I’m sure this is nothing new for those who work in the field of Old Testament studies, but for me, this was pretty fascinating. I was working through Genesis 11, using BibleWorks, and noticed the Chiasm! A Chiasm (kee-as-‘em) is a literary structure that helps us identify the main point or climax of a passage, or so I’m told. Oral literature is rich with Chiasm because it apparently aided in memorization. These types of textual insights often arise when one is diagramming passages of Scripture.
Genesis 11 seems to provide this literary feature (click the diagram for a larger version):
Notice how the flow of the text starts with the “whole world” and then progressively works through the process of the people in Shinar coming together and building. Then, the center piece, is found in phrase, “But the Lord came down.” From their, everything in the text works backwards as God, more or less, dismantles what the people had tried to do. Many of my professors always reminded us that God was always the main character of the Bible. In Genesis 11, nothing is different. God acts, things change.
I’m looking for more of these as I continue to study Scripture. Finding these Chiasms is helpful to understanding structure and form in texts, and my understanding of Genesis 11 has never been this strong, which means I need to study more!
What are some of your favorite Chiasms in Scripture? Have you ever noticed them? If you haven’t, look at John 1:1-2 and format one (ignore the verse divisions, because they get in the way).