Jeremiah 9:23-24 (JUB), for example:

23Thus hath the LORD said,

a) Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
b) neither let the mighty man glory in his might,
c) let not the rich man glory in his riches;
Main Point:
24but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands me and knows me,
that I am the LORD who does
c) mercy,
b) judgment, and
a) righteousness in the earth:

For in these things I delight, said the LORD.”

The implication is the LORD should be "gloried" or praised for His mercy, justice, and righteousness. The three human "glories" are antithetical to those of the LORD. Using inverse parallelism of a chiasm means:

  • wisdom is contrasted with righteousness (צְדָקָ֖ה);

  • might is contrasted with justice (מִשְׁפָּ֥ט);

  • riches is contrasted with mercy/lovingkindness (חֶ֛סֶד).

  • 5
    Could you explain? I don't see the connection between any of the matched lines
    – b a
    Jul 5, 2018 at 8:24
  • 1
    +1 for asking a question that yielded useful answers.
    – enegue
    Jul 6, 2018 at 2:22

3 Answers 3



The point of a "chiastic" structure is that there is some clear relationship between the matched and mirrored elements in the structure. Normally this is lexical (i.e., a repeated word), or closely related concepts.

But in the example given, there simply is no "match" between the a-a′, b-b′, and c-c′ elements.

This is either a bad example of chiasm (at best!), or (as I would prefer to see it) no example of chiasm at all. OP is right to detect some rhetorical force and shape to these verses: it just isn't chiasm.

To get a better sense of what is involved in successfully identifying chiastic structures or, as OP puts it, seeing good examples of chiasm, here are two widely accepted analyses. Even if some quibble over details, the broad analysis is fairly secure:

Those new to such analyses may wish to attempt to discern the "chiasm" in these texts before consulting the articles linked above.


Bullinger shows Jer. 9:23 as Symploke/Symploce, or Anaphora (App. 6 of TCB). [Refs. at bottom.]

Symploke; or, Intertwining – The repetition of different words in successive sentences in the same order and the same sense.

Anaphora; or, Like Sentence Beginnings – The repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive sentences. (Deut. 28:3-6)

Heb. - Jer. 9:23 – (9:22 WLC) Thus (ke 3541) he-says (amr 559) Yahweh (ieue 3068)

must-not-(be) (al 408)(-) he-is-(s)boasting (ithell 1984) wise-one (chkm 2450) in~wisdom-of~him (b~chkmth~u 2451)

and~must-not-(be) (u~al 408)(-) he-is-(s)boasting (ithell 1984) the~masterful-one (e~gbur 1368) in~mastery-of~him (b~gburth~u 1369)

must-not-(be) (al 408)(-) he-is-(s)boasting (ithell 1984) rich-one (oshir 6223) in~riches-of~him (b~oshr~u):

For Jer. 9:24, Bullinger shows Polysyndeton - but it would only show if using Massorite text for the additonal "and".

Polysyndeton; or, Many Ands – (Gen. 22:9, 11; Josh 7:24; Luke 14:21). – The Repetition of the word “and” at the beginning of successive clauses, each independent, important, and emphatic, with no climax at the end. (Compare Asyndeton and Luke 14:13.)

Heb. - Jer 9:24 – (9:23 WLC)

But (ki 3588) rather (am 518)(-) in~this (b~zath 2063) he-shall-(s)boast (ithell) the~one-(s)boasting (e~mthell 1984) to-(c)(use)-intelligence (eshkl 7919) and~to-know (u~ido 3045) auth~me (auth~I 853) that (ki 3588) I (ani 589) Yahweh (ieue 3068) one-doing (oshe 6213) kindness (chsd 2617) [and]~judgment (mshpht 4941) and~justice (u~tzdqe 6866) in~(the)~earth (b~artz 776) that (ki 3588)(-) in~these (b~ale 428) I-delight (chphtzthi 2654) averment-of (nam 5002)(-) Yahweh (ieue 3068):


Hebrew text is from Scripture4all.org - ISA2 Interlinear Scripture Analyzer. Any typos would be mine; they are not copied.

E.W. Bullinger wrote The Companion Bible (TCB) (plus 198 Appendixes.). App. 6 – Figures of Speech, covers all the literary forms that Bullinger found.

