Archive for the ‘Genesis’ 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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This chiasmus is fairly straight forward.

I like the double center.  It demonstrates that there are two ‘balanced’ parts to the covenant.  God plays a part (land and ‘being their God’), and Abraham and his descendants play a part (circumcision).

I also rather like the progressive build-up at the end of A, B, and C.  It goes from A, “I will multiply you exceedingly”, to B, “… you will be the father of a multitude of nations, to C, “… and kings shall come forth from you.”

I also like that C/C’ seems to bring out an equality between Abraham and Sarah.  They both have their names changed, and they both are given the same promise.  …  It’s a partnership.  Nice.


A    17:1  Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.  2  “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.”

B    3  And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,  4  “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.

1    5  “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham;

2    For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.  6  “And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.

D    [Me:  God’s part:]


7  “And I will establish My covenant  /  between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

2    8  “And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession – and I will be their God.”

D’   [Me:  Abraham’s part:]

1    9  God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant,  /  you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

2    10  “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you:  every male among you shall be circumcised.  11  “And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.  12  “And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants.  13  “A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  14  “But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”


1    15  Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.

2    16  “And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations;  /  kings of peoples shall come from her.”

B    17  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed,

A    and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”


[Me:  A question concerning Ishmael (fatherly concern):]    18  And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!”  19  But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.  20  “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.  21  “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year.”  22  And when He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

[Me:  Abraham obeys his God:]    23  Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him.  24  Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  25  And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.  26  In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son.  27  And all the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

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“Noah’s Ark”, by Edward Hicks, 1846


I read the Bible’s story of Noah and the flood the other day, in part because of the movie Noah coming out this weekend, and noticed that it might be a chiasmus. 

Here’s a simplified break-down:

A1/A’1:  Man is very evil.

A2/A’2:  (Therefore) God will destroy man. 

A3/A’3:  (But) Noah found favor with God   /  = Noah will build and escape in an ark.

B/B’:  These are the generations of Noah  /  =  3 sons.

C/C’:  Noah was righteous  /  = walked with God.

D:  Noah was blameless among his peers (ie., among mankind; among his generation).

If this is a chiasmus, then what is being emphasized is Noah’s righteousness … since it’s at the center. 

I like the image this chiasmus portrays.  In the chiasmus, Noah is surrounded by the evilness of the world – surrounded by evil men.  In a sense, this chiasmus – at least for me – evokes both a sense of danger (surrounded by evil mankind), and a sense of safety (the safety of the center; the safety of the coming ark?; perhaps foreshadowing the ark?).  Interestingly, in the chiasmus, Noah’s family (3 sons) are mentioned in-between the ‘outside’ and the ‘center’ of the chiasmus.  They are caught in no-man’s land, if you will.  Fortunately for them, they will get pulled into the center with Noah; into the safety of the ark.

The small chiasmi in A2 has God’s grief on the outside, with his plan to destroy the world in the center (it could also be structured as an  aba’b’  parallelism).  The small chiasmi in A’2 has the destruction of the world on the outside, with the reason for that destruction at its center.

I like the way the center and end of the chiasmus match, mentioning the righteousness of Noah compared to the rest of mankind.  I also like the contrast between the beginning and the end of the chiasmus – the continual evilness vs. the only one righteous. 

I guess the reason I first thought that this passage might be a chiasmus is the odd way the text went from the subject of the ‘evilness of man’ to the subject of ‘Noah’ and back to the subject of the ‘evilness of man’.  That back and forth didn’t seem quite ‘normal’.  It signaled at least the possibility that the writer was doing something chiastic.


Another possible ‘flood’ chiasmus – for Genesis 6:10-9:19 – can be found here.



1    5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually


a    6  And the LORD was angered that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart

b    7  And the LORD said,  /  “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land – from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky;

a’   for I am sorry that I have made them.”

3    8  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

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

C    Noah  /  was a righteous man,

D    blameless  //  in his time    [Me:  Hebrew: towledah];

C’   Noah  /  walked with God.    [Me:  “with God Noah walked”]

B’   10  And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.



11  Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.  12  And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.


a    2    13  Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me;

b    for the earth is filled with violence because of them;

a’   and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.

