The Book of Psalms in the Bible contains 150 psalms, covering a variety of topics and emotions. Psalms range in length from a single verse to several pages. But if you’re looking for the shortest psalm, here’s a quick answer: Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm in the Bible.
In this approximately 3000 word article, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of Psalm 117, the shortest psalm in the Bible. We’ll look at the background, meaning, structure, and significance of this tiny but powerful psalm.
We’ll also discuss some of the other very short psalms in the Bible and how Psalm 117 compares in length.
Background of Psalm 117
Authorship and Date
Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm in the Bible, comprising only two verses. Despite its brevity, this psalm delivers a powerful message of praise to God. Most scholars believe Psalm 117 was written after the Jewish exile in Babylon ended in 538 BC.
Thistiming makes sense given the psalm’s emphasis on God’s mercy and truth toward Israel. After enduring seventy years of captivity, the Jewish people were overjoyed to return home and worship their faithful God again.
The author of Psalm 117 is unknown, but some commentators attribute it to Haggai, Zechariah or Ezra due to similarities in language and themes.
Though brief, Psalm 117 beautifully fulfills its purpose in Scripture. It reminds God’s people in all nations and all ages to praise the Lord for His unending love. This psalm calls everyone everywhere to worship Yahweh, transcending racial, ethnic and national divisions.
God showed steadfast love to Israel, and His salvation is for all who put their trust in Him.
Context and Setting
Psalm 117 is part of a collection of psalms known as the “Egyptian Hallel” (Psalms 113-118) which were sung by the Jewish people during their pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. These psalms of praise recalled God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel from the Exodus to the present.
Though only two verses long, Psalm 117 encapsulates this powerful theme of God’s enduring mercy and love.
In the original Hebrew, Psalm 117 is structured as a chiasm (inverted parallelism), with the words “praise” and “LORD” forming the centerpoint:
A Praise the LORD, all you nations;
B Extol him, all you peoples.
C For great is his steadfast love toward us,
C’ and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
B’ Praise the LORD!
This chiastic structure draws emphasis to the central ideas of praising Yahweh and extolling His name among all peoples of the earth. Though Israel knew God’s covenant love most intimately, His mercy extends to every nation who hears the good news of salvation.
The universal scope of Psalm 117 is notable, as most Old Testament writings focused on God’s relationship with Israel. This short psalm depicts a grand vision of people from all languages and cultures uniting in joyful praise to the one true God.
Centuries later, this global worship became a reality in the multi-ethnic church established by Jesus Christ.
Content and Structure of Psalm 117
Text of Psalm 117
Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm and chapter in the Bible. It consists of only two verses:
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD.
Despite its brevity, Psalm 117 powerfully calls all people everywhere to praise God for his steadfast love and faithfulness. Its message is universal in scope.
Literary Structure and Format
Psalm 117 has a simple structure. It begins with a call to praise in verse 1, followed by the reason for praise in verse 2. It follows a standard hymnic format:
- Summons to praise (v.1a)
- Audience addressed (v.1b)
- Reason for praise (v.2)
This psalm uses repetition and synonymous parallelism as poetic techniques. “Praise the LORD” bookends the psalm, while “nations” and “peoples” refer to the same groups. “Love” and “faithfulness” emphasize God’s covenant loyalty.
The brevity and simplicity of Psalm 117 allow its powerful message to resonate. Though short, it calls all humanity to recognize and worship the one true God.
Meaning and Significance of Psalm 117
Call to Praise God
Psalm 117 is the shortest psalm in the Bible, containing only two verses. Yet its message carries great meaning and significance. It calls all people – Jews and Gentiles alike – to praise God for His merciful love and faithfulness. The psalm begins with a universal call to “Praise the LORD.”
This opening line signals that God’s glory and dominion extend over all nations and peoples. God’s steadfast love and truth are not limited to Israel alone but are offered to all humanity.
The brevity of Psalm 117 highlights its simple yet profound theme – the absolute sovereignty and love of God. Though it is just two verses, the psalm powerfully calls everyone everywhere to recognize and worship the one true God. Its succinct and direct praise makes it easy to memorize and recall.
The Talmud says that Psalm 117 will be recited at the end of history when God’s kingdom is established on earth. This shows its enduring significance as a call to glorify God for who He is.
Psalm 117 has a universal appeal because it invites “all nations” and “all peoples” to praise the Lord. Most psalms are addressed to Israel. But this psalm is unique in addressing all humanity. It recognizes that God is the God of all peoples, not just the Hebrews.
This inclusive call reflects God’s concern and love for all people created in His image.
The global scope of Psalm 117 enabled it to transcend its Jewish origins. The earliest Christians, including many Gentiles, readily adopted the psalm as expressing their faith. They saw it as portraying the inclusive salvation offered in Christ.
Gentiles were now included in the covenant people of God, so this brief hymn resonated with the diverse members of the early church.
Throughout history, Psalm 117’s brevity and universal themes have allowed it to cross borders and appeal to diverse cultures. It reminds us that our shared human condition calls us to praise the one Lord over all.
Regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or background, we are to glorify God for His eternal love and faithfulness toward humanity.
Because of its special status as the shortest psalm, early Christian interpreters discerned special meaning in Psalm 117 regarding Jesus Christ. The second century theologian Augustine called it “the praise of the one Christ” because of how the psalm’s two verses align with Christ’s dual nature.
Augustine saw verse 1, with its call for “all nations” to praise God, as representing Christ’s humanity. As a man, Jesus came for all people. Verse 2, extolling God’s merciful love and eternal truth, describes Christ’s divinity as the Son of God.
This twofold praise mirrors Christ as fully human and fully divine. Other interpreters like Athanasius and Hilary of Poitiers expounded Christological meanings for Psalm 117 based on its unique properties.
While these Christological readings might not have been the psalm’s original intent, they display how Scripture can reveal new layers of truth. The shortest psalm came to illuminate the person of Christ through the eyes of faith.
For the church, Psalm 117 pointed to the all-encompassing salvation of God available to both Jews and Gentiles in Jesus the Messiah.
Shortest Psalm Compared to Other Short Psalms
At just three verses and 18 words, Psalm 131 is hands down the shortest Psalm in the entire Bible. This wisp of a Psalm packs a lot into its brevity, expressing deep trust in God and encouraging the reader to have a quiet hope and humility before Him.
With its diminutive size but weighty meaning, Psalm 131 proves that sometimes less is more!
The affectionate Psalm 133 runs a close second to 131 with only 15 words in its three verses. It joyfully sings the blessings of harmony between believers who live together like family. Though not quite as tiny, Psalm 133’s beautiful imagery brings richness despite its petite proportions.
At 21 words spread over its three verses, Psalm 134 comes in third place for most compact Psalm. It’s a song of hope-filled blessing over those serving God during the night watches. This uplifting finale Psalm in the Songs of Ascent collection concisely encourages faithful watchmen to keep looking to God who never slumbers nor sleeps.
Though all quite short, each miniature Psalm still offers rich theological and practical truths. Their constrained length seems to distill their essence to resonant droplets of insight. These petite poetic prayers prove valuable things come in small packages!
For more details, check out commentaries at sites like BibleStudyTools.com.
The Enduring Impact of the Shortest Psalm
The shortest psalm in the Bible, Psalm 117, contains only two verses and 25 words. Yet this tiny psalm has had an enduring impact and contains some powerful truths.
Despite its brevity, Psalm 117 has a global message, calling all nations and peoples to praise God: “Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples” (Psalm 117:1). This anticipates the Great Commission when Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
It is a call to universal worship of the one true God.
Psalm 117 declares the timeless truth that God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness last forever: “For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever” (Psalm 117:2). God’s steadfast love and mercy never cease.
This enduring love was perfectly embodied in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. God’s faithfulness to His promises is unmatched across history.
This short psalm powerfully affirms God’s sovereignty over all creation. It calls everyone everywhere to worship God and extol His greatness. It also clearly teaches that God is loving and faithful. The theological richness of these 25 words is incredible.
Psalm 117 holds special significance in Jewish and Christian liturgy and worship. It is part of the traditional Hallel (meaning “praise”) collection of psalms (113-118) sung at Passover and other festivals. Some consider it to be the middle chapter of the Bible.
Jesus likely had Psalm 117 in mind when he sang hymns with his disciples before going to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:30).
A Beautiful Whole
Psalm 117 may be short, but it is a beautifully concise expression of praise to God. Martin Luther said it is “a little manual of Christian doctrine” containing everything in a nutshell. This diminutive psalm has had an enduring impact as it calls all people to worship the eternal, loving Creator.
In conclusion, Psalm 117 may be the shortest psalm in the Bible, but it packs a powerful theological and literary punch. This minuscule psalm calls all nations and peoples to praise the Lord for His merciful kindness and eternal truth.
Though tiny in size, Psalm 117 points to great theological truths in a succinct and compelling way. This shortest psalm has had an enduring impact as part of Christian and Jewish liturgy and worship over millennia.
Its brevity highlights the remarkable artistry and depth of the divinely inspired psalms.