TCB Online - http://www.heavendwellers.com/hd_complete_companion_bible.htm

(References to forms in a verse are found in the in-page notes. Above link does not include Appendixes, so:

PDF of Appendixes: http://www.peterjamesx.com/Bible/companion_bible_appendices.pdf

There are also two other associated Bullinger references:

Appendixes to the Companion Bible (Bible Student Press) – Appendixes of the TCB under separate cover (eliminates ‘flipping’).

Figures of Speech (E.W. Bullinger) – (Baker Book House 1968 - 1104 pp.) Can also be found on archive.org as PDF: https://archive.org/details/figuresofspeechu00bull

(Side Note: If purchasing the TCB for study purposes, the Enlarged Type (12 pt) is my preference. It’s 8.5x11 and heavier, but wide margins and normal type are a plus.)

Bullinger on Introverted Parallelism http://www.chiasmusxchange.com/explanatory-notes/695-2/


This passage is a chiasmus. There is a main theme balanced with two statements leading to and from the main point; the entire unit is framed by an inclusio.

A:  Thus has YHVH said,
 B:  Glory not the wise in wisdom and glory not the mighty in might
  C:  Glory not the rich in riches
     D: But that him who glories glory he knows and understands Me
  C': That I YHVH exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness in the earth 
 B': That in these I delight
A': said YHVH.

The correspondence between balancing statements is antithetic in general and specifically taken from Israel’s history. The message applies to all people and specifically to Israel's leaders. It is a good example of how structure demonstrates unity in Biblical literature.

A chiasm, or chiasmus is "a stylistic literary figure which consists of a series of two or more elements followed by a presentation of corresponding elements in reverse order."1The terms are often used interchangeably, but the difference is a chiasmus "produces balanced statements, in direct, inverted, or antithetical balanced statements, constructed symmetrically about a central idea. The uniqueness of the chiastic structure lies in its focus upon a pivotal theme, about which the other propositions of the literary unit are developed."2

As shown in the question the passage may be arranged as a chiasmus:

A:  Thus hath YHVH said,
 B:  Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,  
  C: neither let the mighty man glory in his might, 
   D: let not the rich man glory in his riches;
     E: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands me 
        and knows me, that I am the YHVH who exercises
   D': mercy
  C': justice, and
 B': righteousness in the earth:
A': For in these things I delight, said YHVH.

The apparent lack of correspondence between balancing statements can be seen as trying to force a structural device the original writer did not intend. However, the passage could have been arranged to show a beginning thus says YHVH, כה אמר יהוה, which matches said YHVH, נאם־יהוה forming an inclusio. This literary device employs chiastic parallelism where "...words or other features from the beginning of a unit may be repeated at the end of a unit, forming a frame around the unit. This arrangement is rather like a chiasm at the outset and at the end, but does not necessarily follow the structure of a chiasm for the body of the text."3In other words, this initial layout clearly exhibits some chiastic features.

[A and B], C followed by [C'], [B' and A']
A close look at the two lists reveals a conjunction was used in each, ואל־יתהלל and וצדקה. The placement within each list was made following chiastic form:

1st triad (A) Two item form: wisdom and might (B) One item form: riches
2nd triad (B') One item form: mercy (A') Two item form: justice and righteousness 

One expects a writer listing items to use a consistent method: either asyndetic or "and." Reading the text linearly, "and might" follows wisdom, so "and riches" is expected. Yet riches is listed asyndetically. This same technique is used with the second set of three items, except the conjunction was placed following the rule of inverse parallelism.

Even if there is no correspondence between paired items, the form constructed to present the items uses a chiastic template. While the consistent use of the verb glory suggests three separate items, the intentional use of "and" implies the lists are to be considered as two statements where one of the two is composed of two items and the other as a single.

The structure may be refined to reflect this and to the match in the YHVH said and said YHVH:

A:  Thus hath YHVH said,
 B:  Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom
     and let not the mighty man glory in his might 
  C:  let not the rich man glory in his riches;
      D: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands me 
         and knows me, that I am the YHVH who exercises
  C': mercy
 B': justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight
A': said YHVH.

Next, in looking for any literary structure in a passage, it is necessary "to consider more broadly and systematically the distribution of the grammatical and syntactic features found in the text. In looking for grammatical and syntactic patterns, begin with the verb."4

Verb Pattern

In this passage the first three thoughts, expressed in the negative modify the verb יתהלל creating pairs, wise/wisdom, mighty/might, and rich/riches; followed by a fourth use of the verb:

אל־יתהלל let not the wise glory in his wisdom
ואל־יתהלל and let not the the mighty glory in his might
אל־יתהלל let not the rich glory in his riches
יתהלל המתהלל but in this let him who glories glory...

