Since like forever. That’s how long I’ve been reading the Bible. The idea that the Bible has different literary styles and that narratives have well crafted elements like setting, plot, and character is familiar territory. So as Tim Mackie and Jon Collins at The Bible Project were releasing their podcast series on “How To Read The Bible” I was happily sailing along. Then WHAMO!
When Tim started talking about literary design patterns, I started taking notes—lots and lots of notes. He said “all the stories in the Bible link to each other in subtle and creative ways.” For example, the stories Adam & Eve and Cain & Abel “mirror and reflect each other in many, many ways. The pattern that’s set up in these first two stories becomes a template that other biblical stories use.” Furthermore, “Individual stories across the Old and New Testaments have been coordinated through repeated words and parallel themes. These patterns highlight core themes of the biblical story and show how it all leads to Jesus!”
Their entire 22-part podcast on How To Read The Bible has been synthesized into 9 incredible (and short) videos, with one video dedicated solely to design patterns.
Below are my notes (organized in a table format) from the podcasts related to the “seek, take, do” design pattern, along with some other things I noticed along the way.
|Creation||Adam & Eve||Cain & Abel||Abraham & Sarah||10 Commandments & Golden Calf||Jericho||Samuel & Saul||David & Bathsheba||Jesus’ Wilderness Temptation||Jesus Feeds 5,000+||Jesus Feeds 4,000+||Jesus’ Last Supper|
|Genesis 1-2||Genesis 2-3||Genesis 4||Genesis 15-16||Exodus 20, 32||Joshua 6-7||1 Samuel 8-10||2 Samuel 11-12||Matthew 4||Matthew 14||Matthew 15||Matthew 20|
|God Speaks, Clearly||God said, “Let there be…” (7 times in Genesis 1)||“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”||“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?”||“…a son coming from your own body will be your heir…Look up at the heavens and count the stars…So shall your offspring be.”||“Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.” (Exodus 20:23)||“But keep away from the devoted things…All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into His treasury.”||In Deuteronomy 17, God gives specific guidelines for the appointing of Israel’s king.||This time it isn’t God who speaks clearly, but rather an unnamed man who warns, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”||And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”||“They do not need to go away… Bring the 5 loaves and 2 fish to me.”||“I have compassion for these people…”||“Take and eat; this is my body.” “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”|
|See / Desire||“And God SAW that it was good.” (7 times in Genesis 1) “God SAW all that He had made, and it was very good.”||“…the woman SAW that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” (as it was originally intended in Gen 2:9) “…and also DESIREABLE for gaining wisdom…”||“The Lord LOOKED with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not LOOK with favor.”
“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it DESIRES to have you…”
|Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your SIGHT.” Stated another way: Deal with her as you SEE fit, according to what is good in your own eyes.||“When the people SAW that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain…” (IOW, Moses was making them ashamed by how long they had to wait.)
“When Aaron SAW this, he built an alter in front of the calf…” (The verb “saw” is unnecessary here; it’s added for emphasis of the word/design pattern.)
“When Moses SAW that the people were running wild…and out of control…”
|Achan: “When I SAW/DESIRED in the plunder a beautiful cloak, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels…”
While “Jericho was tightly shut up” and had not yet fallen, “the Lord said to Joshua ‘SEE, I have delivered Jericho into your hands…” (not “will deliver,” not “am delivering,” but “have already delivered”) The Lord’s promises are in fact GOOD.
|Samuel SAW Saul’s height (Saul was a head taller than any other); Samuel failed to SEE other aspects of Saul.
Saul HID himself (the object of the people’s DESIRE) among the baggage. (The author is drawing a parallel to Saul as an idol; there is a sense of something NOT GOOD.)
|Instead of going off to war with his men, David remained in Jerusalem and “from the roof he (David) SAW/DESIRED a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful (of good sight / DESIREABLE)…”||The devil took him to a very high mountain and Jesus SEES all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.||“When Jesus landed and SAW a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”||He SEES that “they have already been with me 3 days and have nothing to eat. I do not DESIRE to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”||Jesus SEES that He is going to die and even though He DESIRES that the cup be taken from him…|
|Take / Took||“…He TOOK one of the man’s ribs…”||“…she TOOK some and ate it.”||Cain TOOK Abel’s life||“…Sarai his wife TOOK her Egyptian maidservant Hagar…”||“So all the people TOOK off their earrings… He TOOK what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool.”||(Example A) To the tribe, the clan, the family “that the Lord TAKES”
(Example B) Achan, “…I coveted them and TOOK them.”
|Samuel TAKES for the kingship the man he DESIRES
Given as a warning: “The king who rules over you will… TAKE your sons… TAKE your daughters… TAKE the best of your fields, etc… TAKE a 10th of your grain, etc… TAKE the best of your cattle, etc… TAKE a 10th of your flocks, etc…”
|“Then David sent messengers to TAKE her.”
