Donald W. Parry, “Chiasmus: Unique Presentations of the Lord’s Word,” in The Jesus Christ Focused Old Testament: Making Sense of a Monumental Book (Springville, UT: Book of Mormon Central, 2022), 111–113.
Chiasmus is an inverted parallelism; it is a presentation of a series of words or thoughts followed by a second presentation of similar words or thoughts, but in reverse order. There are hundreds of chiasms of various sizes in the Old Testament; more than one hundred exist in the book of Isaiah alone. Chiasmus size varies; many are as small as four lines, and others comprise entire chapters (e.g., 1 Kgs. 17–19). The ancient prophets often used chiasmus to reveal the lord’s words unto individuals, peoples, and nations. The prophets also present many of their prophecies of Jesus Christ in chiastic form.
An example of a simple chiasmus is Isaiah 5:20, where the terms evil and good are presented once and then again in reverse order. Isaiah 5:20 then presents two other simple chiasms: darkness/light/light/darkness followed by bitter/sweet/sweet/bitter. Another example is Isaiah 6:10, where the words heart, ears, and eyes are presented and then repeated in reverse order.
Chiasmus serves a variety of purposes: (1) its structure encourages and enhances learning or memorization of the chiasmus, because scriptural students can memorize the first presentation of words and then the same again in reverse order; (2) the repetition of the key points or concepts in a chiasmus naturally serve to emphasize certain points; and (3) each chiasmus lends an artistic or poetic quality to the text that makes it aesthetically pleasing to the reader.
The chiasms presented in the chart could easily be multiplied. The following seven examples are formatted (including underlining key expressions) to make them more readable and pleasing to the eye.
C for thy light is come,
D and the glory
E of the lord
F is risen upon thee.
G For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
G and gross darkness the people:
F but shall arise upon thee,
E the lord
D and his glory shall be seen upon thee,
C and the nations shall come to thy light
B and kings to the brightness
A of thy rising. (Isa. 60:1–3; translation by the author)
A Yet he opened not his mouth:
B he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
B and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
A so he openeth not his mouth. (Isa. 53:7)
A For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
B neither are your ways my ways, saith the lord.
C For as the heavens are higher
C than the earth,
B so are my ways higher than your ways,
A and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8–9)
A He caused the waters to flow out
B of the rock for them:
B he clave the rock also,
A and the waters gushed out. (Isa. 48:2)
A And the priest shall make an atonement for the soul
B that sinneth ignorantly,
B when he sinneth by ignorance before the lord,
A to make an atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. (Num. 15:28)
A The lord directs Elijah to go to Transjordan (17:2–7)
B Elijah travels north of Israel (17:8–24)
C Elijah returns to Israel (18:1–2)
D Obadiah and Ahab travel (18:3–6)
E Dialogue of Elijah and Obadiah (18:7–15)
F Meeting of Elijah and Ahab (18:16–20)
G Baal’s prophets are not successful in calling down fire (18:21–29)
G Elijah successfully calls down fire (18:30–40)
F Meeting of Elijah and Ahab (18:41–42)
E Dialogue of Elijah and his servant (18:43–45)
D Ahab and Elijah travel to Jezreel (18:45–46)
C Elijah flees Israel (19:1–3)
B Elijah travels south of Israel (19:3–18)
A The lord directs Elijah to go to Transjordan (1 Kgs. 19:19–21)
A And the Lord said unto Moses,
B The man shall be surely put to death:
C all the congregation shall stone him with stones . . .
C all the congregation . . . stoned him with stones,
B and he died;
A as the lord commanded Moses. (Num. 15:35–36)