Walter A. Brueggemann comments on this pattern:

The reflexive verb serves here to turn the subject back on himself. What is prohibited by the negative plus the reflexive is preoccupation with self and self's resources. The alternative is sharply presented by the abrupt kî im. The same verb is used, but the object now is not self-resources. The boast now concerns Yahweh.5

Gail R. O’Day explains the main theme "uses the same verb form as the negative verbs in v. 22, יתהלל. The presence of the same verb as the text moves from the negative to the positive shows that the issue is not with the verb itself but with the object of the verb."6That is, three negative statements using the same verb have self as the object. Then the main theme pivots the instruction with the same verb without negation, creating a positive instruction with YHVH as the object.

Syntactic Pattern
As Brueggemann notes, the reflexive verb turns the subject back on himself. What begins as negative instruction, pivots to become positive. The continued use of ki, כי allows the force of the verb to flow from the pivotal theme creating three separate statements:

כי אם let him who glories glory he understands and knows me [YHVH]
כי I YHVH exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness in the earth
כי in these I [YHVH] delight

The central theme is marked by an abrupt shift where the individual is instructed in what they should glory in: understands and knows Me (YHVH who said). This is followed by I YHVH exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness in all the earth. The final statement is, I delight in these. When wisdom and might are combined, the passage is an authentic chiasmus with a pivotal center balanced by two sets of antithetical statements framed by an inclusio:

A:  Thus has YHVH said,
 B:  Glory not the wise in wisdom and glory not the mighty in might
  C:  Glory not the rich in riches
     D: But that him who glories glory he knows and understands Me
  C': That I YHVH exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness in the earth 
 B': That in these I delight
A': said YHVH.

The overall "match" between balancing statement is antithetic, the "do's and don'ts" of glorying. One is not to glory in one's own status or accomplishments; rather one is to glory in knowing and understanding YHVH; specifically, what YHVH exercises and in what delights YHVH.

Wisdom, Might, Riches in History
In his essay, Brueggemann's thesis is Israel's history may be viewed in one of two ways: Davidic-royal and Mosaic-covenantal:

Mosaic-covenantal. It focused on the radical intrusion of Yahweh through saving events on behalf of the historically powerless. This history is of course borne by the great succession of Moses, Joshua, and Samuel, and continued to inform the prophets. That history experienced and presented the God of Israel as an intruder who was continually calling establishment reality into question. The tradition referred consistently to his intention for freedom and justice which characterized his coming to Israel.

Davidic-royal. It was shaped by the conviction of Yahweh's abiding, sustaining presence on behalf of temple. Whereas the first history is radically concerned for justice, this royal history is more concerned for order ("peace" and "prosperity") and it relies on the institutions which are designed to create and maintain that order.7

The Davidic is summarized with wisdom, might, and riches (the only OT use of these three together). These are followed by the Mosaic. So the rule of inverse parallelism was applied historically:

Actual History: (A) Moses then (B) David
Jeremiah's use of history: (B') David then (A") Moses

Brueggemann concludes, "It is not too much to suggest that 9:22-23 might provide a screen through which Jeremiah may be understood more generally."8

In addition to the theological content within 9:23-24, history and New Testament interpretation support Brueggemann's thesis. And in the historical record of Solomon’s reign, Jeremiah's specific connections to wisdom, might, and riches and mercy, justice, and righteousness are found.

First, there is a historical connection with wisdom, might, and riches to the Davidic history:

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. (1 Kings 4:29-30)

And the LORD made Solomon very great in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel. (1 Chronicles 29:25)

Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.
(1 Kings 10:23)

At the beginning of the Davidic history, Solomon should not glory in his wisdom, might, or riches because YHVH was the source. Not only do these apply to Solomon, Jeremiah listed them in the same order in which YHVH bestowed them to Solomon.

Similarly, the triad of mercy, justice, and righteousness are found in Solomon's reign:

And Solomon said, “You have shown (עשית) great and steadfast love (חסד) to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. (1 Kings 3:6; also 2 Chronicles 1:8)

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made (לעשות) you king, that you may execute justice (משפט) and righteousness (וצדקה).” (1 Kings 10:9)

Like wisdom, might, and riches, Jeremiah lists mercy, justice, and righteousness in the same sequence they appear in the Davidic history. Also, Jeremiah used the same verb עָשָׂה Solomon and the Queen of Sheba used to describe YHVH's action. Finally, Solomon acknowledges YHVH with the singular mercy and the Queen of Sheba states YHVH was made king for the purpose of executing both justice and righteousness: the same pattern used in Jeremiah.

