Chiastic Structure In The Bible

When God inspired the men who wrote the Scriptures, they didn't have modern techniques that we are used to, such as highlighting, italics, underlining, indentation, bullet points, or large font size to emphasize the important concepts. Instead, God inspired them to use various literary devices to emphasize the important concepts. One such tool used by the Divinely inspired writers of Scripture is called "Chiastic Structure". The word gets its name from the 22nd letter of the Greek alphabet, “chi”, which is written as “X”.

Chiasms can be either an "ab -X- BA" pattern, or it may be "abc - CBA". In either pattern, a common theme is repeated in reverse order, like a mirrored image, with a pivotal point in the center. In English, we are used to the main point coming at the beginning of a phrase or paragraph; in chiasms, it is in the center. That pivotal point is the key to fully understanding the deeper truths of God's word.

For instance, when we look at this simple example of a chiastic structure from the book of Joshua, it is easy to see the key to getting the deepest meaning from the passage is the center: "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; Mediate on it day and night." It is only by meditating on God's Book that we have any desire to obey His laws, and keeping it near to us always is what gives us the asssurance that He is ever near us and will not forsake us. Meditating on His word and speaking His truth makes us want to be obedient, especially since we know that He is always with us, and that makes us strong and courageous!

a) I will never leave you nor forsake you
      b) Be strong and courageous … be strong and very courageous
           c) Be careful to obey all the law … that you may be successful
                X) Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth;
                 Mediate on it day and night
           C) Be careful to do everything written in it … you may be prosperous and successful
     B) Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged
A) for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:5-9)

In this next example, the Israelites are warned against “crossing over” to Beersheba. Bethel and Gilgal were cities north of Beershaeba. Beersheba was a seat of idolatry in the time of Uzziah, so the warning against crossing over into idolatry is the pivotal point of this passage.

a) "Seek me and live;
      b) but do not seek Bethel,
          c) and do not enter into Gilgal
                X) or cross over to Beer-sheba;
           C) Gilgal will surely go into exile,
      B) and Bethel shall come to nought."
A) Seek the LORD and live, (Amos 5:4-6a)

In the next example, using chiastic structure, we can see the central theme is loving God AND being devoted to Him. That is what prevents us from trying to serve two masters. It is possbible to distantly "love" someone without being devoted to them. And it is also possible to be devoted to something or someone we do not love. The key is loving AND being devoted!

a) No one can serve two masters.
          b) Either he will hate the one and
                    X) love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and
          B) despise the other.
A) You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matt 6:24)

The are numerous examples of such chiastic structures found throughout Scripture. Some scholars claim there are more than 2,000 examples of chiastic structure in the Bible! The next two examples are great comfort and reassurance to us as believers. Learning from Jesus is the pivotal point to easing our burdens when they seem overwhelming to us. And the promise of the Holy Spirit (see) within us is reminds us that He is always with us! The third example below reminds us that Jesus bore all our iniquities in His own flesh to reconcile us to God, so that we will never be separated from Him again! Doesn't that just make you want to shout Halleluiah!

a) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,
          b) and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you
                    X) and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
          B) and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy
A) and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

a) Whoever has been born of God
          b) does not sin
                   X) because his seed remains in him
          B) and he is not able to sin
A) because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)

a) At that time you were without Christ
    b) being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers
       c) having no hope and without God in the world
          d) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near
             e) by the blood of Christ
                f) For He Himself is our peace
                   g) made both one
                      h) broken down the middle wall of separation
                         X) having abolished in His flesh the enmity
                      H) the law of commandments contained in ordinances
                   G) one new man from the two
                F) thus making peace
             E). through the cross
          D) And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near
       C) For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father
    B) Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners
A) but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:12-19)

