What Does Selah Mean in the Bible?

The word Selah appears mainly in the book of Psalms and leaves us wondering about its true meaning. People have debated its significance for a long time. Some think it means “to pause or reflect,” which makes sense in the context.

However, because we are unsure of its exact meaning and why it is there, some modern Bible translations have removed Selah and placed it in footnotes.

This article will go through the meaning of Selah in the Bible.

The Meaning of Selah

In the book of Psalms, which consists of songs expressing various emotions such as praise, lament, and honesty, a significant term appears repeatedly, adding a structural element to the compositions: “Selah.” The first occurrence of Selah can be found in Psalm 3, written by David, when he fled for his life. In this particular psalm, the word Selah is repeated three times.

Many scholars believe that Selah serves as a musical directive, offering guidance for pauses, emphasis, and interruptions within the musical pieces. 

Similar to the shade of a welcoming tree, these purposeful pauses act as transitions, inviting us to quiet ourselves and reflect on the messages God may convey throughout this musical journey through Scripture. 

Why The Word Selah Matters

Selah holds a distinct significance in the Bible, even though it is not translated but rather transliterated from the original Hebrew. Transliteration means that instead of finding an equivalent English word with the same meaning, the original Hebrew word is sounded out and spelled in English characters to enable us to read and pronounce it.

In a translation, a Hebrew word would be replaced with an English word with the same meaning. However, a few words in the Bible do not have direct English equivalents or cannot be fully captured in translation. Selah is one such word.

The fact that Selah is transliterated emphasizes its importance. When we encounter Selah in the Psalms, we pronounce it in a manner that closely resembles how the original writers and readers would have spoken thousands of years ago. This preserves the connection to the historical and cultural context in which the Psalms were composed.

While we may not have a precise translation for Selah, its transliteration enables us to retain its essence and significance as intended by the psalmists. It allows us to engage with the Psalms in a way that aligns with the ancient traditions of worship and expression. 

Bottom Line

Despite our lack of understanding, the word Selah prompts us to pause and reflect on the profound messages that God may be conveying. It offers us a precious opportunity to step away from the hectic pace of our lives and contemplate God’s vast mysteries and marvels, echoing the sentiments expressed by Paul in Colossians 2:2-3.

Initially, we might resist these moments of pause. We incline to persist, overcome obstacles, achieve our goals, and continue moving forward. In doing so, we risk overlooking God’s invitations to rest or redirect our paths.

I hope we cultivate a heightened sensitivity to the promptings of His Spirit so that we never disregard a deliberate pause in His unfolding plan for our lives.

Pastor Christopher Turk
Pastor Christopher Turk

Christopher was the lead elder/pastor of the local Christian church in Penticton, British Columbia but he was forced to close his church due to a COVID-19 impact. He has a dedication to serving his Lord's church and a pulpit competence that honors the legacy of his predecessor. Christopher is a passionate visionary for the Lord and His Kingdom! His church ministry background spans over 30 years of full-time service. Support Christian by buying him a coffee.

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