Though the Bible had been divided into sections for centuries, the chapters and verses that are in modern Bibles were not separated until the 16th century. Robert Estienne (1503-1559) was the first to print a Bible that was broken into standard numbered verses. His New Testament was first printed in 1551 and a Hebrew Bible followed in 1571.
Of the Bible’s 31,173 verses, Esther 8:9 is the longest in most all English translations. Esther 8:9 reads:
So the king’s scribes were called at that time in the third month (that is, the month Sivan), on the twenty-third day; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, the satraps, the governors and the princes of the provinces which extended from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language as well as to the Jews according to their script and their language. (Esther 8:9 NASB)The verse consists of 43 Hebrew words, making it the longest verse in the Masoretic (Hebrew) Text as well. Significantly longer versions of I Samuel 11 were found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Though not canonical, several verses of I Samuel 11 from these sources surpass Esther 8:9 in length.
In English, Esther 8:9 is significantly longer than its original Hebrew, typically spanning between 70-90 words. In the King James Version (KJV) it consists of 90 words as compared to 86 (ASV), 81 (NASB) and 80 (ESV) in other prominent word-for-word translations. In thought-for-translations, the text is cleaned up and reduced further. For instance, Esther 8:9 is comprised of 71 words in the NIV and cut down to 55 in the CEV.
Though you have likely never read a Bible that was not divided into verses, the concept of doing so has always faced some criticism.
Do you like the division of the Bible into verses? Why might it not be a good idea?
Esther 8:9-12 is a reversal of Esther 3:12-15 which features a report of the genocidal edict that Haman issued through the authority of King Ahasuerus. It is a turning point in Esther but is not especially significant to the Bible as a whole. Likewise, Revelation 20:4, the longest verse in the New Testament (68 words in the KJV) is also of no particular note.
As such, the length of a verse is not is not as significant as its depth. There are times where, as Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) advises, “Shorth is better than length.”
What do you feel is the most important verse in the Bible? What verses do you feel have far more depth than length? Do you know of anyone whose depth of life exceeded its length?
“It is not length of life, but depth of life.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)