Archive for the ‘Leviticus’ Category



33  The LORD further spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,  34  “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a mark of leprosy on a house in the land of your possession,  35  then the one who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, ‘Something like a mark of leprosy has become visible to me in the house.’  36  “The priest shall then order that they empty the house before the priest goes in to look at the mark, so that everything in the house need not become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to look at the house.  37  “So he shall look at the mark, and if the mark on the walls of the house has greenish or reddish depressions, and appears deeper than the surface;  38  then the priest shall come out of the house, to the doorway, and quarantine the house for seven days.  39  “And the priest shall return on the seventh day and make an inspection. If the mark has indeed spread in the walls of the house,  40  then the priest shall order them to tear out the stones with the mark in them and throw them away at an unclean place outside the city.  41  “And he shall have the house scraped all around inside, and they shall dump the plaster that they scrape off at an unclean place outside the city.  42  “Then they shall take other stones and replace those stones; and he shall take other plaster and replaster the house.  43  “If, however, the mark breaks out again in the house, after he has torn out the stones and scraped the house, and after it has been replastered,  44  then the priest shall come in and make an inspection. If he sees that the mark has indeed spread in the house, it is a malignant mark in the house; it is unclean.  45  “He shall therefore tear down the house, its stones, and its timbers, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall take them outside the city to an unclean place.  46  “Moreover, whoever goes into the house during the time that he has quarantined it, becomes unclean until evening.  47  “Likewise, whoever lies down in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes.  48  “If, on the other hand, the priest comes in and makes an inspection, and the mark has not indeed spread in the house after the house has been replastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean because the mark has not reappeared.

A    49  “He shall take for the cleansing

B    of the house,

C    [Me: all the supplies needed for atonement:]  two birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop,

D    [Me:  one bird slaughtered:]  50  and he shall slaughter the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water.

E    51  Then he shall take the cedar wood and the hyssop and the scarlet string,

F    with the live bird,

G    and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, as well as in the running water,

H    and sprinkle the house seven times.

H’   52  He shall thus cleanse the house

G’   with the blood of the bird and with the running water,

F’   along with the live bird

E’   and with the cedar wood and with the hyssop and with the scarlet string.

D’   [Me: one bird let go:]  53  And he shall let the live bird go free outside the city into the open field.

C’   So he shall make atonement

B’   for the house,

A’   and it shall be clean.”

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A    a    17  ‘And if a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.

B    b    18  ‘And the one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life.

C    a’   19  ‘And if a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him


D    a    20  fracture for fracture

       b    eye for eye,

D’   a’   tooth for tooth;


C’   a   just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.

B’   b   21  ‘Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good,

A’   a’   but the one who kills a man shall be put to death.


In spite it’s rather harsh nature, this chiasmus is really quite beautiful. 

1)  Overall, it’s a 9-part chiasmus:  A, B, C, D, E, D’, C’, B’,  A’

2)  It can also be viewed as a 3-part chiasmus:  A, B, A’, where the outsides A and A’ refer to particular laws, while the inside B offers simplified illustrations (as well, I suppose, as laws).  The A/A’ lines are longer.  The B lines, shorter.

3)  Each of the A, B, A’ sections (mentioned in 2) are themselves a, b, a’ /a, b, a’ structures.   The A/A’  a, b, a’ chiasmi refer to ‘mankind’ on the outside and ‘animals’ on the inside.  (The outside is also retalitory in nature, while the center is replacement orientated.)  The central B a, b, a’ chiasmus refers to fractures (and a fracturable things: teeth) on the outside, and eyes on the inside.

In other words, we have a 9-part chiasmus that is more broadly a 3-part chiasmus.  Each of the 3 parts of the broader 3-part chiasmus are also 3-part chiasmi.  In total there are 4 a, b, a’ configurations.

4)  There’s also a flow to this chiasmus.  Read helically (by matches, outside to inside), we seem to be moving from that which is harshest to those things which are less harsh – except perhaps the center:

A/A’  The killing of a man

B/B’  The killing of an animal

C/C’  The injuring of a man

D/D’  A type of injury which might occur to a man:  a fracture (D), as might occur to a tooth (D’) …  (e.g., in a fight)

E  Another type of injury that might occur is an injury to an eye

The helical read moves broadly from killing (A/A’, B/B’) to injury (C/C’, D/D’, E).  It also moves from generalized situations (killing/injury) to specific examples (fracture/tooth/eye). 

Here it seems like the center has been beefed up a bit, as an injury to an eye is worse than an injury to a tooth.  It’s possible that the author has chosen a fracture, e.g., a tooth, in D/D’ because it is a common injury, while an injury to the eye (E) may have been considered one of the worst possible injuries?  It’s possible an injury to an eye is considered more important and thus fitting for the center.  Or perhaps it was chosen because it would simply form a memorable center.  At any rate, the illustration of an eye for an eye offers a strong center.  Afterall, … interestingly … , it’s the center of this chiasmus that we have come to use in are illustration for the lex talionis (‘equivalency’) principle of law:  an eye for an eye.  It’s pithy and memorable (in part, memorable because it’s pithy). 

It does make a good center.

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