The Chiasm Course

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The Love and Faith of Father and Son

The Bible frequently discusses the relationship between God and his people in terms of human relationships: husband and wife, master and servant, father and son, etc. Take this well known verse from Hosea, for example:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
Hosea 11:1

The primary meaning of these and surrounding words is that God loves Israel like a son, but they keep disobeying his instructions that are only meant for their good. They despised all the amazing things that God had done for them and worshiped pagan gods and dead idols instead.

However, Matthew cites a secondary meaning.

Joseph rose and took the child, Jesus, and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Matthew 2:14-15

The context of Hosea 11 is very clearly concerning the nation of Israel, not the foretold Messiah, yet Matthew understood much of the pattern of Israel’s history to be prophetic of the Messiah. He wasn’t saying that Hosea was specifically talking about Yeshua, but that Israel’s exile to Egypt was a prophecy of Yeshua’s brief exile to that same land, and that God’s relationship with Israel is also a pattern of the heavenly Father’s relationship to the Son.

This pattern goes back long before the Exodus from Egypt. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph were also real-life illustrations of the relationship between Father and Son and between God and Israel. This pattern goes all the way back to the sixth day of Creation and our nature as human beings. As Carlos pointed out in this discussion about the fear of YHWH in Proverbs, a child’s relationship with his father will have a profound influence on his later conception of God.

Solomon spoke at length about parent-child relationships in the Proverbs. Consider Proverbs 3:1-12. In v1, he said, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments.” The following verses appear to switch from a father’s instruction to God’s instruction, but a closer examination of the literary structure of this passage and its connections to the rest of Scripture show that these are meant to be one and the same.

God has painted pictures of himself all around us.

Parallelisms and a Chiasm in Proverbs 3:1-12

Proverbs 3:1-4

  • A – v1 – Son, don’t forget my torah
    • B – Meditate on my commandments
      • C – v2 – For long life and peace
  • A – v3 – Let not steadfast love (chesed) and faithfulness (emet) leave you
    • B – Meditate on them and make them part of you
      • C – v4 – To find favor and success before God and man

Proverbs 3:5-8

  • A – v5 – Trust YHWH with all your heart
    • B – Don’t trust your own understanding
      • C – v6 – Consider his wishes in everything you do
        • D – He will make your life less complicated
  • A – v7 – Don’t trust your wisdom
    • B – Fear YHWH
      • C – Repent from all sin
        • D – v8 – For healing and revitalization

Proverbs 3:9-12

  • A – v9 – Honor YHWH for all you have
    • B – And with a firstfruits offering
      • C – v10 – You’ll gain even more
  • A – v11 – My son, don’t despise YHWH’s discipline
    • B – Or weary of his rebuke
      • C – v12 – Like a father, YHWH rebukes whom he loves

These three parallelisms might even be intended to be a chiasm:

  • v1-4 – Listen to your father and honor him
    • v5-8 – Trust YHWH’s wisdom above your own
  • v9-12 – Listen to your heavenly Father and honor him

Thematic Connections of Proverbs 3:1-12

In addition to the literary structure, each element is thematically connected to other parts of Scripture as if to emphasize the point by appealing to familiar patterns and lessons.

Verses 1-2 echo the fifth commandment to honor father and mother in order to extend life and prosperity (Exodus 20:12). Verses 3-4 sound remarkably like Eliezer’s description of the relationship between Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 24:27 and 63). Verses 5-6 remind me of Abraham’s trust in YHWH’s promise (Genesis 17:15-16) and instructions (Genesis 22:2), even when they seemed contradictory. Verses 7-8 harken back to the plague of the bronze serpent in the wilderness, when repentance from disbelief brought healing to the Israelites (Numbers 21:8).

A Hierarchy of Fathers and Sons

Solomon’s instructions to his son connect obedience and honor of your earthly father to obedience and honor of your heavenly Father. To an extent, this connection is always true–God’s command to honor your father and mother doesn’t make exceptions for bad parents–but the parallels are much clearer if your parents feared God themselves.

Four hundred years before Solomon, Moses gave Israel the same basic instructions.

Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Israel is healthiest and most prosperous when she trusts and obeys God, but this is impossible if each generation doesn’t teach the next to continue to walk according to God’s commandments. Every child–especially boys–must be taught the precepts, judgments, commands, and stories of God’s relationship with his people day in and day out. They must be so thoroughly indoctrinated with God’s Torah that it permeates every perception, thought, and action, so that they will pass on this blessing to their own children.

If parents refuse to trust in YHWH and refuse to teach their children according to his ways, that doesn’t mean that the children don’t still honor them, but it does mitigate a child’s responsibility to obey.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Matthew 10:37

If your father is an atheist or a Buddhist or an antinomian “Christian”, then you must frequently disregard his instructions and obey Yeshua–who taught only the Torah of the Father–instead.

There is an assumed hierarchy of authority in God’s . If there is a conflict, we must always defer to the higher authority, and “higher” might be different in different contexts. For example, when you are in a lawful court, you must obey the judge rather than your parents or husband. But if you are a child in your parents’ house where the judge is a guest, you must obey your parents wherever there is a conflict. And so on, depending on the circumstances.

But in every single case, God’s commandments take precedence. If your father orders you to pray to the dead or bow to an idol, you must disobey. If you know that telling your child that his life choices are hateful and disgusting to God will cause deep emotional pain, you must tell him anyway.

God has commanded you to teach his laws to your children and to hear them from your parents. The heavenly Father taught his Son to keep his Torah, and the Son then taught us to do the same.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate [relatively speaking] his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26

If you love your parents or your children or their sins more than you love God, then you are deserving of none of them and are likely to lose them all.


Here’s a related excerpt from the weekly Bible study at Common Sense Bible Study: