“Shorth is better than length”

Whether it was a creative and quirky quote from The Cat in the Hat card you received that one birthday, or the worn-out, dog-eared book you’ve happened upon in a backpacker’s hostel or doctor’s waiting room, Dr Seuss is a literary icon.

A Short Condensed Poem in Praise of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books

It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

And that’s why your books
have such power and strength.
You publish with shorth!
(Shorth is better than length.)

Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

Similar to the characters and themes in the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien or G.K. Chesterton, there’s been plenty of speculation whether Dr Seuss used his literature and cartoons to subtly convey Christian themes to his readers.

In the ‘Parables of Dr Seuss‘ by the late American author and minister, Robert L. Short, Short examined the Christian motifs apparent to him in Seuss’ work.

What Geisel actually thought consciously about such matters is, after all, between him and God. We should be thankful that the Dr Seuss books are at least to some extent doing the good work that Short identifies—without posthumously enlisting him as a Christian soldier.

American Culture
Dr. Seuss: Christian Author?” by S.T. Karnick
With over 400 cartoons in the New York Newspaper, “Dr Seuss played [an active role] in shaping and reflecting how America responded to World War II as events unfolded.”


Okay, let’s have a look if Seuss’ analogy that “Shorth is better than length” also applies to the Word of God.

The Longest Verse in the Old Testament

9So the king’s scribes were summoned at that time in the third month (that is, the month Sivan), on the twenty-third day; and it was written in accordance with everything that Mordecai commanded the Jews, the satraps, the governors, and the officials of the provinces which extended from India to Cush, 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, New American Standard Bible (NASB)
81 Words

When you read through the book of Esther, you might be surprised to see no explicit mention of “God”. Indeed, as we see in the Song of Song’s, the only other book in the Bible which doesn’t mention God, Esther’s story implicitly depicts the faithfulness of God amongst a faithless people.

In Esther, in light of the Babylonian perspective she had adopted, Judaism is depicted as an ethnicity rather than a religion. Although not seen through Esther and her cousin Mordecai, God is still directing His people throughout this rapidly eventful book.

Although they left the Promised Land, gotten comfortable in Babylon and had broken their fellowship with God, God had not abandoned or forgotten the covenant He made with Abram in Genesis 12:

1 Now the LORD said to Abram,

“Go from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you into a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3 NASB

If you haven’t read Esther yet, you might be wondering why the word “Jew” is in the largest font and most dominant position in the picture above. Here’s the answer:

  • Esther was a Jewish woman who had lived during the time of the Persian diaspora (cultural dispersion). As she was a virgin, described as “beautiful of form and face”, Esther and her cousin and guardian Mordecai, devised a plan to save the Jewish people from imminent annihilation.
  • After Queen Vashti had made the king very angry by refusing to show herself off to the people and officials. Esther became the new wife of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), the powerful king of Persia.
  • Esther’s story is also paraphrased by Josephus in “The Antiquities of the Jews, Book II Chapter 6”.

The book of Esther was written by an unknown author from a later generation who’d celebrated the feast of Purim. Purim means “lots“, and it’s used to remember the lots (pur) cast by Hāmān, the evil to determine the date of the Jewish destruction (Esther 3:7). Similarly to the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles, the annual celebration of Purim (February 25-26 in 2021) commemorates God’s rescue of the Jews from the Persians.

Just to note, in the Bible, the “casting of lots” was not gambling. As we see in Proverbs 18:18,

Casting the lot settles disputes

    and keeps strong opponents apart. 

Proverbs 18:18

The Shortest Verse in the Old Testament

25Eber, Peleg, Reu,

1 Chronicles 1: 25
3 Words

From the outside, these three names don’t appear to merit their own verse. But, when you read through Genesis 11 and the descendants of Noah’s son Shem, you’ll discover that these three individuals are the ascendants of Abram, who would become Abraham: “the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17); of King David, the founder of the Judean dynasty who killed Goliath and united Israel under a single monarchy; and of Jesus Christ, the One begotten Son of God, the resurrected Saviour of the world.

The Longest Verse in the New Testament

4Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4
76 words

Revelation 20:1-6 is one of the most debated sections in the book of Revelation. The literary genre of Revelation 20 is apocalyptic. Simply put, they’re the prophecies unveiled by an angel to John regarding the things that will happen in the heavens and on the earth during the close of human history: effectively, the destruction and end of the world.

We see here that the first resurrection is not a one-off point in history. As we see in 1 Corinthians 15:20 and 23, the first resurrection begins with Christ as the first of the first fruits. This resurrection includes all the believers who died before the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:14), those who were alive during the rapture, and those who were martyred for refusing to accept the mark of the beast (1 Thessalonians 4:17; Revelation 13:7).

However, the purpose of Revelation 20:4 is to offer hope and the assurance of spiritual support to all faithful believers.

The Shortest Verse in the New Testament

16 Rejoice always,

1 Thessalonians 5:16
2 Words

With only 2 words and 9 letters in English, I believe that John 11:35‘s, “Jesus wept”, is the shortest verse in the Bible. However, in the original Greek, this verse has 16 letters: Ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.

Now, if you flip to 1 Thessalonians 5:16, you’ll see that although the two words of “Rejoice always” comprise 13 letters in English, It’s only 14 in Greek: Πάντοτε χαίρετε. Thus, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is the shortest verse in both Testaments of the Bible.

As Paul extolled in his letter to the believers in Philippi (Philippians 4:4), we are to “rejoice in the Lord always”. Lasting joy cannot be found in worldly things.

I’ve used the New American Standard Bible for this post as it’s one of the most accurate and literal Word-for-Word English translations available.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s