What’s the longest book of the Bible? Not Psalms!

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We’ve taken a look at the shortest books in the Bible, but what about the longest book in the Bible?

If you’d asked me about it in Sunday school, my answer would have been a quick, confident “Psalms!” I figured this because the book has 150 psalms, and the runner-up in chapter count would have been Isaiah, with a meager 66 chapters—that’s less than half of what Psalms has.

the-longest-book-of-the-bible-overview-bible-psalms-jeremiah-genesis-ezekiel-isaiah-kingsYou can probably guess why  this is incorrect. Psalms is a long book, for sure, but its psalms are pretty short (for the most part).

Even though Psalms has more contributors than any other book of the Bible, it turns out that two other books are much longer than Psalms.

The longest books in the Bible, in order

Here’s a list of the ten longest books of the Bible. This is going by word count in the original languages (not any English translation of the Bible). I referenced the Lexham Hebrew Bible for OT books and the NA27 for NT books, and here’s what I got:

  1. Jeremiah (33,002 words)
  2. Genesis (32,046 words)
  3. Psalms (30,147 words)
  4. Ezekiel (29,918 words)
  5. Exodus (25, 957 words)
  6. Isaiah (25,608 words)
  7. Numbers (25,048 words)
  8. Deuteronomy (23,008 words)
  9. Second Chronicles (21,349 words)
  10. First Samuel (20,361 words)

Notice anything interesting? The entire top-10 list of longest books in the Bible are all Old Testament books!

(For the most part, this lines up with  David J. Reimer‘s list on Justin Taylor’s blog—though Reimer’s count  puts Isaiah before Exodus.)

shortest-longest-books-of-bible

So Jeremiah is the longest book of the Bible, right? Sure, if we’re going by modern books and their arrangements. This count is a little deceptive, though. Several books of the Old Testament are actually volumes of a larger original work. Why?

Because scrolls.

For example, First Samuel and Second Samuel were originally just Samuel. But back then, you wrote these kinds of stories on scrolls: and Samuel was just too long to reasonably fit on one. So they split it up into parts one and two.

Kind of like how The Lord of the Rings was written as just one work, but got split into three volumes to keep the price low enough for the average novel enthusiast.

So, what if we were looking for the longest book of the Bible in its original format? First, we would combine First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, First and Second Chronicles, and Ezra with Nehemiah. Then we’d look at the numbers again.

Here’s what our top ten would look like:

  1. Kings (39,145 words)
  2. Chronicles (38,013 words)
  3. Samuel (38,007 words)
  4. Jeremiah (32,982 words)
  5. Genesis (32,046 words)
  6. Psalms (30,047 words)
  7. Ezekiel (29,918 words)
  8. Exodus (25, 957 words)
  9. Isaiah (25,608 words)
  10. Numbers (25,048 words)

Pretty cool, right?

So what?

These books are long. But even books this big are best read as a whole. So, if you want to get to know one of these long books of the Bible better, set aside a Saturday to spend reading it all the way through.

Wonder how I made those word counts? It wasn’t as tedious a task as it may seem. Turns out Logos Bible Software lets you copy the words from Hebrew and Greek texts in list form, then export them to Excel. I got all these Greek and Hebrew counts (from the resources I chose) in an evening’s work!

Addendum: turns out Jeremiah is a few words longer than I originally accounted for. One verse in Jeremiah is in Aramaic, not Hebrew (Jer 10:11), so adding those words brings the total up to 33,002. This doesn’t change its place in the order, though.

Download that chart for yourself

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