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Psalm 37*

Note: Psalm 37 is an alphabetic acrostic Psalm. All the letters of the Hebrew alphabet contribute except for the 16th letter ע. Ronald Benun (http://www.jhsonline.org/Articles/article_55.htm) points out that for each letter there are usually two verses, with the second verse not commencing with the particular letter. However, he says,  “the letters דכ, and ק each have only one primary verse and are lacking any attached verses. Even more curious is v 29 … [which] is out of place, not connected to any letter of the alphabet, but at the same time just happens to occur right where we expect the ע verse. It seems that this verse is a kind of substitute for the primary ע verse even though it begins with the wrong letter.” He argues that this substitution – and therefore the break in the acrostic pattern – is quite deliberate. He points out that if we ignore verse 29 then there is a chiastic pattern based on the number of acrostic letters in each section: 3-1-6-1-6-1-3.

A – אבג (two verses per letter)
B – ד (one verse)
C – הוזחטי (two verses per letter)
D – כ (one verse)
C’ – למנספצ (two verses per letter)
B’ – ק (one verse)
A’ – רשת (two verses per letter)

Furthermore, there is a remarkable symmetry in the word count in each section.

A  42 words for 3 letters
B  11 words for 1 letter
C  88 words for 6 letters
D  10 words for 1 letter
C  88 words for 6 letters
B  11 words for 1 letter
A  41 words for 3 letters

The article quoted above goes into much more detail and suggests other numeric features. This basic pattern is hard to dismiss as chance, and we are left to ponder why the letter which is also the Hebrew word for “eye” is omitted.  And how does it relate to the thought pattern of the Psalm? This is where we find some real challenges. Several have proposed chiastic structures for the Psalm, notably Robert Alden (https://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/17/17-1/17-1-pp011-028_JETS.pdf), But these do not square with the numeric pattern.

I have reviewed Alden’s proposal and our previous post. Using some but not all of the frequent occurrences of “wicked” and righteous” seems to me to be too subjective. The following is based on trying to follow the sense of the Psalm, as well as trying to respect the acrostic pattern.

A PSALM OF DAVID.

A v1-11: Don’t fret, the wicked will be  like grass, trust in YHWH.
Verses 1-9 form a reasonable chiasm  but we have to link the solitary verse 7 with the following pair of verses. Verse 10 and 11 seem to me to be a summary of outcomes.

a. 1 Fret not thyself because of evildoers,
neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
and wither as the green herb.

b. 3 Trust (batah) in the LORD, and do good;
so shalt thou dwell in the land,
and verily thou shalt be fed.
4 Delight thyself also in the LORD;
and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

b’.  5 Commit thy way unto the LORD;
trust (batah) also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
6 And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light,
and thy judgment as the noonday.

a’. 7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him:
fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way,
because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.
9 For evildoers shall be cut off:
but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.

10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be:
yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth;
and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

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B. vv12-15 the wicked plot  against the righteous

a. 12 The wicked plotteth against the just,
and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.

b. 13 The Lord shall laugh at him:
for he seeth that his day is coming.

a’. 14 The wicked have drawn out the sword,
and have bent their bow,
to cast down the poor and needy,
and to slay such as be of upright conversation.

b’. 15 Their sword shall enter into their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

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C. vv16-20  YHWH will uphold the righteous
Verse 20 is the central verse of the Psalm and for some it is the centre of a grand chiasm for the whole Psalm. It has no accompanying verse and no comparison is made with  the righteous and it thereby stands out as different. However, the opening “but” links it  closely with the preceding verse to give it a separate section. Verse 17 “upholdeth” links to verse 24, and verse 18 – the promise of food in famine ties with v25.

a.16 A little that a righteous man hath
b. is better than the riches of many wicked.
b’. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken:
a’. but the LORD upholdeth the righteous.

a. 18 The LORD knoweth the days of the upright:
b. and their inheritance shall be for ever.
b’. 19 They shall not be ashamed in the evil time:
a’. and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

20 But the wicked shall perish,
and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs:
they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

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C’. vv21-26 YHWH upholds the merciful
This section is a neat chiasm based on four repeated key words. Verse 24 like verse 17 says that YHWH “upholds” his people.

a. 21 The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again:
but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth;
and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.

b. 23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:
and he delighteth in his way.

b’. 24 Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:
for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

a’. 25 I have been young, and now am old;
yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken,
nor his seed begging bread.
26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth;
and his seed is blessed.

