All posts by SJD

2 Samuel 1:19-27* (David’s Lament)

Note: This analysis is based on William Shea’s article ‘Chiasmus and the Structure of David’s Lament’. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 105, No. 1 (Mar., 1986), pp. 13-25 Link to article

David’s Lament

The Lament is made up of six couplets. The five complete couplets make up the body of the lament; the introductory and closing lines together form the sixth. The proposed structure relies partly on understanding the length of each Hebrew colon. Each couplet is formed from two cola. Each colon is made up of either two clauses (bicolon) or three clauses (tricolon). Moving through the 5 complete couplets gives this pattern: 2+2, 3+2, 3+3, 3+2, 2+2. Hence a chiastic arrangement is formed simply from the length of the couplets. The Largest couplet comes at the centre of the lament.

What is fascinating is seeing how the formal structure of the Hebrew relates to the content of the Lament.

After the introductory ‘half couplet’ the first half of the lament is comprised of two complete couplets (B and C). B focusses on the enemies of Israel. C focusses on Saul. These couplets reflect the hopelessness and desperation of David’s sorrow.

The central couplet (D) is the largest and is a positive celebration of both Saul and Jonathan. In the first tricola Jonathan is mentioned first followed by Saul. At the beginning of the second tricola the order is reversed and they are mentioned as a pair – ‘Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!’. This centre piece is the climax of the lament occurring immediately before we descend back into the grief that characterised the first half.

The latter half of the Lament begins with the couplet C’ which has thematic parallels with B and C of the first half. The daughters of Israel are now mentioned instead of the daughters of the philistines. Again the lament is for Saul for the majority of the couplet. Then comes a false ending. The opening two lines from A are repeated here in the reverse order to form a potential inclusio. However, the lament is not over. In order to balance the first half we need a final couplet completing the chiastic pattern. If the psalm concluded here the passages dedicated to either Saul or/and Jonathan are unbalanced in favour of Saul. What is missing is exactly what comes next – a couplet dedicated to Jonathan. Jonathan’s mention at the end of C’ prepares for this final complete couplet. Not only does B’ balance the Lament thematically (now Jonathan and Saul are mentioned four times each), but it also balances the poem structurally. The second half has exactly the same number of lines as the first. The use of the false ending  gives special status to this final couplet (B’) reflecting David’s great love for his friend Jonathan.

Finally the Lament comes to a close with the real ending (A’). The ‘half couplet’ A’ completes the couplet with its parallel A’.

Jonah 2:1-10* (Jonah’s prayer)

Jonah chapter 2.1-10

Note: The following analysis is based on the article by Jerome T. Walsh

Jonah 2,3-10 : A Rhetorical Critical Study Jerome T. Walsh, Biblica Vol. 63, No. 2 (1982), pp. 219-229

The prayer forms an ABBA chiastic structure. The introductory couplet A (v2) outlines the major themes of the prayer; the distress of Jonah and the response of Yahweh. The first halves of each line of the couplet are chiastically arranged. What follows is a poem of two stanzas. The first lines of each stanza both include “the flood/deep surrounded me” and both last lines conclude with “holy temple”.

The first stanza (B) is made up of two couplets. The first couplet (v3) is a description of Jonah sinking; the second couplet (v4) reveals Jonah’s crying out mentioned in verse 2. Here we learn Jonah feels distanced from Yahweh.

The second stanza (B’) is larger and elaborates on the first. It is also in two halves but each consists of an initial line followed by a couplet. In both cases the couplets expand on their preceding opening lines. The first line + couplet continues with a description similar to the opening of the first stanza. Here the poetry is even more vivid and the metaphor for death is introduced – the deep chaotic waters. Two images are here arranged chiastically – Walsh describes the first as ‘the terror of being trapped and held, unable to break free’ and the second as ‘sinking to the ultimate depths, to the eternal abode of death’. The second half of this stanza develops material from the Introductory unit (A); this time it draws upon the second halves of the opening lines in verse 2 – the answer of Yahweh.

The prayer is concluded with a final unit (A’). Again we have a line + couplet. The couplet is the last occurrence of chiastic parallelism in the prayer. The concluding unit lies outside of the narrative form and details the main exhortation and lesson of the prayer: being thankful of Yahweh’s salvation. The opening voice of distress has here been transformed into the “voice of thanksgiving”.

The prayer comes at the heart of the book of Jonah. In only 8 verses it has demonstrated so many different structural and poetic devices. The level of intricacy is awesome! This prayer beautifully illustrates the sophistication of God’s Word.

2 Thessalonians 1

The central passage C (vs 5-10) describes the righteous judgement of God contrasting believers to unbelievers. I have divided this section up based on who it is referring to: C1 ‘ye may be counted worthy’, C2 ‘them that trouble you’, C3 ‘you who are troubled’, C4 ‘them that know not God’, and C5 ‘all them that believe’. The continual change of focus from believer to unbeliever is also strengthened by the use of a linear chain-like structure – here a keyword/phrase from one section is repeated in the following section which also introduces another keyword/phrase which is in turn taken into the next section and so on. The word chain is – “righteous-trouble-Lord Jesus-glory”.

A 1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  2 grace unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

B 3  We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; 4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

C1 5 which is a manifest token of the righteous (dikaios) judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

C2 6 seeing it is a righteous (dikaios) thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble (thlibo) you;

C3  7  and to you who are troubled (thlibo) rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

C4 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory (doxa) of his power;

C5 10 when he shall come to be glorified (endoxazomai) in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

B’ 11 Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

A’ 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Exodus 4:22-23

A (22) And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:

B (23a) and I say unto thee, Let my son go,

C (23b) that he may serve me:

B’ (23c) and if thou refuse to let him go,

A’ (23d) behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

1 Chronicles 5:1-3

A  (1a) Now the sons of Reuben  the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn;

B  (1b) but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.

