Most resources claim that the book of Psalms is the longest book in the Old Testament, and therefore the Bible.

The claim is probably wrong.

If the calculation is based on the number of verses or the number of “chapters” or the number of pages, it is correct. But since those aren’t part of the original, they properly shouldn’t be considered to be the right criteria.

And if we’re being technical, English word-count shouldn’t be sufficient, either.

Here is a more refined set of date, courtesy of David J. Reimer (senior lecturer, Hebrew and Old Testament University of Edinburgh, who penned the notes on Ezekiel for the ESV Study Bible).

“Graphic units” counts the number of Hebrew words in a particular books using BibleWorks (e.g., there are seven “graphic units” in Genesis 1:1). “Morphological units” was found according to the Groves-Wheeler Westminster Morphological database (separates prefixed elements, but not pronominal suffixes; e.g., there are eleven in Genesis 1:1). The “Bytes” figure calculated the length of the Hebrew book in ASCII format (i.e., so there would be no interference from extraneous word-processor code).

Here are the results of the top 10:

Order

Book

# Verses in Book

Graph-unit Hits

Morph-unit Hits

Bytes

 1. Jer

1,364

22,285

30,203

241,209

 2. Gen

1,533

20,722

28,848

226,894

 3. Psa

2,527

19,662

25,465

238,562

 4. Eze

1,273

19,053

26,572

214,416

 5. Isa

1,291

17,197

23,204

191,777

 6. Exo

1,213

16,890

23,934

184,372

 7. Num

1,289

16,583

23,363

182,945

 8. Deu

959

14,488

20,329

159,872

 9. 2Ch

822

13,520

20,000

154,125

10. 1Sa

811

13,506

19,211

147,392

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16 thoughts on “What Is the Longest Book in the Bible?”

  1. David says:

    Those are some great books. :)

  2. Rachael Starke says:

    Okay, maybe it’s because it’s a lazy summer Monday, but I read this and thought “Wow, Justin totally channelled his inner theology-engineering-geek-nerd” with this one. :) Beyond that, I have a feeling data like this could be downright dangerous to a young seminary graduate looking to impress his unsuspecting congregation….. Three quarters joking, one quarter not….

    1. Yeah, Rachel’s right.

      This is kind of interesting but for goodness sake, never say this in a sermon!

  3. Justin Taylor says:

    Next thing I know, you folks will be saying “No parsing of Greek and Hebrew verbs in the pulpit.” SMH.

  4. Rachael Starke says:

    :) Well, I’m mostly messin’ with ya, but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been in one of those womens’ inductive Bible studies where we’ve killed precious minutes and brain cells talking about the number of instances of prepositions in a passage, without asking how or if it matters,

    I could buy you a very expensive lunch whereat you could explain how it matters in this instance. :)

  5. Josh says:

    I think the same argument is used to say that Luke actually wrote more of the New Testament than Paul. Anyone know if this is true?

  6. Don L. says:

    All that data analysis .. and yet … no simple count of Hebrew graphemes (alphabet letters)?

  7. Jonny says:

    I wonder if the top 10 changes much if you keep Samuel, Kings & Chronicles as one book each (like in the Hebrew OT), rather than splitting them into two (like the Septuagint onwards)?

  8. Aenon says:

    Erm – since we’re being strict and acknowledging that there weren’t chapters and verses in the original languages, shouldn’t we also be strict and say that 1&2 Samuel and 1&2 Chronicles weren’t separate books in the original languages?

    If that is correct, wouldn’t that bump those two up significantly?

  9. Patrick says:

    Somebody has waaaaaaaaaay to much time on their hands!!!

  10. Justin, you leave us languishing for knowledge of the shortest books. Is Obadiah still safe?

    Is there a source of/link to all 39 books of the Old Testament we can find somewhere?

    Thanks.

  11. bethyada says:

    I had thought Jeremiah was the longest book for some time, less aware that Genesis was longer than Psalms. I think word counts are fine for comparative purposes. I am aware that English uses more words than Hebrew and Greek but assumed that increase was probably proportionate. I don’t think that byte-length is helpful as it weighs word length rather than words, but the smallest level of meaning is word, not letter.

    I am inclined to agree with the others about Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Based on my word count I would order them

    Kings
    Samuel
    Chronicles
    Psalms
    Jeremiah
    Genesis…

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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