Parallelism in Genesis 12:11-17

  • V11 – When Abram was about to enter Egypt
    • He said, “You are a beautiful woman.”
      • V12 – Egyptians will say, “This is his wife.”
        • They will kill me and let you live
          • V13 – Say you’re my sister so it will go well
            • I will be spared for your sake
  • V14 – Abram entered Egypt
    • Egyptians saw she was beautiful
      • V15 – They praised her to Pharaoh
        • Sarai taken into Pharaoh’s house
          • V16 – For her sake, Pharaoh dealt well with Abram
            • V17 – Pharaoh was not spared for her sake, but Abram was

Chiasm in Genesis 12:6-13:18

I had originally mapped this chiasm from 12:14 to 13:4, but it's much larger. The most interesting thing about this is how it covers much of the same text as a parallelism in chapters 12-14. (See here.)

  • 12:6 – Abram stopped at the Oak of Moreh
    • 12:7 – God promised to give Canaan to Abram
      • 12:8 – Abram moved to Bethel
        • 12:14 - Abram traveled from Egypt to Bethel
          • 12:16 - Pharaoh gave livestock & servants to Abram
            • 12:20 - Pharaoh sent Abram away with his wife & all he had
            • 13:1 - Abram left Egypt with his wife & all he had
          • 13:2 - Abram rich in livestock, silver, & gold
        • 13:3-4 - Abram traveled from Egypt to Bethel
      • 13:11-12 – Abram moved from Bethel
    • 13:14-17 – God promised to make Abram a great nation & to give him Canaan
  • 13:18 – Abram stopped at the Oaks of Mamre

Abraham's faith was strengthened by every test. The continual growth of his material wealth was only a mundane reflection of his spiritual development.

Chiasm in the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

  • V1 – One language and the people migrated together
    • V3-4 – Let us make bricks (laban, which is lamed-bet-nun) and build a city so we won’t be dispersed
      • V5 – God came down.
        • V6 – God saw their pride and how it would progress
      • V7a – God came down.
    • V7b-8 – Let us confuse (v’nablah, which contains the root nun-bet-lamed) their language so they will be dispersed and stop building the city.
  • V9 – Many languages and the people scattered
Common worship, language, and culture can be great unifying forces. Nimrod and the Babylonians were aware of this and tried to leverage it, but they aren't enough. The Tower of Babel was a pre-figured counterfeit of the Temple of Jerusalem. The only truly worthy and enduring unifying force is
the true worship of the only true God.

Parallelism in Genesis 12-14

  • 12:1-2 – Promise of land and descendants
    • 12:4 – Abram commanded to move
      • 12:6 – Abram went to the oak of Moreh at Shechem
        • 12:7 – Built an altar
          • 12:11-20 – Conflict with a king, Sarai taken and returned, wealth obtained
  • 13:14-16 – Promise of land and descendants
    • 13:17 – Abram commanded to move
      • 13:18 – Abram went to the oaks of Mamre at Hebron
        • 13:18 – Built an altar
          • 14:1-24 – Conflict with kings, Lot taken and returned, wealth refused
Interestingly, this parallelism overlaps a chiasm in Genesis 12:6-13:18. See here.

Timeline of Jacob's Life

A table showing Jacob's age at various events in his life.

EventJacob's Age
Esau married two Canaanite women
Jacob flees Esau &
Betrothal to Rachel
End of Leah's 7 years &
Marriage to Leah & Rachel
End of Rachel's 7 years &
Birth of Joseph
Jacob leaves Laban
Joseph is sold by his brothers
Joseph is brought before Pharaoh &
Beginning of the 7 years of plenty
Beginning of the 7 years of famine
Jacob stands before Pharaoh
Jacob dies

My first thought on laying this out was "Why did Jacob wait so long to find a wife?" Evidently, like his mother Rebekah, he knew the Canaanite women were unacceptable, but he wasn't willing to strike out on his own without direction from his parents.

My second thought was "Jacob was 77 years old when he fell in love with Rachel," and she returned his love! People were longer lived, so he remained healthy and virile much later than men do today, but women also married young. Rachel was likely between 15 and 25, probably somewhere in the middle.

