked


A    “Whoever sheds

B    the blood

C    of man

C’   by man

B’   his blood

A’   shall be shed …”


Therefore he  [Me: Pharoah]  treated Abram well for her  [Me: Sarai’s]  sake; and gave him

A    sheep and oxen

B    and  [Me: male]  donkeys

C    and male  [Me: servants]

C’   and female servants

B’   and female donkeys

A’   and camels.

2 Samuel


The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept.  And thus he said as he walked,

A    “O my son,

B    Absalom,

A    my son, my son,

B    Absalom!

C    Would I had died instead of you,

B’    2  O Absalom,

A’    my son, my son!”



6  So Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite spoke out and said,

A    “I am young in years and you are old; Therefore I was shy and afraid to tell you what I think.

B    7  “I thought age should speak, And increased years should teach wisdom.

C    8  “But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.

B’   9  “The abundant in years may not be wise, Nor may elders understand justice.

A’   10  “So I say, ‘Listen to me, I too will tell what I think.’



A    The heavens

B    declare

C    the glory of God

C’   the work of his hands

B’   proclaim

A’   the sky.


A    1  Give the king Your justice, O God,

B    and Your righteousness to the king’s son. 

B’   2  May he judge Your people with righteousness

A’   and Your afflicted with justice.


A    Bless, O my soul,

B    the Lord

C    And all that is within me,

B’   the name of His holiness,

A’   bless, O my soul.



A    The wealth

B    of a rich man

C    is his fortress;

C’   the ruin

B’   of the poor

A’   is their poverty


A    19  He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life,

B    And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.

B’   20  The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD,

A’   But the blameless in their walk are His delight.



A    Woe to those who call evil

B    good,

B’   and good

A    evil;

A    Who substitute darkness

B    for light

B’   and light

A’   for darkness;

A    Who substitute bitter

B    for sweet,

B’    and sweet

A’    for bitter!


A    “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

B    Their ears dull,

C    And their eyes dim,

C’   Lest they see with their eyes,

B’   Hear with their ears,

A’   Understand with their hearts,

And return and be healed.”



A    1  The sin of Judah

B    is written down

C    with an iron stylus;

C’   with a diamond point

B’   it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,

A’   2  As they remember their children, So they remember their altars and their Asherim By green trees on the high hills … 3 … your high places for sin



A    28  It will come about after this

B    That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;

C    And your sons and daughters will prophesy,

D    Your old men  /  will dream dreams,

D’   Your young men  /  will see visions.

C’   29  Even on the male and female servants

B’   I will pour out My Spirit

A’   in those days.



A    Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol?

B    Shall I redeem them from death?

B’   O Death, where are your thorns?

A’   O Sheol, where is your sting?



A    11  “Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets

B    And some of your young men to be Nazirites.

C    Is this not so, O sons of Israel?” declares the LORD.

B’   12  “But you made the Nazirites drink wine,

A’   And you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’


A    Let roll down

B    like waters

C    justice

C’   and righteousness

B’   like a stream

A’   ever flowing




New Testament:



A    “But many who are first

B    will be last;

B’   and the last,

A’   first.”


A    “And whoever exalts himself

B    shall be humbled;

B’   and whoever humbles himself

A’   shall be exalted.



34  And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 

A    35  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 

B    [Me: question:]  36  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul  /  ? 

B’   [Me: question:]  37  For what will a man give in exchange for his soul  /  ? 

A’   38  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

10:29b, 30, 31

28  Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”  29  Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left

A    house

B    or brothers or sisters

C    or mother

C’   or father

B’   or children

A’   or farms,

for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,  30  but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age,

A   houses

B    and brothers and sisters

C    and mothers

B’   and children

A’   and farms,

along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.  31  But many

A    who are first

B    will be last,

B’   and the last,

A’   first.”


And many spread their coats in the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.  9  Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting:

A    “Hosanna!

B    Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

B’   10  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David;

A’   Hosanna in the highest!”



A    “No servant can serve two masters;

B    for either he will hate the one,

C    and love the other,

C’   or else he will hold to one,

B’   and despise the other.

A’   You cannot serve God and mammon.”



38  For I am convinced that

A    neither death,

B    nor life,

C    nor angels, nor rulers,

D    nor things present,

D’   nor things to come,

C’   nor powers

B’   39  nor height,

A’   nor depth,

nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Corinthians


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

A    that though He was rich,

B    yet for your sake He became poor,

B’   that you through His poverty

A’   might become rich.



15   We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;

A   16   nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified

B   by the works of the Law

C   but through faith in Christ Jesus,

D   even we have believed in Christ Jesus,

C’   so that we may be justified by faith in Christ

B’   and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law

A’   no flesh will be justified.



A    8  For by grace you have been saved through faith;

B    and that not of yourselves,

C    it is the gift of God;

B’   9  not as a result of works,

A’   that no one should boast.



A    15  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife,

B    but some also from good will;

B’   16  the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;

A’    17  the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.

1 Thessalonians


A    Now the God of peace Himself,

B    sanctify you completely

C    and entirely your spirit and soul and body

B’   without blame

A’    at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John


A    No one who is born of God

B    practices sin,

C    because His seed abides in him;

B’   and he cannot sin,

A’   because he is born of God.



“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David,

A    who opens

B    and no one will shut,

B’   and who shuts

A’   and no one opens,

says this …

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