christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, parashah shoftim chiastic structures

I study the Torah every year using the teaching tools of Scripture. (Why?)

Today is the 45th Sabbath of the annual Torah cycle. The Torah reading (parashah) is Shoftim (judges), Deu 16:18-21:9.

The I have found that the explanation for each of the 5th and 6th commandments forms its own chiastic structure:

Deu 16:18-18:22, Honor YHVH’s authority
1a) Deu 16:18, Judges’ authority delegated by YHVH;
1b) Deu 16:19-20 s, Justice;
1c) Deu 16:21-22 s, Idolatrous pillars;
central axis) Deu 17:1 s, Acceptable sacrifices;
2c) Deu 17:2-3, Idolaters;
2b) Deu 17:4-7 p, Justice for the idolater;
2a) Deu 17:8-18:22 sx6, Priests’, kings’, Levites’, prophets’ authority delegated by YHVH.

Deu 19:1-21:9, Do not commit murder
1a) Deu 19:1-10 p, Three cities of refuge (manslaughter: blood is not shed to atone for death);
1b) Deu 19:11-13 s, The murderer shall be put to death;
central axis) Deu 19:14 s, Do not remove the ancient boundaries which the men of old have set;
2b) Deu 19:15-20:20 s, The innocent shall not be put to death (whether by false witness, war, or famine);
2a) Deu 21:1-9 s, Unworked heifer (unsolved murder: blood is not shed to atone for death).

Something that I noticed about the central axis of Deu 19:14, Do not remove the ancient boundaries, this time. Scripture sets up a puzzle: why is a single verse about boundary stones (presumably having more to do with trespassing than murder) in the middle of the explanation of do not commit murder? Beloved, Torah is the ancient boundary stone. These are the laws which the men of old have set, under the direction and instruction of Almighty God. This is the wisdom of God which describes justice. Some have called this Natural Law, the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God.

What happens when the ancient boundary stone of Torah is moved? Someone is encroached upon, and justice is no longer served. Aggressors become emboldened and victims created, when the ancient boundary stones are moved. So specifically with this chiastic structure, Deu 19:14 is saying, Do not change these definitions of murder, and do not change the judgments for murder. The most basic right is to life, and the most fundamental responsibility of government is to protect the life of its citizens. When the ancient boundary stone of Torah is moved, the lives of citizens are put into jeopardy — which is murder!

Then I saw that the entire parashah of Shoftim forms its own chiastic structure, which I am working on. I will add to this post if I can complete it before the end of the weekend.


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