And my third thought was "Could Leah really have had 6 children in just 7 years?" But my mother had 5 children in 5 years, so why not? Breastfeeding tends to suppress fertility, naturally spacing children out every couple of years, but it doesn't always work that way.

Things that make you go "hmm."

Thematic Connections: Jacob and Laban vs Israel and Egypt

The Flood, Sodom, and Egypt.

Lot and Rahab.

Joseph and Jesus.

Moses and Deborah.

Yom Kippur and the Blessing of Jacob and Esau.

There are parallels everywhere. Now check out this one!

Jacob and LabanIsrael and Egypt
Jacob was initially received by Laban with joyJacob was initially received by Pharaoh with joy
Jacob married the daughters of LabanJoseph & other Hebrews married Egyptians
Jacob cared for Laban’s livestock & benefitedIsrael cared for Pharaoh’s livestock & benefited
Laban prospered because of JacobEgypt prospered because of Israel
Laban hated Jacob when he saw how much Jacob prosperedPharaoh hated Israel when he saw how much they prospered and multiplied
Laban cheated and oppressed JacobPharaoh enslaved and oppressed Israel
Laban was impoverished by his enmity against JacobEgypt was devastated by their enmity against Israel
Laban treated his daughters and their children by Jacob as foreignersEgypt treated the mixed multitude with Israel as foreigners
God told Jacob to leave Israel and went with himGod told Israel to leave Egypt and went with them
Jacob, with his wives and children, left Laban in a hurry with Laban’s wealthIsrael, with the mixed multitude, left Egypt in a hurry with Egypt’s wealth
Jacob crossed a body of water to escape LabanIsrael crossed a body of water to escape Egypt
Rachel stole Laban’s idolsIsrael took Egypt’s idolatry with them into the wilderness
Laban pursued Jacob after 3 days and caught up with them after 7 daysPharaoh pursued Israel and caught up with them at their 3rd-day camp
God intervened to keep Laban from harming JacobGod intervened to keep Pharaoh from harming Israel
Laban claimed ownership of Jacob’s childrenPharaoh claimed ownership of Israelite children
Laban changed Jacob’s wages 10 timesEgypt was inflicted by 10 plagues
Jacob’s existence as a family separate from Laban was confirmed at a monument on a mountainIsrael’s existence as a nation separate from Egypt was confirmed on Mount Sinai
When Jacob went to Laban, he set up a single stone. When he left, he set up a pile of stonesWhen Israel entered Egypt, they were small. When they left, they were a vast multitude
God saw Jacob’s distress and passed judgment in his favor in the nightGod saw Israel’s distress and passed judgment in their favor in the night
Laban blessed Jacob and made a covenant of peace with himPharaoh cursed Israel and he was destroyed with his army.
This pattern is the pattern of God's people in exile and in return. God dropped a pebble and the ripples extend from one end of time to the other.

Chiasm in Acts 6 on the Appointment of Deacons

The early followers of the Way had a recurring problem with more fundamentalist Jews (called "the Circumcision", including members of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees) treating Hellenists (less traditional Jews who had adopted more Greek culture) and former gentiles as common or second-class citizens. In this situation, the local congregation was dominated by the Circumcision who made sure that their own widows were given preference in the distribution of charity.

When the Hellenists complained, the Twelve agreed that it wasn't right and asked the other disciples to nominate some men from among themselves to manage care of the widows. They nominated Stephen and six others who were confirmed by the Twelve.

The passage (Acts 6:1-7) is arranged chiasticly. On its own, that's not so remarkable; it's a logical arrangement and could have been entirely unconscious on Luke's part. Except for that bit about the priests becoming obedient to the faith. It seems out of place, but is clearly intended to be part of this passage. So what did Luke mean by including it?

The opening point of the chiasm includes the growing number of believers and the resulting conflict between the Jews and Hellenists. The nature of a chiasm is that the final point mirrors the first point or at least corresponds to it in some meaningful way. The final point in this chiasm again includes the growing number of believers, but instead of adding the conflict, it adds the resolution to the conflict: a large number of priests, who were predominantly Sadducees, became obedient to the faith. 

The priests in v7 were either the same as the Jews in v1 or else they were instigators of the problem, advising those who had been handling the distribution unfairly before. In either case, they were impressed by the way the disciples managed the situation, and placed themselves under the spiritual authority of Twelve.