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B’. vv 27-33 Righteousness even under threat from the wicked.

a. 27 Depart from evil, and do good;
and dwell for evermore.
28 For the LORD loveth judgment,
and forsaketh not his saints;
they are preserved for ever:
but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

b. 29 The righteous shall inherit the land,
and dwell therein for ever.

a’. 30 The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom,
and his tongue talketh of judgment.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
none of his steps shall slide.
32 The wicked watcheth the righteous,
and seeketh to slay him.
33 The LORD will not leave him in his hand,
nor condemn him when he is judged.

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A’. vv34- 40  Wait on YHWH and trust in Him
This section returns to the need to be patient and trust in God. The wicked prospers like a tree, but will be cut down like grass (v2). The section re-emphasises the ultimate outcome.

a. 34 Wait on the LORD, and keep his way,
and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land:
when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it.

b. 35 I have seen the wicked in great power,
and spreading himself like a green bay tree.
36 Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not:
yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.

a’. 37 Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright:
for the end of that man is peace.
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together:
the end of the wicked shall be cut off.

b’. 39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD:
he is their strength in the time of trouble.
40 And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them:
he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them,
because they trust (hasa) in him.

Psalm 20

The Psalm is in two equal parts, each of which has a symmetrical structure.

a. 1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!

b. May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!

c. 2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!

d. 3 May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

c’. 4 May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!

b’. 5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!

a’. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

a. 6. Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.

b. 7. Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

c. but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 

b’. 8. They collapse and fall,

c’. but we rise and stand upright.

a’. 9. O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.

James

Note: there have been many proposals for this epistle. The following identifies themes that form a ring composition. 

A. 1:1-27   Patience

B. 2:1-26   Rich and poor

C. 3:1-12  The tongue

D. 3:13-18 Wisdom – heavenly v earthly

D’. 4:1-10 Friendship – of the world v with God

C’. 4:11-12  The tongue

B’. 4:13-5:6  Rich and poor

A’. 5:7-20   Patience

Matthew 5:10-12*

From Lund – Chiasmus in the New Testament

A. 10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:

B. for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

C. 11 Blessed are ye,

D. when men shall revile you,

E. and persecute you,

D’. and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

C’. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad:

B’. for great is your reward in heaven:

A’. for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Why New Testament quotations often differ from their Old Testament source

Taken from an  article by John Adey –

Complementary Difference: Why New Testament quotations often differ from their Old Testament source.

On Jesus’ authority (Divinely inspired) “Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn. 10:35).  Yet this perspective may seem difficult to reconcile with New Testament  ‘quotations’ of the Old Testament (OT) which differ from the OT as we have it, based on the Hebrew Masoretic text (MT).   For example, some may feel that a quotation has to be a verbatim (word-for-word) repetition of something previously expressed. On this view, any variation in quotation fractures expectations about how inspired Scripture should behave.  However, not only is this to impose a strict view of ‘quotation’ onto the Bible, but can misdirect unedifyingly into criticism of the text of the Hebrew Bible, as per MT or its consonantal antecedents. Neither reaction (the verbatim, or finding fault with the text of the OT/MT), as I hope to show, is consistent with the nature of Scripture.

The full article is available in the new “Bible Quotations” page on this website.

