The Biblical Meaning Behind Selah And Why It Matters

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.

What Is The Meaning Of Selah In The Bible?

The word “selah” is both stunning and mysterious. Although its precise meaning has been argued since the 2nd century, you can find several interpretations in Strong’s concordance. A rock or crag is what selah means when used as a noun. The verb form, however, means “raise, exalt,” which is an apt description for both the towering cliffs surrounding Petra and the almighty God of the Psalms.

The origin of the word, pronounced say’-luh, has been a mystery to linguists. The Hebrew word calah, which means valuable or hangs, may be its etymological root. A similar statement is made in Job 28:19. Job has concluded that wisdom is priceless. Knowledge is more valuable than money when everything is on the line. 

Many Old Testament Bible scholars believe that selah was a musical term for stopping or contemplating, similar to the modern musical notation of “rest.” This is based on the fact that selah is almost always found at the end of a poetry stanza or phrase.

Still, others argue that selah meant “forever” or was meant to make worshippers think about their connection to God. Psalm 3:4 reads, “With every voice, I call to the Lord, for He listens and replies to me from His holy hill.” This is how the verse reads in the Amplified Bible. Selah is one of the few biblical words that defy straightforward translation.

Where Can You Find Selah In The Bible And Where Is It Used?

2 Kings 14:7 is the earliest occurrence of the word “selah” in the Bible. 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.

In each of these cases, selah designates a location that is either entirely composed of rock or is bordered by rock. 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.

man standing and selah meaning in the bible

Why Does Selah Matter?

The Hebrew term selah is mentioned at least 71 times in the Psalms and three times in Habakkuk’s writings. The word selah appears in thirty-nine Psalms and is often repeated within the same Psalm.

It’s A Musical Term That Blesses Us

Selah is a musical term used to indicate tempo and mood in a performance. Thirty-one of the 39 Psalms mention a “choirmaster” using Selah.

Even Habakkuk’s prayer in the third chapter, which is set to music, is poetic. The musical context of this chapter provides further evidence that the word Selah is an expression or musical notation specific to music.

It was also mentioned that musicians could understand the word “Selah,” and thus, everyone started singing after hearing it. Looking up every instance of the phrase “Selah,” it always appears at the end of a verse or chapter, just like a period or a new paragraph.

The Transliteration Guides Us

Since you can translate Greek and Hebrew words into English, we can read the Bible in English. The Bible has several words that aren’t or can’t be translated into modern languages. One of them is the Selah verse, which is a transliteration and not a literal translation.

Most of the time, the meaning of a term in Hebrew remains the same in its English equivalent. The purpose, connotations, and setting are all identical. Conversely, a transliteration term is spelled out phonetically in English to help readers understand what the Hebrew word means. 

For example, Hallelujah, which means “Praise God” in Hebrew, is a transliteration. With the Hebrew word for praise, Hallel, and the Hebrew word for God, Jah, the worshippers are praising the Almighty. The Hebrew word Hallelujah has been left in its phonetic form, and with it comes a resounding shout of thanks to the sky.

It’s no surprise that Hallelujah and Selah are both transliterations. The lack of a translation does not diminish the importance of the original or the meaning conveyed in context. When we read the word Selah, we say it exactly as it has been told for thousands of years by native 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.

How To Live A Life Of “Selah”?

Some have interpreted the word Selah as meaning “pause” or “reflect.” This might have been an opportunity for the voices to fade away and the instruments to play quietly, or it could’ve been a plea for the listener or reader to pause and consider what had just been stated.

Even if we don’t grasp all God is saying, the very word compels us to stop and reflect. Taking a break from our hectic, non-stop lives to reflect on God’s vast secrets and wonders is made possible by Selah.

Colossians 2:3 says, “My purpose is for them to be strengthened in heart and joined in love, because then they may have the natural riches of perfect understanding, so that they may understand the mysteries of God, namely Christ, in whom are buried all the treasure of knowledge and experience.

Selah is a reminder to stop and think about Christ, who has hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of the ages. Human minds can fully comprehend nothing about God or Christ’s daily sacrifices for us. In light of this, it is only appropriate that the meaning of the beautiful word Selah, like our faith, remains beyond comprehension.

man sitting on bridge and selah meaning in the bible


Selah, a tiny word, may profoundly impact the spiritual walk. Selah provides the Holy Spirit 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.

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