Chiastic sentences*

In the hard to get hold of  “The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew” (Mouton, 1974, The Hague), Francis I Andersen describes in considerable detail the scripturally common chiastic sentence which has two clauses with inversion of the order of the elements in the second clause – “a chiastic clause combines with the lead clause to give a single picture of two simultaneous occurring aspects of the same situation or event” (my emphasis).

He translates Exodus 20:23 as

“not you-will-make with-me gods of silver
and gods of gold not you-will-make for-me”

He says “The construction has the effect of a single prohibition and each clause makes an equal contribution to the total picture”.

Examples given are too numerous to list but include

Gen 1:5, 3:23-24, 7:7-8, 7:19-20, 7:23, 8:18-19, 14:21, 18:6-7, 28:21, 47:9 Exod 3:7, 12:8, 12:14

page 40

“Gen 46:6-7 – “This is highly repetitious; the complete text also reiterates and all his seed with him. The significance of this kind of construction has generally escaped literary critics. Either they assign parallel passages to different ‘sources’ as ‘doublets’, thus destroying the fabric of the composition; or else they speak disparagingly of its tedious redundancy. But if the text if left as it is, and its grammatical structure is taken seriously as serving artistic purposes, more positive conclusions about the integrity of a passage and the solemnity of its style as possible”.

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