Ephesians 4:1-17

From Peter Heavyside

A “I therefore [oun], a prisoner for the Lord [en kuriō], urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1)
B “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3)
C “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:4-6)
D “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7)
E “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts  to men’” (Eph. 4:8)
F “In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth?” (Eph. 4:9)
f “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10)
e “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11,12)
d “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”(Eph. 4:13)
c “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14)
b “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16)
a “Now [oun] this I say and testify in the Lord [en kuriō], that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Eph. 4:17)

Isaiah 43:8-13

Based on J A Motyer. The passage declares that the Jews are God’s proof of His existence and purpose. 

A. The court assembled
8  Bring forth the blind people that have eyes,
and the deaf that have ears.
9 Let all the nations be gathered together,
and let the people be assembled:

B.  The issue announced
who among them can declare this, and shew us former things?
let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified:
or let them hear, and say, It is truth.

C. YHWH’s witnesses
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD,
and my servant whom I have chosen:
that ye may know and believe me,
and understand that I am he:

C’. YHWH’s claim
before me there was no God formed,
neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD;
and beside me there is no saviour.

B’. The issue settled
12  I have declared, and have saved,
and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you:
therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

A’. The verdict
13 Yea, before the day was I am he;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand:
I will work, and who shall let it?

Gospel of Matthew

Note: there are many versions of the structure of the Gospel on the web and much disagreement amongst academic writers. But there are some key repetitions that suggest an inverted pattern around the central parables of ch 13.  This can be extended in very general outline as follows:- 

A. 1:1-2:23 The birth of the King.
Angel announces birth
the child Jesus escapes death

B. 3:1- 4:11 The “way” to Jerusalem is prepared
John the baptist prepares the way
baptism and three temptations in the wilderness

C. 4:12-9:34 The Light shines in Galilee
Sermon on the mount and ten miracles.

D. 9:35-11:1 Commission of the apostles
Twelve sent out to preach with warning.
Take up the cross – 10:38

E. 11:2-12:50 Jesus rejected by religious leaders
John Baptist in prison
Asking for a sin – Jonah – “an evil and adulterous generation”

F. 13:1-52 The parables of the kingdom.

E’. 13:53-16:13 Traditions rejected by Jesus
John Baptist in prison
Asking for a sign – Jonah – “a wicked and adulterous generation”

D’. 16:14-18:35  The foundation and functioning of the Ecclesia
Building the ecclesia (only time ‘ecclesia’ is used in the Gospels)
Take up the cross 16:24

C’. 19:1-25:46 From Galilee to Jerusalem
The King expounds the kingdom of God

B’. 26:1-27:66  Preparation, Trial and crucifixion of Jesus
Last supper
three prayers in Gethsemane
betrayal, trial and crucifixion

A’.  28:1-28:20 Resurrection and glory of the King
Angel announces resurrection

Isaiah 32

Note: The structure of Isaiah is particularly complex and difficult. This proposal  – as all on this site – is put up for improvement or correction.

 A describes the coming reign of the righteous King,
B is a warning to the woman used to luxury because
B’ the good times are over
A’ until  the righteous king comes. 

A. The Kingdom of  God – righteousness and judgment
32:1 Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness,
and princes shall rule in judgment.
2 And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind,
and a covert from the tempest;
as rivers of water in a dry place,
as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.3 And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim,
and the ears of them that hear shall hearken.
4 The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge,
and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly.

a. 5 The vile person shall be no more called liberal,
nor the churl said to be bountiful.

b. 6 For the vile person will speak villany,
and his heart will work iniquity,
 to practise hypocrisy,
and to utter error against the LORD,

C.  to make empty the soul of the hungry,
and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.

b’. 7 The instruments also of the churl are evil:
he deviseth wicked devices

c’. to destroy the poor with lying words,
even when the needy speaketh right.

a’. 8 But the liberal deviseth liberal things;
and by liberal things shall he stand.

B. warning to the women at ease
a. 9 Rise up, ye women that are at ease;
hear my voice,
ye careless daughters;
give ear unto my speech.

b. 10 Many days and years shall ye be troubled,
ye careless women:

b’. for the vintage shall fail,
the gathering shall not come.

a’. 11 Tremble, ye women that are at ease;
be troubled, ye careless ones:
strip you, and make you bare,
and gird sackcloth upon your loins.

