Have you ever read Psalms and thought to yourself, "What does selah mean?"
The word selah is found in only two books of the Bible. It is found in the psalms 71 times and it’s also found in the book of Habakkuk chapter 3, but only three times. I remember as a new Christian reading through Psalms and wondering what this word selah meant. The more I dug into it, the more powerful it has become. There is some controversy around the definition of the word selah, but let us examine this a little bit further.
According to the original Hebrew definition of the Word selah means “to lift up, exalt”. Some scholars believe it was a musical notation that meant “silence” or “to pause”. This would make sense since the book that has this word used the most is the book of Psalms, which is a collection of songs. Even going back to the Septuagint, which is the earliest Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word is defined as “intermission, a division”. So what does selah mean and why is it in the Bible?
Here is a teaching by Apostle Johnny Ova titled “What does Selah Mean?”
What does selah mean, the revelation
The two Hebrew words I want to look to figure out the meaning of the word selah is s_lah, “to praise” and s_lal, “to lift up”. If you put a lot of these meanings together I believe we can paint a really awesome picture of what this word means.
In regards to song, this word seemingly means to almost pause, think about it, take a break, and then go! The Psalms are written during many different seasons of life. You see songs written during great triumph and excitement and then during the worst of times, much like our songs today. The thing I find interesting is that it seems as God wants us to meditate on what He just said or what He just has done. We go from faith to faith and glory to glory, so we really have to seek God on what He is doing, to properly know where we are going.
If the word selah does mean “to pause”, we should ask why. Why did the musicians pause? Maybe it was to just let the instruments play and minister or maybe it was for the musicians to just think about the one whom they were giving praise to. Either way, it is pretty clear when reading the scriptures, God puts the word selah into the word to make us stop and think about what was just said. What does selah mean? Selah has multiple beautiful meanings.
Selah in the Scripture
Let’s take a bit of a deeper dive of selah in the scripture. We can get an even more clear picture of what we have discussed above. In the Scripture, selah is almost always at the end of a verse or a chapter. This is interesting because it is placed in a spot usually where a new sentence or paragraph would go which would insinuate to think about what was just said.
Psalm 3:2– Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.
Psalm 7:5– Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it; And let him trample my life down to the ground And lay my glory in the dust. Selah.
Psalm 32:5– I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
Habakkuk 3:3– God comes from Teman, And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, And the earth is full of His praise.
Have we figured out what does selah mean yet? I think we have a pretty cool picture. Looking at the few verses above we can see that it doesn’t mean good or bad. God wanted them to think about it all. Psalm 3:2 has a quote saying there is no deliverance for him in God. Obviously there is a struggle here and what was just put into this Psalm is 100% not true. We see the writer struggling here because the people were saying that he wasn’t delivered. That although he is with God, he is still bound.
Has this every happened to you? Have people ever said, “Look at your life. Why would I want to serve that God?” Comments like that hurt and can put us in a whirlwind of emotions but we can relate, but we need to stop, pause, timeout! Think about what was just said. Meditate on this for a moment. Speak out of truth and not out of struggle.
Read more: What does Amen mean?
So just selah...
Listen, we have all been there. We have gone through good times and bad times and we will always continue to do so. The writers of the Bible are no different. You can get overwhelmed with joy and you can get overwhelmed with struggle. Either way, we need to stop for a moment and think about what God is doing, thank God in every season of our life and never let anything or anyone take the praise and worship from your lips. Selah
Contact Johnny Ova, the lead Pastor of Sound of Heaven below:
If you enjoyed this article on "What does selah mean?, watch this 5 minute video to encourage you even further.
Beatriz is a fairly new Christian and she was faced with a very difficult decision about her career. Watch this quick 5 minute video on how Beatriz used the principle of selah to see the hand of God move and bless her beyond anything she could have imagined. Never underestimate the power of trusting God to guide you!