Life is structured in a chiastic way. A chiasm (also called a chiasmus) is a literary device in which a sequence of ideas is presented and then repeated in reverse order. The result is a “mirror” effect as the ideas are “reflected” back in a passage. Each idea is connected to its “reflection” by a repeated word, often in a related form.
We can see this structure all throughout the Scriptures. An example of this structure can be found in the flood narrative in Genesis:
A: Noah and his sons (Gen 6:10)
- B: All life on earth (6:13:a)
- C: Curse on earth (6:13:b)
- D: Flood announced (6:7)
- E: Ark (6:14-16)
- F: All living creatures (6:17–20 )
- G: Food (6:21)
- H: Animals in man’s hands (7:2–3)
- I: Entering the Ark (7:13–16)
- J: Waters increase (7:17–20)
- X: God remembers Noah (8:1)
- J: Waters decrease (8:13–14)
- I’: Exiting the Ark (8:15–19)
- H’: Animals (9:2,3)
- G’: Food (9:3,4)
- F’: All living creatures (9:10a)
- E’: Ark (9:10b)
- D’:No flood in future (9:11)
- C’: Blessing on earth (9:12–17)
- B’: All life on earth (9:16)
A: Noah and his sons (9:18,19a)
At its core, all of life is an elaborate chiastic structure:
A. Man was formed from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7).
B. Man was given the breath of life (Gen. 2:7).
C. Man lives.
C. Man dies.
B. Man gives up the ghost, and the breath of life is taken away.
A. Man returns to the ground (Gen. 3:19).
Even the way we live our daily lives are chiastic in nature:
A. We get out of bed.
B. We change out of our bed clothes, and put on our work clothes.
C. We leave home, and go to work.
C. We leave work, and go back home.
B. We change out of our work clothes, and put on our bed clothes.
A. We go back into bed.
As James Jordan has said, when you notice this structure you begin to realize that the people who wrote the Bible were people much like master musicians – Bach or Mozart. They weren’t just writing and cobbling things together – they were composing. They were composing in a highly complex and artistic way.
The same is true with our lives. God hasn’t cobbled together our stories. God from eternity past has masterfully composed them, along with their ebbs and flows like a master musician changing from a major to minor chord in a progression. Every part of our lives are a part of God’s amazing progression. There’s not one single part that is insignificant or outside of God’s composition.