Here is how these six are arranged in Jeremiah:

(A)  Two items: wisdom and might describe the beginning and history of Solomon’s reign 
(B)  One item: riches, which summarize the entirety of Solomon’s reign
(B') One item: YHVH's mercy, which Solomon declares at the beginning of his reign
(A') Two items: justice and righteousness the Queen of Sheba attributes 
                to YHVH's love of Israel

While mercy, justice, and righteousness are placed in the single statement, that I YHVH exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness in the earth, the explanation for why these items were chosen and why they were arranged lies in understanding the use of chiastic structure. It is reasonable to conclude Brueggemann's thesis is correct and the chiasmus reflects Jeremiah's recognition the Davidic history failed to continue what began with David. In other words, Solomon was the epitome of success if measured by wisdom, might, and riches but was a failure if measured by understanding and knowing what YHVH does and delights in.

New Testament Use
Paul relies on the text of Jeremiah in this passage:9

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1)

Paul makes a significant change from the LXX by translating the Hebrew עשיר as εὐγενεῖς, noble. עשיר may describe either one who is rich or noble, but the LXX renders the word as πλούτῳ, which is only rich. Paul's use of noble rather than riches, agrees with Brueggemann's thesis, the first three items are descriptive of the Davidic history.

Brueggemann comments on Paul's understanding of Jeremiah:

In categories of Christian faith, Jeremiah here presents a theology of the cross in protest against a theology of glory. In that way, the use of this saying by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 is seen to be not casually or incidentally related. Rather in dealing with the scandal of the gospel, Paul has discerned that Jeremiah rightly presented the scandal which violates royal history. The wisdom of kings is foolishness. The strength of kings is foolishness. The riches of kings is poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9). What Paul discerned in Jesus of Nazareth Jeremiah has seen about Judah’s death grasp in his time. 10

Post Script
My initial answer placed the primary focus of the sequence of mercy, justice, and righteousness as coming from their use in Jeremiah 4:2 and Psalm 33:4-5:

YHVH and Truth      YHVH lives         Man should not glory    YHVH does
Psalm 33            Jeremiah 4:2       Jeremiah 9:23           Jeremiah 9:24
A  Righteousness    A' Truth           Wise    Wisdom          A'' Righteousness
B  Justice          B' Justice         Mighty  Might           B'' Justice
C  Mercy            C' Righteousness   Rich    Riches          C'' Mercy

Both 4:2 and 9:23-24 display the characteristics of a chiasm and both display a chiastic structure when compared to Psalm 33:4-5, and 9:24 has the inverted parallelism expected.

I concluded Jeremiah 9:23-24 was a more sophisticated use of parallelism which demonstrated unity within Biblical literature such that the complete message of Jeremiah 4:2 and 9:23-24 is one in which truth will cause YHVH to have mercy on both Gentile and Jewish in order for these attributes of YHVH to be found in all the earth.

This revision which better supports 9:23-24 as a chiasmus also shows the primary focus was issues important to Jeremiah's audience. However, once the certainty of the chiasmus is established, the secondary analysis is still present.

1. Ronald E. Man, The Value of Chiasm for New Testament Interpretation, Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 141, April-June 1984, Number 562, p. 146
2. John Breck, Biblical Chiasmus: Exploring Structure For Meaning, Biblical Theological Bulletin, xvii, 2, 1987, p. 71
3. Mary H. Schertz and Peter B. Yoder, Seeing the Text: Exegesis for Students of Greek and Hebrew, Abingdon Press, 2001, p. 55
4 Ibid., p. 57
5. Walter A. Brueggemann, "The Epistemological Crisis of Israel's Two History", Israelite Wisdom: Theological and Literary Essays in Honor of Samuel Terrien, Union Theological Seminary, 1978, pp. 91-92
6. Gail R. O'Day, Jeremiah 9:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31: A Study in Intertextuality, Journal of Biblical Literature, Volume 109. No. 2, (Summer, 1990), p. 261
7. Brueggemann, p. 86
8. Brueggemann, p. 99 [Masoretic verse numbering]
9. O'Day, p 262
10. Brueggeman, p. 99

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