Chiastic Structures (Genesis 8:15-9:17)

The Bible is more than just great stories with wonderful prose and poetry – it is personal instructions from our loving God who sometimes speaks in unexpected ways.” – Thomas B. Clarke
(Author of Joshua’s Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Chiasms of Joshua)

I’ll be honest. This section in Genesis has thrown me for a loop.

It’s not the comprehension, but the structure of this passage that feels scattered to me: similar themes repeated, but in random order, kind of like a math pattern. (Math has always been a challenge for me.)

How Lord, I asked, can I organize this section without messing up the order. . . . Is there an order?

And then my husband told me about the chiastic structure of Matthew that our pastor taught one Sunday when I was gone. After looking up chiastic structure, I realized, there is an order to this passage! But it’s nonlinear, not in the kind of sequence I’m used to. And, I learned, the Bible is full of chiastic structures.

What is a Chiasm?

A quick definition: A chiasm is a repetition of similar ideas in the reverse sequence.

Chiastic structure is a literary structure used in the Torah, the Bible, and some other works. Concepts or ideas are placed in a pattern for special emphasis, such as ABC….CBA, with the main point in the middle, (much like a sandwich). This structure often places the same concept at the first and at the last, the second concept also appears second to last, etc.

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19 (Source:

Chiasm Structure in Gen. 6:10-9:19

So now you’ve been forewarned. This post strays from my usual linear approach. But I thought this was a neat discovery, another proof of the power and beauty of God’s inspired Word.

You may open the following Word Documents to see more chiasms in this Genesis section: 

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 8:15-9:7

Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17

For more on chiasms in the Bible see: What is a Chiasm?

Next week I’ll pick apart these chiasm sandwiches. 🙂 Have a great Fourth of July weekend!