The Word of God is bursting with meaning. Every word, every line, and every phrase is rich in interpretation and full of glory to God. This is one of God’s great gifts to the Church – the Word is so rich in meaning and yet simple enough for us to understand.

One of my favorite Bible school professors used to put it this way: The Word of God is simultaneously safe enough for a child to play at its shores, and deep enough that the brightest scholars will never plumb its depths. This is a joy and a gift!

Today, we are going to look at one of my favorite literary structures found in Scripture: the chiasm (pronounced, kai-az-um). Chiastic structures, or chiastic pattern, is a literary technique found primarily in narratives. They offer us a mirrored image of the text throughout the text’s progression in order to reveal an overarching theme throughout the narrative.

Here’s how they work:

Let’s say we find a theme in the text and we label it “Theme A.” Every time we see that theme we label it; the first time we see it we call it “A,” the second time “A1,” the third time “A2,” etc. Then, we find another theme and label it “Theme B”; the first time we see it we call it “B,” the second time “B1,” the third “B2,” etc.  A lot of our common sayings are chiastic in structure. For example, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” or “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” See the mirrored nature of the saying?

A good Biblical example of this is Jesus’ words in Mark 2:27: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Using our label system, we would break it down this way:

A – The Sabbath was made

         B – for man

        B1 – not man

A1 – for the Sabbath

The sideways “V” shape that is created from charting out the phrase allows us to see the way the text mirrors itself. Does that make sense?

Today, I’m going to ask you to read Jonah 1:3 and look for a chiasm. Write it out using the letters A, B, and C. This is how it should look:







Tomorrow, I’ll show you how I arranged it. But for today, give it a try. I know this sort of thing takes work (and if you’re doing this in the morning before your coffee is ready it takes extra effort!), but you can do it! Close your time in prayer.

Here’s a hint: be looking for themes that deal with Jonah’s actions.


Thank God that His Word is both interesting and accessible. Thank Him for the gift of Bible study and ask Him to give you an eager heart to study His Word.



Feeling lost? No worries! Head over to Facebook and join the group discussion about the literary structure – look for the graphic below. You’re not alone!

Author: amygannett

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