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A chiasm (pronounced ki-asm) is a literary device that would have been obvious, clear, and artistically appreciated by Isaiah’s original audience. In the same way that a Westerner can say, “Once upon a time,” and we immediately understand that the speaker (or author) is beginning a fairytale, so it’s the same for a chiastic structure to an ancient Hebrew audience.

For Example: The Story of Sally’s Big Day

For example, if I were to tell you about the day a girl named Sally met her future husband in a chiasm, I might write it like this:

A. One day that seemed like any other, Sally woke up and decided she wanted to go to the movies.
B. So Sally got in her car and drove to the movie theatre.
C. While standing line, Sally met a boy named James. She didn’t know it yet, but James was the man she was going to marry.
B’. Sally drove home from the movie theatre, excited to have met James.
A’. Sally went to sleep that night, so glad that she decided to go to the movies.

Obviously, the most important part of the story happens in the middle. Isaiah’s audience was used to that sort of structure; and in an oral culture (where Scripture was heard as opposed to read), these literary devices were as artistically appreciated as they were structurally critical.

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