A Chiasm in Psalm 81 - God Is Waiting

All of Psalm 81 has some really cool and subtle references to God's grand redemption plan using Yoseph as a prefiguring of Yeshua, the "Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world." I'm pretty sure that Asaph, the author, is also overlaying the Fall and Spring feasts in order to reinforce the same message: Israel's release from bondage in Egypt was decreed even while they were at the heights of power, just as mankind's release from bondage to sin was decreed before Adam was even formed, let alone sinned.

Maybe I'll write more about that later.

In this chiasm, Israel's betrayal is framed by God's redemption, including a promise to forgive them when they repent. There's also an implication of Israel's role as a nation of prophets and priests to the whole world. God wanted to open their mouths and fill it with his voice. He wanted (wants!) them to be a conduit for his message to the world, but they were unwilling to hear it.

They will not always be unwilling. Joseph's brothers didn't immediately recognize him or understand the language he spoke, but he revealed himself to them when he was ready. So too will Yeshua reveal himself to his brothers, most of whom are as yet unable to recognize him.

  • V6 – Relief from burdens
    • V7 – God’s response to Israel’s call of distress in Egypt
      • V8 – God calls Israel to hear him
        • V9 – Don’t serve false gods
          • V10a – I am your God and rescuer
            • V10b – Open your mouth & I will fill it
            • V11a – But you didn’t listen to my voice
          • V11b – You would not submit to me
        • V12 – God let Israel serve themselves
      • V13 – God calls Israel to hear him
    • V14 – God’s response to Israel’s repentance and call of distress in the world
  • V16 – Rewards from God

Jacob's Concubines and Wives

...He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives... (Genesis 37:2)

Jacob's concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, were concubines, but also fully his wives. The Hebrew word used here literally just means "woman," so translating it as some other word in English is a judgment call requiring the translator to make some assumptions about the original intent. Moses might have been just calling Bilhah and Zilpah Jacob's women, but it is the same word used in other passages to refer to Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Keturah, Rachel, Leah, and all of the other wives of the Bible, so the word "wives" is perfectly justified in this verse.

A concubine was not just a spare sex partner, but had rights and responsibilities in her husband's house. The primary difference between a concubine and any other wife in the Bible is that a concubine is also a slave. Keeping in mind that Biblically a slave has more rights than free men in most other ancient cultures, it certainly isn't an ideal relationship, but it's not the horrifying lot anti-patriarchs make it out to be either.

A Chiasm: Until the Time of the Gentiles Is Complete

There is a large chiasm that spans the entire length of Torah portion Vayetzei, Genesis 28:10-32:2 (32:3 by rabbinic reckoning) with Jacob's encounters with angels on either end and the birth of Joseph in the center.

For the search engines:

A: 28:10-12 – Jacob encounters angels
---B: 28:13-19 – A covenant and a stone pillar
------C: 28:20-22 – God watches over Jacob
---------D: 29:1-12 – Jacob journeys and meets Laban
------------E: 29:13-14 – Laban lauds family ties with Jacob
---------------F: 29:15-30 – Jacob negotiates wages with Laban
------------------G: 29:31-30:24 – Rachel and Leah compete for children
---------------------H: 30:25-26 – Joseph is born & Jacob is ready to leave Laban
------------------G: 30:27-43 – Jacob and Laban compete for sheep
---------------F: 31:1-13 – Laban renegotiates wages with Jacob
------------E: 31:14-16 – Laban repudiates family ties with Jacob
---------D: 31:17-32a – Jacob journeys and is pursued by Laban
------C: 31:32b-43 – God watches over Jacob
---B: 31:44-55 – A covenant and a stone pillar
A: 32:1-2 – Jacob encounters angels

One possible interpretation for the focus being on the birth of Joseph and the desire for Jacob to return to the Promised Land might be in Jesus' statement concerning "the time of the Gentiles" in Luke 21:24.

Jacob has been exiled from the Promised Land due to a conflict with Esau (associated by the ancient rabbis with Rome) and scattered into the world, which is represented in this story by Laban. While in exile, Jacob has been cheated, shuffled about, and persecuted, yet he has prospered. His material wealth continues to grow against all reason and he survives against all attempts to assimilate or destroy him.

