A Question I Was Asked:

What Does 'Selah' Mean?

The Question:

What does the Old Testament word "selah" means when it occurs, mainly in the Psalms.

UK Apologetics Reply:

The word "selah" is found quite a lot in the Psalms, where it appears around 70-75 times. It also appears (far less frequently) in the third chapter of the Book of Habakkuk.

There are problems in explaining the use of this word mainly because the Hebrew root word from which it is translated is unclear. So not all Bible scholars agree on the meaning of this word. We end up with 2-3 possibilities.

The belief has grown that "selah" is purely a musical direction to the singers and/or players who performed the Psalms; we must remember that the psalms were effectively the hymnbook of the Israelites! If this is indeed the explanation, whenever 'selah' appears in a psalm, the singers and/or musicians possibly paused, maybe to take a breath, 'pause' being one of several possible meanings of this word. However, the singers/instrumentalists might have simply paused to praise the Lord (Who was obviously the song's subject).

Interestingly, The Amplified Bible adds "pause and calmly think about that" to each verse where 'selah' appears. When we see the word in a psalm or in Habakkuk 3, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just read or heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God for His great truths.

Robin A. Brace. April 30th, 2013.