Chiasm in the Prophetic Psalm 83

Posted by on Mar 29, 2020

Chiasmus or chiasm, as the one found in Psalm 83, is a method used in the Scripture to emphasize the main idea or topic, which also serves to reveal hidden messages in the prophecy. In Chapter “The Prophetic Psalm 83” from the present author’s book The Reckoning of Time, we called Psalm 83 prophetic, because we see the realization of this psalm in our days, namely, all surrounding Arab nations conspire plots to destroy the State of Israel and drive the Jews in the Mediterranean Sea. We also studied in the foresaid chapter that Psalm 83 could be seen as a possible second layer of prophecy of the ten-horn beast in Rev 17:8-13, which is the Arab Summit, whose leaders from most of the Arab nations, set in June 1996, in Egypt.

In this article, we will continue to study the prophecy in Psalm 83 concerning the ten nations that conspire to wipe out Israel from the map of the world. But in order to correctly understand Psalm 83, we need to study why this psalm was written in chiasm.

Chiasm in the Scripture

In rhetoric, chiasmus or chiasm is a “reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses. Chiasmus is a Latin term that came from the Greek χίασμα, xiasma, which means “crossing”. Xiasma comes from the Greek verb χιάζω, xiazo, and means “to shape like the letter Χ”). A special case of chiasm, as a subtype of this scheme, is antimetabole, which involves a reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases or clauses, but unlike chiasm, presents a repetition of words, namely, in an A-B-B-A configuration. For example, we find such an antimetabole in Mar 2:27-28 in which Yeshua spoke to his disciples in an A-B-B-A structure of his speech,

A. The Shabbat

B. was made for mankind,

B. and not mankind for

A. the Shabbat.

Such chiasmal structures are not uncommon in the Scripture. We studied such a chiasmal structure in the 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel 7 from the present author book “The Reckoning of Time“, whose incorrect reading, for the lack of knowledge of the chiasmal structures, has led many to misinterpret this very important prophecy of the coming of the Son of mankind.

Chiasm derives its effectiveness in the understanding the Scripture from its simple symmetrical structure. The structural symmetry of the chiasm gives the reader the impression that the entire argument has been accounted for. This impression comes from the fact that chiasm creates two sides of an argument or idea for the reader to consider, and then leads the reader to favor one side over the other. Thus, chiasm gains its rhetorical efficacy causing the belief that all views of an argument have been considered.

In this article, we will study the chiasmal structure found in the prophetic Psalm 83. Psalm 83 is the last of the Psalms of Asaph (Psalms 73-83), a Levite of the family of Gershon. The psalmist was chosen to preside over the service of praise in the reigns of David and Solomon. Psalm 83 Asaph commences by begging YHVH for help against ten nations which have allied themselves with the descendants of Lot (the Moabites and Ammonites) to entirely wipe out Israel as a nation from the map of the world. We read,

O Elohim, do not remain silent! Do not be speechless, and do not be still, O El! For look, Your enemies make an uproar, and those hating You have lifted up their head. (Psa 83:1-2)

Then the psalmist continues writing in a chiasmal form to make his argument before Elohim of Israel.

A. They craftily plot against Your people, (Psa 83:3)

B. And conspire against Your hidden ones.  (Psa 83:3)

C. They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, (Psa 83:4)

C. And let the name of Israel be remembered no more.’  (Psa 83:4)

B. For they have conspired together with one heart; (Psa 83:5)

A. They have made a covenant against You – (Psa 83:5)

Note: In verse 3, the word for “hidden ones” is from the word צָפַן tsaphan, hidden. Commonly, this Hebrew word is rendered as “treasured ones”, such as in JPS, but literally it means “hidden”, since it comes from the primitive root to hide (by covering over). By implication, tsaphan means to reserve, specifically to protect, to keep secret. Hence, the choice of the translators to render tsaphan as “treasured”, since one hides his treasure in a secret place. The application of this Hebrew word we studied in the article “The hidden remnant” and also in Chapter “Two scenarios of the war of Gog of Magog” of the aforesaid book.