Uriah DID NOT TAKE her, but he “slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants.”
David orders Uriah’s life to be TAKEN, which God says is the equivalent of David TAKING Uriah’s life himself (“You killed him” 12:9)
|Temptation to TAKE the stones and tell them to become bread he desires.
Temptation to TAKE all earthly splendor and power he desires.
|“TAKING the 5 loaves and the 2 fish and looking up to heaven…”||“Then He TOOK the 7 loaves and the fish…”||“…Jesus TOOK bread…”|
|Gave||“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib…and He GAVE her to the man.”||“She also GAVE some to her husband, who was with her…”||Cain GAVE Sin its desire (?)||“…and GAVE her to her husband…”||Aaron: “Then they GAVE me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (But this is shallow excuse because Aaron “fashioned it (the calf) with a tool.” The author is drawing a parallel to Abram saying “Sarai GAVE me Hagar, I laid with her, and out came Ishmael! Who would ever have guessed that?!”)||(Example A) The Lord GAVE justice since “he has violated the covenant of the Lord.”
(Example B) Achan GAVE them (the objects of his desire) to be hidden in the ground inside his tent.
|GIVE us a king, and so Samuel GAVE them Saul as king||David GAVE Uriah food and drink with the intent to make him drunk… but still Uriah did not go home.
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘I GAVE you the kingship… I GAVE you deliverance from Saul… I GAVE you your master’s house and wives… I GAVE you the house of Israel & Judah… And if all this had been too little, I would have GIVEN you even more…(But instead) You TOOK the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
|The devil GAVE only one thing: temptation
Jesus GAVE only one thing: his allegiance to God saying “Away from me, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'”
|“…He GAVE THANKS and broke the loaves. Then He GAVE them AWAY to his disciples, and the disciples GAVE them to the people.”||“…and when He had GIVEN THANKS, he broken them and GAVE them AWAY to the disciples and they in turn GAVE them to the people.”||“…GAVE THANKS and broke it, and GAVE it to his disciples…”|
|God Asks||Nothing. He doesn’t need to ask where they are as they are in the Garden with Him.||“WHERE are you?” “WHAT is this you have done?”||“WHERE is your brother Abel?” “WHAT have you done?”||“Hagar…WHERE have you come from, and WHERE are you going?”||God: “Go”
God: “down to the people.”
Moses: “WHY should your anger burn..? WHY should the Egyptians say..?”
Moses: “WHAT did these people do to you that you led them into such great sin?” (In this story, it is Moses asking the questions.)
|Joshua “WHY did you ever bring this people across the Jordan..? WHAT then will you do for your own great name?”
God: “WHAT are you doing down on your face?”
Joshua asks Achan to “Tell me what you have done…WHY have you brought this trouble on us?”
|The people ASK for a king.
Samuel ASKS the Lord what to do.
But God doesn’t ask this time; instead He says to Samuel “warn them solely and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”
|“WHY do you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes?”||God, the Father, appears silent, asking no questions. Jesus knows all the GOOD responses.||The disciples ask “WHERE…” but Jesus doesn’t ask “Where?” because God/Jesus always knows the answer to that question. Instead he asks “HOW MANY…”||The disciples ask “WHERE do you want us to make preparations…”|
|Listened / Heard||God LISTENED to Adam’s naming of the animals, and SAW that for Adam “no suitable helper was found.”||Adam LISTENED to Eve “and he ate it (the fruit).”
Adam with his wife HEARD the sound of the Lord God as He walked back into the garden to bring justice.
|“LISTEN! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (God DESIRES justice.)||Abram LISTENED to Sarai and “agreed to what Sarai said” and the outcome was sin.
In contrast, “The angel of the Lord also said to her (Hagar)…’the Lord has HEARD of your misery.'” and the outcome was life, a son named Ishmael.
|God HEARD Moses as he sought the Lord’s favor: “Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster… Remember your servants…”
“Joshua (with Moses) HEARD the noise of the people” as they walked back into camp to bring justice.
The Levities HEARD Moses ask “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.”
|The people HEARD Joshua’s instructions “but the Israelites acted unfaithfully…”
Joshua LISTENED, with the desire to bring justice, to Achan’s account after he was called out (TAKEN by the Lord) from among the camp.
|The Lord told Samuel: “LISTEN to all that the people are saying to you… LISTEN to them and give them a king.”
