Selah (סלה), the obscure word found among the Hebrew Psalms and in Habakkuk 3, has been the puzzle of ordinary readers and the despair of scholars. Oftentimes ascribed a musical status (e.g., a pause in the text like a rest on sheet music), there is much more to this word than meets the eye. And even though several propositions have been made over the last 100 years, scholars have relegated Selah to musical status. Some commonly accepted views have been: 1) a pause in the text; 2) a synonym of נצח (netsacḥ) or עולם (‘olam) — Hebrew words that denote “forever,” or 3) a derivative of the root סלל (salal) meaning to “raise voices in praise” or “make instruments louder.”

Since the late 19th century, Selah had become the focus of a handful of publications exploring its meaning and function in the Psalms. While a considerable amount of effort was put into examining its placement, it wasn’t until the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls that would prove a useful clue in understanding its use in the Second Temple period. In the newly released book, Reassessing Selah, an important clue has been discovered. While the term could have been used as a pause in the text, it seems to highlight the thematic threads that run throughout the Hebrew Psalms.

Themes such as sin, judgment, and salvation permeate Hebrew poetry and Selah marks important transitions in that thematic cycle; transitions that highlight the very nature and character of God! Psalm 32:7 provides a good example: “You are my hiding place; You will guard me from trouble; You will surround me with cries of deliverance. Selah (סלה).” Psalm 32’s overall message is one of human transgression followed by divine deliverance, and Selah highlights those critical junctures for the psalmist and reader alike.

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53 COMMENTS

  1. I really love it , now am begining to grasp more on really the historical meaning of words in the Bible so I could understand and applicate correctly, and even address and correct those that have been mistakenly using some of historical hebrew words in vain. I'm so thankful
  2. Good read , I was always under the assumption that it meant something similar to Amen. Glad to know and stand corrected in my thinking.
  3. Thank you Dr. Ashley for this explanation of Selah! You are correct about how most don't know what Selah meant.It was not deemed important enough to research or how to research it. I saw the same attitude with Psalms119. Nobody that I knew, even preachers that went to college or preaching school, did not seem to know e.i. Aleph, Beth, Gimel, etc, as to what those headings meant. IBC Basic Hebrew course answered that question. I have been so enlightened & learned much from all of you wonderful IBC professors!
  4. I am interested in this proposition of studying the Hebrew Revelation. I am not a preacher or priest. But I need to understand the Biblical perspectives on the Hebrew revelations of the gospel. I hope that this would add up to gods God's messages to my life and family. Thank
  5. Dear Ashley, thanks for your article. Sadly I have become bitterly disillusioned with Christainity. My own Church has turned everything upsidedown preaching that Jeshua was the G-d of the Old Testament. I am now totally ostracised for my views and have found comfort in returning to my long lost faith.
    • Churches are run by people. All people are fallible and fallen. We must keep God and his word in their correct place making it easier to keep humans even our pastors and churches in their correct place in our hearts. Love them but know they're not always right 😉
    • Hi, Chris, I'm not sure of the issue you mention when you say "Jeshua was the G-d of the Old Testament." Surely the Second Person of the Trinity existed during the Old Testament. Are they denying God the Father?? I'm not sure what you are implying about your own church.
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  6. It's a great blessing to know that the meaning of Selah is deliverance. Thank you so much. I have shared with my friends.
  7. An understanding explained to me by a Bible scholar suggested it could be alternately a pause in the music or Stop and consider these things and some places it could be Both a pause in the music to Stop and consider our GOD
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