Chiastic

A introverted series with the main point being a single idea in the center. Often that center idea causes a shift in view changing the second half from the first.

Psalms 56:2-4

For they are many who fight proudly against me.
            When I am afraid,
                        I will put my trust in You.
                                    In God,
                                                whose word I praise,
                                    In God
                        I have put my trust;
            I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?

Psalms 56 was written when David was arrested by the Philistines in Gath as he ran from Saul (I Samuel 21:10-15). As we work inward, David faces many enemies which causes him to fear. However, David has placed his trust in God – a trust that is founded on God’s word, which David praises. From that essential core that God always keeps His promises, David has placed his trust in God, so he will not be afraid. After all, what can mere mortal man do to him? Notice the reduction of many who were against David to a single man. With a firm trust in God, David’s problems are reduced.

Usually chiastic series involve chunks of ideas. Each subsection of a chiastic series can be composed of other poetic styles.

Psalms 58

Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?
Do you judge uprightly, you sons of men?

            No, in heart you work wickedness;
            You weigh out the violence of your hands in the earth.

                        The wicked are estranged from the womb;
                        They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.

                                    Their poison is like the poison of a serpent;
                                    They are like the deaf cobra that stops its ear,
                                    Which will not heed the voice of charmers,
                                    Charming ever so skillfully.

                                                Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!
                                                Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!

                                    Let them flow away as waters which run continually;
                                    When he bends his bow, Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces.
                                    Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes,

                        Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
                        Before your pots can feel the burning thorns,
                        He shall take them away as with a whirlwind,
                        As in His living and burning wrath.

            The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
            He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked,

So that men will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
Surely He is God who judges in the earth."

This psalm creates a series of nested layers that are antithetic between the first and second half of the chiasm but are synonymous internally. The outer, yellow section, deals with the fact that men do not judge righteously, but God is a righteous judge. The second nested level (pink) tells us that wicked men have dirtied their hands with violence against the righteous, but the righteous have their feet washed in the blood of the wicked. The third level (green) states that the wicked become immersed in their sins apparently from birth, but God removes them quickly so it is as if they were never born. The forth level (blue) compares the wicked to the fast striking, quick killing serpent, but when God takes away their power, they become snails that slow fades away.

The pivotal point is that God takes away the power of the wicked, changing the first half of the introverted series into the second half. Notice that the pivotal point is synonymous instead of antithetic.

Psalms 4

Hear me when I call,
O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

            How long, O you sons of men, Will you turn my glory to shame?
            How long will you love worthlessness And seek falsehood? Selah

                        But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
                        The LORD will hear when I call to Him.

                                    Be angry, and do not sin.
                                    Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

                        Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
                        And put your trust in the LORD.

            There are many who say, "Who will show us any good?"
            LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.

You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

The outer layer sets up an antithetic state of mind. David desires God to hear his plea for relief, a plea that is answered with peace and safety. The next set talks about the people who do not know God. They refuse to seek God and then are surprised that God doesn’t bless them. The third nesting talks of the righteous. God listens to their pleas and they trust God to answer them.

The inner most set of lines then becomes the focus. Too often we blame God for our problems when it is we ourselves who cause them. Get angry at the appropriate person. Think about what is being taught as you go to sleep. Notice that the central point is also a chiasm.

Romans 11:33-36

O the depth of riches
            and of wisdom
                        and knowledge of God!
                                    How unsearchable His judgments
                                    And untraceable His ways!
                        For who has known the mind of the Lord?
            Or who became his counselor?
Or who first gave to Him and it shall be recompensed to him?

For of Him
And through Him
And unto Him
Are all things.
To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

This quote is based on the Greek text since many translations will reverse some of the phrases when translating to English. The three outer layers going in talk of the vastness of what God has. Going outward, the point is that these are things God has on His own. The focus is that we cannot figure out God or out guess God. The end of the poem is a list of prepositions that ends with a climatic statement.