While selecting Psalm 3 as the scripture for this week’s bulletin, I again read that friendly word Selah and reflected a bit and realized I did not know what Selah means.
My memory had me thinking that someone had told me that Selah was the Hebrew equivalent to Amen (roughly so be it). However, with some minor research, this was found not to be the case. As it turns out Selah is difficult to define.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, states that Selah (pronouncing it as – SEE-lah) is a “term of unknown meaning” appearing only in Psalms, and Habakkuk 3.
The dictionary entry continued by stating, “Scholars have advanced various unprovable theories” and offered the following items as possible meanings:
1. A pause either for silence or musical interlude
2. A signal for the congregation to sing, recite, or fall prostrate on the ground
3. A cue for the cymbals to crash
4. A word to be shouted by the congregation
5. A sign to the choir to sing a higher pitch or louder
Holman provided one more piece of information, stating that the “earliest Jewish traditions thought [Selah] meant ‘forever.’”
Vine’s Expository Dictionary states that Selah “often connects what precedes with what follows (sometimes by way of contrast), so as to stress both, as if saying, ‘This being so, give heed to what is now to be said.’ Its connecting significance may be seen in linking one Psalm with another, as in Psalm 3 and [Psalm] 4.”
My hope was that Selah would be concretely defined, but from these sources it seems that Selah places special emphasis on a certain point in the scripture. Selah apparently was used to emphasize a certain word, a particular thought, or a transition in discussion.