B’, the women shall lament for the land 
12 They shall lament for the teats,
for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine.
13 Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers;
yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city:
14 Because the palaces shall be forsaken;
the multitude of the city shall be left;
the forts and towers shall be for dens for ever,
a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks;

A’. Judgment and righteousness to come
15 Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness be a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be counted for a forest.
16 Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness remain in the fruitful field.
17 And the work of righteousness shall be peace;
and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.
18 And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation,
and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;
19 When it shall hail, coming down on the forest;
and the city shall be low in a low place.
20 Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters,
that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.

Isaiah 30:12-33

Note: The context is of Judah’s princes seeking a defence treaty with Egypt against Assyria, even though the LORD through Isaiah has told them to trust Him and not to deal with Egypt. The faithless will be caught out but the faithful remnant will be delivered.

A. 12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel,
Because ye despise this word,
and trust in oppression and perverseness,
and stay thereon:

B. 13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall,
whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.
14 And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters’ vessel
that is broken in pieces;  he shall not spare:
so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd
to take fire from the hearth,
or to take water withal out of the pit.

A’. 15 For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel;
In returning and rest shall ye be saved;
in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength:
and ye would not.
16 But ye said, No; for we will flee upon horses;

B’. therefore shall ye flee:
and, We will ride upon the swift;
therefore shall they that pursue you be swift.
17 One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one;
at the rebuke of five shall ye flee:
till ye be left as a beacon upon the top of a mountain,
and as an ensign on an hill.

A. Waiting for the LORD
18 And therefore will the LORD wait,
that he may be gracious unto you,
and therefore will he be exalted,
that he may have mercy upon you:
for the LORD is a God of judgment:
blessed are all they that wait for him.

B. Prayers for deliverance to be answered
19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem:
thou shalt weep no more:
he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry;
when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.
20 And though the LORD give you the bread of adversity,
and the water of affliction,
yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more,
but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
21 And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee,
saying,
This is the way, walk ye in it,
when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.

C. true worship to be restored
22 Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver,
and the ornament of thy molten images of gold:
thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth;
thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence.

B’. blessings of abundance of bread and water
23 Then shall he give the rain of thy seed,
that thou shalt sow the ground withal;
and bread of the increase of the earth,
and it shall be fat and plenteous:
in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures.
24 The oxen likewise
and the young asses that ear the ground
shall eat clean provender,
which hath been winnowed with the shovel and with the fan.
25 And there shall be upon every high mountain,
and upon every high hill,
rivers and streams of waters in the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall.

A’.  the appearing of the LORD
26 Moreover the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun,
and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold,
as the light of seven days,
in the day that the LORD bindeth up the breach of his people,
and healeth the stroke of their wound.

A. The name of YHWH comes
27 Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far,
burning with his anger,
and the burden thereof is heavy:
his lips are full of indignation,
and his tongue as a devouring fire:
28 And his breath, as an overflowing stream,
shall reach to the midst of the neck,
to sift the nations with the sieve of vanity:
and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people,
causing them to err.

B. singing
29 Ye shall have a song,
as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept;
and gladness of heart,
as when one goeth with a pipe
to come into the mountain of the LORD,
to the mighty One of Israel.

C. The voice of YHWH
a. 30 And the LORD shall cause his glorious voice to be heard,
and shall shew the lighting down of his arm,
with the indignation of his anger,
and with the flame of a devouring fire,
with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones.

a’. 31 For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.

B’. music
32 And in every place where the grounded staff shall pass,
which the LORD shall lay upon him,
it shall be with tabrets and harps:
and in battles of shaking will he fight with it.

A’. The breath of YHWH
33 For Tophet is ordained of old;
yea, for the king it is prepared;
he hath made it deep and large:
the pile thereof is fire and much wood;
the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.