C  (2a) For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler;

B’  (2b) but the birthright was Joseph’s🙂

A’  (3) the sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of Israel were…

Matthew 4:28-8:1

Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’,  Matthew chapters 5-7, is given as a single literary structure. It lies within two small passages that act as bookends/inclusio (4:25-5:2) and (7:28-8:1) . The  main body of the sermon (5:17-7:12) comprises of Jesus’ moral teachings and commandments.

This is preceded by a prologue of blessings (5:3-16) and followed by an epilogue of warnings (7:13-27). Both prologue and epilogue deal with the mutual theme of ‘works’. Jesus begins with a list of those who are blessed for carrying out the works of the kingdom of heaven and then, instructing his followers to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world, he proceeds in revealing these ‘good works’ to be the works of our Father in heaven. Moreover in the epilogue the warning against false prophets is centred in identifying their works or fruit – they are those that work iniquity.

The main body of the sermon is introduced by a passage (5:17-20) in which Jesus teaches he has come to fulfil the law and the prophets, explaining this means exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The sermon concludes with a final reference to the law and the prophets (7:12). The main body is divided up into three sections; the first section (5:21-48) is on exceeding the teaching of the scribes; the second section (6:1-18) is on exceeding the practices of the scribes; the third section (6:19-7:11) deals with seeking the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. We find that as we move through the sermon there is a progression of spirituality, from understanding the laws of morality, to the manner in which a person should practice righteousness and then concluding with seeking the righteousness of the kingdom and total dedication of ones life and well-being to God.

Literary Structure of ‘The Sermon on the Mount’

1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13

from FHD

A  (2:17a)  But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart,

B  (17b-18)  endeavoured the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

C  (19-20)  For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.

D  (3:1-2)  Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:

E  (3)  That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.

E’  (4)  For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

D’  (5-7)  For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain. But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:

C’  (8-9)  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;

B’  (10) Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?

A’  (11-13)  Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Ephesians 2:1-10

(Note: In this proposed structure the suggestion is that the repeated phrase ‘by grace you have been saved’  is not forming a parallel with the central clause but rather returns to bring to light a new point – it is of faith not of a person’s doing that you have been saved. This seems to form an ironic parallel with verse 3 where we read of the description of what ‘a person’s doing’ achieves without God. The spirit that works disobedience in B contrasts with God working good in a believer in B’. The ultimate point of the passage being that salvation is all down to God’s grace.)


A  (1-2a)  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,

B  (2b)  following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

C  (3)  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

D  (4)  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

E  (5a)  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ

X  (5b)  —by grace you have been saved—

E’  (6)  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

D’  (7)  so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

C’  (8)  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

B’  (9-10a)  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,

A’  (10b)  which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Exodus 15:22-17:7

Broad outline of the LORD’s miraculous provision of water and food for Israel in the wilderness. The chiasm of 16:1-3 focuses on Israel complaining against Moses and Aaron. The chiasm of verses 6-12 explains at the centre that in reality  Israel were complaining against Yahweh. The chiasm of verses 13-21 focuses on the daily sharing out of the manna that is quoted in the 2 Corinthians 8:15, but verses 22-31 focus on the serious error of  breaking the Sabbath.

A. 15: 22-27  So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea …  and found no water

B. 16:1 – Israel enter wilderness of Sin.

C. (2-3) – murmuring for food – yearning for Egypt

D.  (4-5) – God promises food with  two conditions

 4 Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you;  (condition 1) and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no . (condition 2) 5 And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily .

E. (6-12) – Israel told of promises of food and see God’s glory – they learn that their murmuring are  against God not Moses and Aaron

D’. (13-31) – Promise comes true but some of Israel fail each condition.

C’ .(32-36) – future generations to  learn of God’s provision of food after bringing out of Egypt and feeding them for 40 years in the wilderness.

B’. 17:1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin

A’. 17:1-7 … and there was no water for the people to drink. 


A. 1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai,

B. on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

C. 2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

B’. 3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full;

A’. for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.



A. 6 And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt:

B. 7 And in the morning,  then ye shall see the glory of the LORD;

C. for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? 

D. 8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.

C’. 9 And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings.

B’. 10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

A’. 11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel:  speak unto them, saying,  At even ye shall eat flesh,  and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread;  and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.


A. 13 And it came to pass,  that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp:  and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. 14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. 15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was.

B. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.  This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded,

C. Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.

D. 17 And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. 18 And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack;

C’. they gathered every man according to his eating.

B’.  19 And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.  20 Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. 

A’. 21 And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. 


A. 22 And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 And he said unto them, 

B. This is that which the LORD hath said,  To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. 24 And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.25 And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. 26 Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none.

C. 27 And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. 28 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?

B’. 29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.

A’. 30 So the people rested on the seventh day. 31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.


A. 32 And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth,   Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations;

B. that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.

C. 33 And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.

C’. 34 As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.

B’. 35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

A’. 36 Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.



Exodus 11-12

This structure has at its centre surprisingly the feast of unleavened bread. This section itself is a chiasm. The point of the structure we think is to draw attention to the need to leave Egypt behind spiritually as well as physically.

A. Exodus 11:1-3 Pharaoh gives in and the spoiling of the Egyptians

B. Exodus 11:4-8 The death of the firstborn

C. Exodus 11:9-10 The work is done

D. Exodus 12:1-14 The passover lamb

E. Exodus 12:15-20 Unleavened bread

D’. Exodus 12:21-27 The passover lamb

C. Exodus 12:28 The work is done

B. Exodus 12:29-30 The death of the firstborn

A. Exodus 12:31-36 Pharaoh gives in and the spoiling of the Egyptians.