George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

7. Selah

This word occurs for the first time in Psalm 3. It is used 71 times in the Psalms and three other times (all in Habakkuk 3). The scholars have a great deal of difficulty with this word, and widely varying opinions are offered as to its meaning and purpose. One thought emerges, however, from the tangle of conflicting definitions and opinions: “Selah”, whether a musical term or not, carries the implication of pausing or resting (LXX, Young’s). It is therefore a thought link for reflection or meditation. When occurring at the end of a psalm “Selah” forms a close link with the succeeding psalm. Therefore on several occasions (Psalms 3/4, 9/10, 24/25, and 46/47) we have the plain indication to join two psalms together in our study.

“Selah” may also refer to the Rock (Hebrew “Sela”) — a common name of God in the Psalms (18:2; 31:3; 40:2; 42:9; 71:3; 78:16), probably with special reference to the altar-rock in Zion (see esp. Isa. 8:14; 28:16; Psa. 118:22; and Whittaker, Bible Studies, pp. 111-116), upon which sacrifice was offered to Him. Thus “Selah” may indicate that the singers should pause for reflection or meditation, while the priests proceed to offer the sacrifice.

In regard to sacrifice, note especially the context of “Selah” in the following passages: 20:3; 24:6; 32:5; 39:11; 44:8; 54:5; 57:3,6; 61:4; 81:7; and 87:3,6.
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