Today, multitudes of gentiles are being grafted into the nation of Israel. Jacob would even stop this if he could, but he has no control. The great expansion of Israel's children by adoption from the nations is an act of God, like the conception of Joseph. These new Israelites are rediscovering the Hebraic roots of their faith, repenting from idolatry, and learning to keep the Laws of God.

Jerusalem is still under the control of gentiles and Israel is still mostly scattered among the nations, but that time may be drawing to a close. (I'm not saying that it is, only that it may be.) If so, then as Ephraim and Menasseh are filled, Joseph is being prophetically born, and Jacob is preparing to return home.

The mass exodus from the nations will not be without tribulation. The people of God will be pursued by the nations they are leaving and, as in the Exodus from Egypt, they will bring the remnants of their inherited idolatry with them.

Nevertheless, God will be with Jacob and will see him back to the Promised Land successfully. As Paul wrote in Romans, individual branches might be pruned, but the whole tree will be saved because God has promised it.


Check out my growing list of chiasms and parallelisms here.

A Chiasm in Genesis 7:20-24 on the Death of All Life

This chiasm is bracketed by the waters prevailing above the whole earth measured in space on one side and time on the other, and centered on the death of all life.

Chiasm on Matza and Houses in Exodus 12:18-22

Keep this out of the house. Keep yourself inside the house.
Cut that person off. Kill this lamb.
Don't eat that. Eat this.

Exodus 12:18-22

  • V18-19a – A time in which something is not to be found in your house
    • V19b – If anyone eats leavened bread, he is to be cut off from the people
      • V20a – Don’t eat anything leavened
        • V20b – In your houses
      • V20c – Eat unleavened bread
    • V21 – The elders of the people are to select lambs according to the families and kill them.
  • V22 – A time in which you are not to be found outside your house
Tangent: Many English translations of this passage make it appear that there is a switch from singular to plural in verse 21: select the "lambs" and then kill the "lamb". This is misleading because only the first instance, the plural, actually uses the Hebrew word for lamb, which is tson, a collective noun. The singular of "Passover lamb" only uses the Hebrew word for Passover, which is pesach. The word "lamb" in the latter instance has been inserted by many translators.

Parallels Between Transfiguration and the Wedding at Cana

Check out these parallels between the Transfiguration on the Mount and the Wedding at Cana.

The Transfiguration is described in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36. The Wedding at Cana in Galilee is described in John 2:1-12.

Giving of the Law Transfiguration on the Mount Wedding at Cana in Galilee
On the 3rd day After 6 days After 3 days
Moses went up the mountain with Joshua. Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John. Jesus went to the wedding with his mother Mary and his disciples.
The Law was given on Mount Sinai, probably in Arabia, not the Sinai Peninsula. The Transfiguration probably took place on Mount Tabor in Galilee. The Wedding took place at Cana in a valley near Mount Tabor.
Moses said, "Listen to the prophet to come." God said, "Listen to him." Mary said, "Listen to him."
Moses was transfigured. Jesus was transfigured. Water was transfigured.
Hebrews fell on their faces, terrified. Disciples were very tired, but later fell on their faces, terrified. The wedding guests had "well drunk."
The glory of God appeared. The glory of God appeared. Jesus manifested his glory.
Moses came down the mountain with Joshua and the tablets. Jesus came down the mountain with his disciples. Jesus went to Capernaum with his mother, brothers, and disciples.
? The disciples kept silent. The servants kept silent.
? Jesus said not to speak of it until after the resurrection. Jesus asked Mary why she involved him since his time had not yet come.

The primary point of the Transfiguration seems to be to demonstrate to Yeshua's inner circle that he was the prophet Moses had promised in Deuteronomy 18:15, but I don't know why there are so many parallels with the wedding at Cana. There are too many elements in common for this not to be significant. Sinai was a wedding and the Covenant a marriage ketubah. I'm sure there must be a clue there.

Individual Attention

A chiasm in Numbers 4:49 emphasizes that Moses assigned a specific task to each of the 8,580 Levites counted in the census of men from 30-50 years old.
  • According to the commandment of YHVH through Moses
    • They were listed
      • Each one with his task of serving or carrying
    • They were listed by him
  • As YHVH commanded Moses