The Chiasm of Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:9

Last year, I introduced the church to chiasms (ki’azem) in the Bible while we studied the book of Daniel. For those of you who did not see that note, let me remind you what a chiasm is: it is a pattern of repetition for clarification and emphasis; a pattern within a passage in which the second half parallels the first half, but in reverse order. For instance a verse, chapter, or book may be laid out in a pattern of A-B-C-B-A. The first ‘A’ corresponds with the last ‘A’, ‘B’ with ‘B’, etc. Whatever lies at the center is the main point. What we see in Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:9 is also a chiasm. The main point in Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:9 comes in 5:18-20 where we see the blessing of basking in—or enjoying—God’s gifts (point ‘C’ below).

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Our first point (5:8-12 & 6:7-9) acts as a picture frame setting up the argument. Our second point (5:13-17 & 6:1-6) acts as a matte in that frame, in which the picture, our third point (or main point) is offset and embellished. And all of that draws us right into the middle of our text in 5:18-20. Unlike the English language, where we typically move linearly through a passage from point A to B to C and so on, Hebrew oftentimes makes a point (point A), then moves to point B, and C, and then back to point B, and then to point A. And whatever is at the middle of all of that is what the author really wants you to hone in on: in this case, “The Blessing of Basking in God’s Gifts.”

I am indebted to Sydney Greidanus, and his extremely helpful book Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes: Foundations for Expository Sermons in finding the chiasm within this passage.