“The people refused to LISTEN to Samuel”, even after he inquired of the Lord.
|David LISTENED to Nathan’s story about the rich man, the poor man, and the little ewe lamb, but failed to see himself as the rich man.||Then Jesus LISTENED and was led by the Spirit into the desert…||Jesus LISTENED to what the disciples had and said “Bring them (fish and loaves) here to me.”||Jesus LISTENED to the DESIRES of the crowds and GAVE them their requests for the healing of the lame, blind, crippled, mute, and many others.||Jesus LISTENED as they sang a hymn.|
|Praise or Blame||PRAISE: “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.'”||BLAME: “I was afraid…”
“The woman you put here with me…”
“The serpent deceived me…”
|BLAME: “I don’t know…Am I my brother’s keeper?”||BLAME: “You (Abram) are responsible for the wrong I am suffering…”||BLAME: “Aaron answered, ‘You know how prone these people are to evil.'”||NO BLAME: Achan, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD…”||BLAME: Israel’s rationale is “We will be like all the other nations…”||NO BLAME: David says “I have sinned against the LORD.”||Offers NO BLAME; There are no acceptable excuses should He decide to redefine good and evil.||PRAISE: “…He gave thanks…”||PRAISE: “…He gave thanks…”||PRAISE: “…He gave thanks…”|
|Redefine Good & Evil||GOD DEFINES good and evil: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…”||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to eat the fruit. It is GOOD to question God’s character and not trust in His word. It is GOOD to make your own definition (and not rely on God’s definition) of what is good and evil.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to kill Abel. It is GOOD to give into your anger instead of ruling over /mastering the sin.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to question God’s covenant promises. It is NOT EVIL to take matters into one’s own hands if God’s timing isn’t your timing.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to listen to the voice of the crowds (“Make us gods who will go before us.”) instead of the voice of God. It is GOOD to try to fit in with the culture rather than to feel shame on account of God’s commandments (ex. make no idols). It is NOT EVIL to believe that there are other reasons for your success (“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”) rathen than thanking God all the time for all things.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to take for yourself beautiful, expensive, sacred things meant for God, as if you yourself were a god.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to blend in, and not be seen as different. It is GOOD to consider what is right and wrong for your nation based on the actions and establishment of other nations. It is GOOD to trust your own judgement and repeatedly ask God to give you your DESIRES.||REDEFINED: It is GOOD to take what you desire, and even forcibly if necessary. The ends justify the means. It is NOT EVIL to always be taking.||GOD DEFINES good and evil: GOOD is not seeking equality with God, but serving and worshipping Him||GOD DEFINES good and evil: GOOD is compassion, healing the sick, feeding the hungry||GOD DEFINES good and evil: GOOD is compassion, healing the sick, feeding the hungry Jews and Gentiles||GOD DEFINES good and evil: GOOD is “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”|
|Outcome||What happens when God desires, sees, listens, takes, and gives? “God saw all that He had made, and it was VERY GOOD.” (Genesis 1:31)||What happens when Human desires, sees, listens, takes, gives, and blames: BANISHMENT to the east.||BANISHMENT to the east.||Family CONFLICT and BROKEN relationships||The tablet with 10 Commandments (God’s relational contract with Israel) is BROKEN.||Achan and family KILLED||Saul’s kingship/rule ends VERY BADLY||Uriah is KILLED, other soliders DIE, and David & Bathsheba’s first child DIES. “The sword will never depart from your house…”, household rebells, wives given to another in public view, etc. All BAD.||JESUS BREAKS THE PATTERN! He does not give into temptation; does not TAKE what He SEES/DESIRES.||They ALL ate and were SATISFIED… 12 baskets of leftovers.||They ALL ate and were SATISFIED… 7 baskets of leftovers.||SALVATION at the cross.|
|Misc Thoughts/Notes||God displays JUSTICE (banished from the Garden) and MERCY (not allowed to eat from the tree of life and thus live forever).||God displays JUSTICE (“Now you are under a curse…”) and MERCY (“if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance 7 times over”).||God displays JUSTICE (“He will be a wild donkey of a man…he will live in hostility…”) and MERCY (“You will have a son…increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count”).||God desired JUSTICE (“…that I may destroy them.”) and it is Moses who asked for MERCY (“…relent and do not bring disaster…”) and “Then the Lord relented…”||God displays JUSTICE (36 Israelites kills in the failed battle for Ai).||God displays JUSTICE (He gives them over to the shameful lusts of their hearts).
How Samuel SEES is not how God SEES
|God displays JUSTICE (“…the son born to you will die.”) and MERCY (“The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”).||God displays MERCY (“…and the angels came and attended him.”)||God displays MERCY and COMPASSION||God displays MERCY and COMPASSION||God displays MERCY (gives them a secure, secluded place for an early Passover meal)|
Here’s a PDF version of the table you can download:
All text is Copyright © Nicole Clark. All Rights Reserved.
4 thoughts on “Literary Design Pattern: Seek, Take, Do”
I just found your chart and love it. I was wondering if there was anyway I could get a pdf version to print out for teaching purposes?
Grace and Peace
I like the table! But in my browsers I cannot scroll right to view the whole thing, which is a pity
Hi Herman, so glad you found the table interesting. I just updated the post to include a PDF you can download. Does that work for you?
It does – thank you!