3    14  “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.  15  “And this is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  16  “You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.  17  “And behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.  18  “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark– you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  19  “And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  20  “Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.  21  “And as for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.”  22  Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.  7:1  Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me // in this time    [Me:  Hebrew: towledah].

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2:4 This is the account of

A the heavens

B and the earth

C when they were created,

D in the day that the LORD God

C’ made

B’ earth

A’ and heaven.



5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate the ground.  6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.  7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  8 And the LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.  9 And out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers.  11 The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.  12 And the gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there.  13 And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush.   14 And the name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.



A 15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden / to cultivate it and keep it.

B 16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

C 18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called / Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

D [Me: The Fall:]

a 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

b (C) 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.

c (B) And he said to the woman, / “Indeed, has God said, a ‘You shall not eat b from any tree of the garden’?

d 2 And the woman said to the serpent, b’ “From the fruit of the trees of the garden a’ we may eat;


e 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden,


d’ God has said, a ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, b lest you die.‘”

c’ 4 And the serpent said to the woman, / b’ “You surely shall not die! a’ 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

b’ (A) [Me: serpents craftiness succeeds:] 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

a’ 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.


[Me: The Aftermath of Fall:]


E 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.


A’ 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 And the man said,

B’ “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said,

C’ “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

C’’ 14 And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

B’’ 16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

A’’ 17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

a Cursed is the ground because of you;

b In toil you shall eat of it / All the days of your life.

c 18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow

d for you;

d’ And you

c’ shall eat the plants of the field;

b’ 19 By the sweat of your face You shall eat bread, / till you return to the ground,

a’ because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

C’ 20 Now the man called his wife’s name / Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

B’ 22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever“–

A’ 23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, / to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every direction, to guard the way to the tree of life.

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1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  2  And the earth was  (1)  formless and  (2)  void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

B    (1′)

1    3  Then God said, “Let there be light“; and there was light.  4  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  5  And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night.     And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

2    6  Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  7  And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.  8  And God called the expanse heaven.     And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.


   9  Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear“; and it was so.  10  And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. 

ii    11  Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so.  12  And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13      And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

B’    (2′)

1    14  Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;  15  and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.  16  And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also.  17  And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,  18  and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.  19      And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

2    20  Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.”  21  And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.  22  And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”  23      And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.


i’    24  Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.  25  And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.  26  Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27  And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  28  And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

ii’    29  Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;  30  and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food“; and it was so.  31  And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.     And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.


2:1  Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts.  2  And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  3  Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.


A = a world formless and void.  A’ = a world completed / task completed.  It has form and the void has been eliminated.

B = a world given form.  B’ = void eliminated / filled in.

B and B’ parallel each other:  1 = light/darkness, 2 = space above and below, 3 = land and food. 

It seeems only B3/B’3 can be cleanly divided into 2 sub-sections.

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From Gordon Wenham’s commentary on Genesis:

The Structure of the Flood Story

A    Noah (6:10a)

B    Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)

C    Ark to be built (14-16)

D    Flood announced (17)

E    Covenant with Noah (18-20)

F    Food in the ark (21)

G    Command to enter the ark (7:1-3)

H    7 days waiting for flood (4-5)

I     7 days waiting for flood (7-10)

J     Entry to ark (11-15)

K    YHWH shuts Noah in (16)

L    40 days flood (17a)

M   Waters increase (17b-18)

N    Mountains covered (19-20)

O    150 days water prevail (21-24)

P    God remembers Noah (8:1)

O’   150 days waters abate (3)

N’   Mountain tops visible (4-5)

M’   Waters abate (5)

L’   40 days (end of) (6a)

K’   Noah opens window of ark (6b)

J’    Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)

I’    7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)

H’   7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)

G’   Command to leave ark (15-17 [22])

F’   Food outside ark (9:1-4)

E’   Covenant with all flesh (8-10)

D’   No flood in the future (11-17)

C’   Ark (18a)

B’   Shem, Ham and Japheth (18b)

A’   Noah (19)


I thought I would throw this one in just to show how some relatively famous texts are chiastic.  To tell you the truth I haven’t checked it out.  It does look pretty good though. 

The center is interesting here.  “God remembers Noah”.  It a turning point in the story.  After God ‘remembers’, the waters begin to go down.  The situation gets better. 


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