The Biblical Meaning Behind Selah And Why It Matters

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Published by Kimberly Wall


Co-Founder, Disciple Group Leader, Author

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Knowing selah’s meaning in the Bible changes your spiritual life. God’s unwavering love and devotion are seen throughout the daily Bible verses in many narratives of His past and subsequent acts.

The word “Selah” acts as a sign for us to pause and think about the emphasis God places on His promises. Selah appears at the end of a verse or paragraph, mostly in Psalms. It is seen as a time for contemplation of the words in the Psalms.

Key Takeaways

  • The use of “Selah” in the Bible, particularly in the Book of Psalms, prompts readers or listeners to pause and reflect on God’s words. It encourages deeper engagement with scripture, fostering a profound connection with themes of God’s promises, love, and devotion.
  • “Selah” is often seen as a musical term or transliteration suggesting a pause, reflection, praise, or exaltation. This interpretation enhances the spiritual experience, allowing for diverse interactions with the text, from enjoying the music to profound theological contemplation.
  • Living a life of “Selah” involves integrating reflection and contemplation into daily life. By pausing and reflecting, as “Selah” suggests, one can enhance their understanding of scripture and foster a deeper connection with God. This method emphasizes the importance of not only reading but also internalizing and reflecting on the Bible’s spiritual teachings.
Scholars dissecting the enigma of Selah in a bustling outdoor marketplace of a vibrant ancient city

What Is The Meaning Of Selah In The Bible?

The meaning of “Selah” in the Bible is debated among scholars. The word “selah” is stunning and mysterious, with interpretations ranging from a rock or crag (noun form) to “raise, exalt” (verb form). Some suggest that “Selah” indicates a pause for reflection or a musical interlude, while others propose it means “praise” or “lift up.” It could also combine these meanings or indicate a musical notation like “silence” or “pause.”

Despite various interpretations, the exact meaning of “Selah” is unclear. It’s primarily used in the Book of Psalms and is thought to derive from the Hebrew root סָלָה (salah), meaning “to lift up” or “to praise.” It appears over 70 times in the Book of Psalms and is also found in Habakkuk, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.

The word’s origin, pronounced say’-luh, is a linguistic mystery. It may stem from the Hebrew word calah, meaning valuable or hangs. Many scholars believe that selah was a musical term for stopping or contemplating, similar to a modern musical “rest.” Others argue that selah meant “forever” or was intended to make worshippers contemplate their connection to God. Selah is one of the few biblical words that defies straightforward translation.

Where Can You Find Selah In The Bible?

You can find “Selah” in the Bible, particularly in 2 Kings 14:7. According to this passage, Israelite King Jehoash conquered Selah and ten thousand Edomites[1]. There was a fortress and capital of Edom called Selah, which may or may not have been the same place as modern-day Petra. Additionally, the word “Selah” appears in Isaiah 16:1 and Obadiah 1:3, typically indicating a rocky location.

Selah is mentioned three times throughout Chapter 3 of Habakkuk’s prophetic hymn. Like the Psalms, many lines that end with selah serve as a stanza break or conclusion.

A total of 71 occurrences of selah may be found in 29 different Psalms. Of them, 31 were addressed “to the choirmaster” or director. Therefore, it is not hard to see why some people think of selah as a form of musical education. King David and the Sons of Korah used selah in their Psalms.

Thus, it must have been familiar to both musicians and worshippers. Some have hypothesized that the selah at the end of a Psalm was the Old Testament’s counterpart of the amen or hallelujah we use today. Strong’s Concordance classifies Selah as an interjection. We may never fully grasp the poetic selah, but we can worship by putting what we understand into practice.

the essence of Selah's importance illustrated through an ancient parchment

Why Does Selah Matter?

It’s A Musical Term That Blesses Us

Selah, a musical term indicating tempo and mood, is used in 31 of the 39 Psalms that mention a “choirmaster.” Its presence in Habakkuk’s musical prayer in Chapter 3 further suggests that Selah is a musical notation. Musicians understood “Selah,” prompting others to sing upon hearing it. Typically, “Selah” appears at the end of a verse or chapter, similar to a period or paragraph break.

The Transliteration Guides Us

Translating Greek and Hebrew allows us to read the Bible in English. However, some words, like “Selah,” are transliterations, not translations. Transliterations phonetically spell out Hebrew words in English to convey their meaning.

For instance, “Hallelujah” is a transliteration of the Hebrew words for praise (Hallel) and God (Jah), signifying a shout of thanks. Like “Hallelujah,” “Selah” is also a transliteration. Despite the lack of a direct translation, the original meaning is preserved in context. Thus, when we read “Selah,” we pronounce it as it has been for thousands of years by Hebrew speakers.

A Part Of God’s Word Is Instilled In Us

God has spoken to us via the Bible, and what it says has eternal significance. Even if we don’t grasp its whole context, it provides meaning and direction. Nobody is expected to memorize the entire Bible. Some parts of the Bible will inevitably be incomprehensible to us since there’s just so much about God that we don’t know.

When reading the Bible, we must remember to ask for clarification from others when we get stuck. Participating in Bible studies allows us to hear what others say about God’s word and expand our understanding of it. The word “selah” has musical connotations and is intended to make you feel something. The lyrics to songs that feature its use lend credence to this theory.

an individual immersed in the study of scriptures sits under the ancient trees contemplating selah's meaning in the bible

How To Live A Life Of “Selah”?

To live a life of “Selah,” one must study the scripture to understand God’s beauty and character. “Selah” is often interpreted as a call to “pause” or “reflect,” encouraging us to consider God’s words deeply. Despite the complexities of God’s message, “Selah” prompts us to take a break and ponder God’s mysteries.

As stated in Colossians 2:3, the goal is to strengthen our hearts and foster love, leading to a deeper understanding of God’s mysteries, particularly Christ, the source of all knowledge and wisdom. “Selah” serves as a reminder to contemplate Christ’s sacrifices, which are beyond human comprehension. Thus, the meaning of “Selah,” like our faith, remains profound and elusive.


Selah, a tiny word, may profoundly impact the spiritual walk. Selah provides the Holy Spirit with an opportunity to convict or direct us through the Word of God. It allows the Word time to get past life’s distractions, our flesh’s demands, and our soulish man’s interruptions of mind, will, and emotions.

If we stop and think about it, the words we read can lift our spirits and change our lives. Today, think about selah and apply it to your life. Your spiritual progress will improve.

a solitary figure immersed in prayer amidst vibrant flowers and ancient trees

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Selah Mean Amen In The Bible?

In the Bible, “Selah” and “Amen” have unique roles. “Selah,” mainly in Psalms, suggests a pause or reflection during worship. Conversely, “Amen” expresses agreement or affirmation. While both are biblical terms, “Selah” encourages contemplation, and “Amen” indicates affirmation.

What Is Selah In Worship?

Selah in worship refers to a significant pause or reflective moment, often found in the context of religious practices. It is a term primarily used in the Bible, mainly in Psalms, indicating a pause for reflection. It breaks the musical flow, prompting contemplation of previous expressions. “Selah” symbolizes introspection and reverence, encouraging meditation on the spiritual aspects of worship.

How Do You Use Selah In A Sentence?

To use “Selah” in a sentence, you might say, “After the powerful lyrics of the song, the singer took a moment to pause and let the audience reflect—Selah.”

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