Much has been written on chiasmus and other teaching structures in the scriptures. John Welch, Richard Shipp and Charles Kroupa have written a great deal about it, as have others. Meridian magazine has a very good article by D. Lynn Johnson discussing these patterns. Every time I read these articles I discover new meanings behind the scritpures.
One of my favorite examples of chiasmus is pointed out in a paper by Johnson on the word of wisdom:
“Isaiah 40:28-31 uses the imagery of running and not being weary, walking and not fainting:”
Hast thou not known?
Hast thou not heard,
A That the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not,
B neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
C He giveth power to the faint;
D and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
E Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
E and the young men shall utterly fall:
D But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;
C they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
B they shall run and not be weary;
A and they shall walk and not faint
Notice the repetition of the phrases in each couplet. In A, the word “not faint,” in B, “not be weary.” The first C explains the second C: God gives power to the faint so they can mount up with wings as eagles. The first D and second D discuss renewing and increasing strength. E points out through repetition that even the youngest people will get weary and faint if they don’t rely on the Lord.
The purpose of chiasmus, it seems to me, is to provide a poetic way to repeat and drive home points the Lord uses in scriptures. Chiasmus and other structures in the scriptures help us have another understanding of the complexities in the the holy writings.
I’d encourage people to read Johnson’s fascinating insights, especially this web page on the literary structures of the scriptures and this interesting look at the patterns of Christmas scriptures.