Chiastic Structure In the Book of Esther

I first learned about this incredibly awesome chiastic structure from a Bible study by Beth Moore on the book of Esther. She says that this arrangement of repeated thoughts or phrases can be thought of as a mirrored image. This mirrored image can be called a “reversal of destiny”, because it describes a pivotal change in the outcome of events, a picture of God's hand in reversing the destiny of sinful man. Using just one example, we see this kind of reversal in the details of the banquets mentioned in that book. In the book of Esther, the Jewish people were in terrible trouble, about to be totally wiped out. Esther's banquets for Xerxes and Haman is where God turned it all around! He saved the Israelties from total extinction, all because of Esther.

a) Banquet for entire kingdom (1:3)
          b) Banquet for those in Susa (1:5)
                   c) Banquet in Esther’s honor (2:18)
                            x Esther’s 1st Banquet for Xerxes & Haman (5:4)
                            X) Esther’s 2nd Banquet for Xerxes & Haman (7:1)
                   C) Banquet in Mordecai’s with (8:17)
          B) Banquet for those in Susa (9:19)
A) Banquet for entire kingdom (9:18)

Chiastic Structure In Revelation

The book of Revelation is full of wonderful chiasms that help us understand the key concepts we find here.

a) ..…to show his servants things which must shortly take place” (1:1)**
        b) “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy” (1:3)**
                c) The time is near” (1:3) **
                        d) “He is coming with clouds” (1:7)
                                e) A book sent to the seven churches (1:11)
                                        f) “The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (1:11)
                                                g) “I (John) fell at His feet” (1:17)
                                                       X) I am he that lives, and was dead;
                                                        and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen;
                                                        and have the keys of hades and of death. (1:18)
                                                G) “I, John…fell down to worship before the feet” (22:8)
                                        F) “The Alpha and the Omega…the First and the last” (22:13)
                                E) Angel sent to testify in the churches (22:16)
                        D) “I am coming quickly” (22:12,20)
                C) The time is near” (22:10)**
        B) Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy” (22:7,10,18)**
A) ..... to show His servants the things which must shortly take place” (22:6)**

Note: ** Indicates that this phrase appears nowhere else in the Bible but in these two verses.

In fact, the entire Holy Bible is written with the most wonderful, incredible, awesome chiastic structure ever known to man. Genesis begins the history of mankind. Revelation reveals the ultimate conclusion of mankind's history: God's perfect plan of redemption. This revelation shows us the ultimate chiastic structure, or reversal: this time, everything that had been tainted and damaged by sin is now made perfect, for all eternity. God’s own presence with mankind is the hinge; remember, another name for Jesus is "Emanuel", meaning "God with us". The great love of God for His creation was fully expressed and accomplished by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection, the pivotal point that reverses the ravages of sin and makes all things perfect once again. Amen, Praise God, and Halleluiah!!!!

(from Halley's Bible Handbook)

a) “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth.” Gen. 1:1
       b) “The darkness He called night.” Gen. 1:5
             c) "The gathering together of waters He called the sea" Gen. 1:10
                   d) "God made the two great lights" (the sun and the moon) Gen. 1:16
                          e) Man's earliest home was by a river. Gen. 2:10
                               f) “ In the day you eat thereof you shall surely die" Gen. 2:17
                                     g) "I will greatly multiply your pain" Gen. 3:16
                                           h) "Cursed is the ground for your sake" Gen. 3:17
                                                 i) Satan deceives mankind Gen. 3:1,4
                                                       j) Man was driven away from the Tree of Life Gen. 3:22-24
                                                             k) Man was driven from God's presence Gen. 3:24
                                                                    X) And he that sat upon the throne said,
                                                                          Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:5)
                                                             K) Man sees God’s face Rev. 22:4
                                                       J) The Tree of Life re-appears Rev. 22:2
                                                 I) Satan disappears forever Rev. 20:10
                                           H) "There shall be no more curse" Rev. 22:3
                                     G) "Neither shall there be pain any more" Rev. 21:4
                                F) “Death shall be no more" Rev. 21:4
                         E) Man's eternal home will be by a river. Rev. 22:1
                    D) "The city has no need of the sun or the moon" Rev. 21:23
             C) "And the sea was no more" Rev. 21:1
       B) "There shall be no night there" Rev. 21:25
A) "I saw a new heaven and a new earth" Rev.21:1

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