Selah: A Bible Word Study
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
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).
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
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.