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Selah: A Bible Word Study

Updated on March 7, 2019
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

You have probably seen the word Selah in two books of the Bible. The word is found in the Psalms 71 times and in Habakkuk where it appears only three times. So, what does the word mean and how should we respond when we see it?

"Selah" - Definition

Selah is a Hebrew word. You can tell Hebrew words because they usually end in -ah. Selah is defined as an instruction to stop and think about what comes before the word. Selah instructs the reader to take a brief pause and reflect when he sees the word in the middle of the verse, between verses or between paragraphs. When reading the Bible in corporate worship, there is no need to say the word out loud even though it is there.

The meaning of the word is not known for sure. It is probably an instruction to "stop and listen." Since most of the psalms are hymns, another idea is that the word could indicate a musical interlude. The Amplified Bible translates selah as "pause and think of that."

Psalms and Habakkuk

Psalms
The word Selah is found in two books of the Bible 74 times. It appears most of the times in the Psalms. It is there 71 times in 39 of the Psalms. The word is found at the end of some psalms and in most some cases at the end of a verse. The exceptions are in Psalms 55:19 and 57:3 where the word is found in the middle to the verse. (See the scriptures below).

Habakkuk
The word also appears in the prophetic book of Habakkuk. It is there only three times and they all are in the third chapter in Habakkuk 3:3, 9, and 13. The word could mean “to pause and praise” in these verses that include Habakkuk’s prayer. The reader is inspired to pause and praise God for who He is, for what He has does and what He continues to do.

Do not say the word "Selah" when reading the Bible aloud in corporate worship.

Selah comes from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which means "to hang" as a way to measure weights. This makes sense because during biblical times money, food and valuables were weighed by hanging from a scale. Therefore, Selah could be an instruction to weigh and measure carefully what the scripture says instead of reading the scripture and moving quickly to the next verse.

Most Bible scholars believe Selah means “to pause.” That means every time the word appears in a psalm, the musicians paused for several reasons.

  • Perhaps to take a breath.
  • Maybe to sing a cappella.
  • Perhaps to let the instruments play alone without any singing.
  • Perhaps to praise God by lifting hands in worship.

Watch This Video and Listen to the Beautiful Music

"Selah" in Scriptures

Psalm 3:8 - “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people." Selah

Psalm 24:9-10 - “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." Selah

Psalm 55:19 - "God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God." (Notice Selah is within this scripture and the one that follows).

Psalm 57:3 - "He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth."

Psalm 67:4 - “O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah

Habakkuk 3:3 - "God came from Teman and the Holy One from mount Paran." Selah

Habakkuk 3:13 - "You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot." Selah

A Reminder

Let's conclude that Selah is a reminder to pause and think about the weight and the importance of God's words.

Know that Selah is not limited to appearing only in the Bible. It also appears in literary works such as poems, novels, songs and in Jewish prayers.

Comments

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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      18 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting. I have not encountered this word before but I like its meaning.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      18 months ago from U.S.A.

      Interesting article, Margaret. I appreciate it.

      Tim

    • revmjm profile imageAUTHOR

      Margaret Minnicks 

      18 months ago from Richmond, VA

      PoetikalyAnointed, WOW! That is wonderful that you wanted to learn about this word and I provided some information to help you.

      I love doing word studies. I am glad this one helped you!

    • profile image

      PoetikalyAnointed 

      18 months ago

      Awesome Hub!

      I know God was talking to me through this because I've been wondering about this word lol. I'm currently reading the Psalms and have come across this word several times. I love words and tend to research new ones then include them into my file. Well, I haven't done that yet so this was very much appreciated! It totally makes sense too.

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