With that being said, let us continue to the chiasm in the prophetic Psalm 83. At first glance, we notice the parallelisms in the chiasm, as follows:

A. They craftily plot against Your people, (Psa 83:3)

A. They have made a covenant against You (Psa 83:5)

The idea in theme A is that the plot or agreement (covenant) against Israel is a plot against none other than the Elohim of Israel.

B. And conspire against Your hidden ones. (Psa 83:3)

B. For they have conspired together with one heart; (Psa 83:5)

The idea in theme B is the conspiracy made in one accord against His hidden ones, i.e., the remnant of YHVH, who have return to the Land. 

And the central or focal point of the chiasm is found in theme C, namely, that their plot is to wipe out Israel as a nation from the face of the earth, wherein “wipe them out” couples with “remember no more”. We read the central theme of Psalm 83:

C. let us wipe them out as a nation, (Psa 83:4)

C. let the name of Israel be remembered no more. (Psa 83:4)

Hense, we see that theme C exposes the plot of the enemies of Israel for a total destruction of Israel from being a people, so that it may no longer be a nation. And after Asaph has made his point in the argument before the Eternal, he continues his argument into listing the names of the conspirators of this plot, “The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moav and the Hagarites, …”

    1. Edom (southern Jordan)
    2. Ishmaelites (Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arabs)
    3. Moav (central Jordan)
    4. Hagarites (Egypt)
    5. Geval (northern Lebanon)
    6. Ammon (northern Jordan)
    7. Amalek (northern Sinai)
    8. Philistines (Gaza, Hamas)
    9. Tsor (southern Lebanon)
    10. Ashshur (Iraq and Syria) (Psa 83:6-8)

And in his supplication, Asaph makes a reference to Gideon’s victory over the Midianites, which belongs to the most glorious remembrance of Israel, and to which the national hopes are attached and to the victory of Barak and Devorah over Sisera and the Kanaanitish king Yavin. The prophetic Psalm 83 and the supplication end with the appeal to let Israel’s enemies know that Elohim, whose Name is Yehovah, alone is the Most High over all the earth and any plot against His people is against Him (Psa 83:18).

In conclusion of our study of Psalm 83, we should recall that the fate of the nation of Israel gives the confirmation of the supplication of Asaph, and the emphasis to the fact that Israel’s foes are also the foes of Elohim. The enemies of Israel may claim they worship the same God, but in fact, the psalm teaches to the opposite, namely, that those who hate Israel hate Elohim.

Fear in the land of the living

Iran the archenemy of Israel causes fear in the land of the living like never before. Its nuclear ambitions to wipe out Israel from the map of the world Iran never hides. Yet, the world pretends that Iranian threat does not exist. The public opinion has been blinded by the mass media to see that the appeasement of evil never brings peace, only more evil. The world thought and still thinks that if Iran is appeased, the world will be a better place.

President Trump accused the administration of the former president Barack Obama of lifting sanctions on Iran just before the sanctions could have crippled the Iranian regime and brought it to collapse. The Obama administration sold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aka “the Iran nuclear deal” to the American public and the world as “truly one of our most important accomplishments of 2015”. Whether that act of appeasement of Iran was by naivetes or by design, the fact is that as soon as the sanctions were lifted, the mullahs received the money they needed to enter the war in Syria, and the Russians received the Iranian boots on the ground to intervene in Syria and come closer to Israel’s borders. This is the same Iran that claims that its goal is to wipe out “the Zionist regime”.

But the prophecy of Psalm 83 clearly shows us that those who want to wipe Israel out as a nation, want the name of Israel and the people who bear this name, to be remembered no more. The psalm also teaches the undeniable truth that any plot against His people Israel is a plot against Elohim.

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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!


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