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Blog / What Are the Longest and Shortest Books of the Bible?

What Are the Longest and Shortest Books of the Bible?

As a way of sharing our excitement over our 25th anniversary, Bible Gateway is producing various lists and Infographics featuring 25 items in different categories found in the Bible. Here we highlight our Infographic “25 Extremes in the Bible” by calling out extreme lengths of Bible books. (Be sure to tell us what Bible Gateway means to you by visiting our MyBibleGateway page.)

The longest book in the Old Testament when measuring by chapters is the book of Psalms with 150 chapters and 2,461 verses. But when measuring by Hebrew word count, the longest book in the Old Testament is Jeremiah with approximately 33,000 words in the original language.

The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 individual ancient Hebrew songs and prayers. As the NIV Quest Study Bible says, psalms give voice to personal feelings; they are poetry, not doctrinal essays. The psalmists frequently were interested in how something felt more than what it meant. Think of the psalms as entries in a diary; they reflect people’s most intimate encounters with God. Watch for figures of speech, exaggerations, and repetitions. Poetic language requires that you read with your heart as well as your mind. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says the various psalms help us see that God responds to us in our emotional highs and lows.

The prophet Jeremiah saw Israel morally disintegrating and being destroyed militarily by enemies. He saw Babylon attack Jerusalem in 586 BC and many of its people exiled to foreign lands. According to the NIV Quest Study Bible Jeremiah’s grim prophecies, in both poetry and prose, continually warned Judah about God’s approaching judgment because of the people’s constant, willful disobedience. Yet intermingled with all the dark messages were words of hope about Judah’s future redemption. Watch for Jeremiah’s encouragement—prophecies that are still being fulfilled today whenever sinful hearts are transformed by God.

The shortest book in the Old Testament is Obadiah with only 21 verses and 670 words.

The book of Obadiah harkens back to the feud that began with twin brothers, Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis. Esau, the older by minutes, would have inherited family leadership, but in a moment of hunger he traded it for a meal and Jacob went on to become the founding father of the nation of Israel. Esau founded the nation of Edom. Their descendants continued the quarrel over hundreds of years. The final straw came when Babylon dismembered Jerusalem and took its citizens into exile. The Edomites egged on the conquering army, preyed on fleeing Israelites, and helped plunder Jerusalem. Obadiah predicts that downtrodden Israel will rise again, while Edom will disappear from the face of the earth. This prediction came true. The NIV Student Bible Notes asks, why does this blood feud earn a place in Scripture? It demonstrates God’s ongoing protection of his people from their enemies. It also shows that God’s standards extend beyond his chosen people. Every nation will be judged, like Edom, by its own standard

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The longest book in the New Testament is the Gospel of Luke with 1,151 verses.

The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the Messiah and Lord whose life, death and resurrection make salvation available to all people everywhere. According to the NIV Study Bible, Luke’s writing is characterized by literary excellence, historical detail and warm, sensitive understanding of Jesus and those around him. Luke’s themes include: recognition of Gentiles as well as Jews in God’s plan; emphasis on prayer, especially Jesus’ praying before important occasions; joy at the announcement of the gospel or “good news”; special concern for the role of women; special interest in the poor and in issues of social justice; concern for sinners; stress on the family circle; emphasis on the Holy Spirit; inclusion of more parables than any other Gospel; and emphasis on praising God.

The shortest book in the New Testament is 2 John with only 13 verses and 298 words.

The Letter of 2 John will keep you on target spiritually and challenge you to be certain about what you believe and how you live. The NIV Quest Study Bible says the apostle John wrote this personal note to Christians who may have felt pressured by false teachers. He wrote it perhaps to accompany his more general letter of 1 John. He hoped it would help renew commitment to the truth by further exposing the false teachers and he wanted to encourage them to remain faithful until he could see them in person.

Get Bible Gateway's 25 Extremes in the Bible Infographic

In keeping with its 25th anniversary, Bible Gateway has designed an Infographic of 25 extremes in the Bible for your entertainment and education (some content taken from Meredith’s Complete Book of Bible Lists: A One-of-a-Kind Collection of Bible Facts (Baker Books, 2008).

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The most popular verses in the longest and shortest books as searched for by people using Bible Gateway:

Psalm 91:11 – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Obadiah 1:3 – The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’

Luke 1:37 – For no word from God will ever fail.

Luke 2:11 – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


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Filed under Bible, Bible Gateway Anniversary, Infographics