As we close our study of the rich vocabulary of the OT, we could not consider a more appropriate final word than selāh (H5542). It appears seventy-one times in the Psalms and three times in a prayer by Habakkuk (Hab_3:3; Hab_3:9; Hab_3:13), which was set to a tune and directed to the chief singer. It is not surprising it is omitted in the corrupt Latin Vulgate, but does appear in the Septuagint and is translated as diapsalma, which refers to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing.
While the precise meaning is not known for sure, several possibilities have been offered. Some think it derives from a root (sal) that means “to raise, elevate, lift up” and suppose that it directs an elevation in the voice, to sing louder, or to pitch the tune up to a higher key, because there is nobler matter to come. Others view it as an affirmation of the truth of something, whether good or bad, and render it “verily” or “truly,” corresponding to the idea of “Amen,” that is, “so be it,” “so shall it be.”
The most common view, however, is that this is a musical notation that means a pause and musical interlude and is derived from the word salah, “to strew or spread out,” implying that the subject should be spread out, meditated upon, strewn out in front of us that we might attentively consider it. It often follows a noteworthy statement, good or bad, and likely indicates a pause for reflection while the instruments play an interlude. This seems to be the most probable meaning.
When we read this word, then, we are encouraged to pause, reflect, meditate, and consider carefully what has been said. This meaning is made all the more probable by its use in Psa_9:16 : “The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.” As noted at the beginning of our study (January 6), the transliterated word Higgaion (higgāyôn, H1902) means meditation (January 6), musing, and thinking in the heart. How we should, indeed, reflect and meditate on verses such as Psa_66:4 : “All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.”
Dear Christian Friend, the author and publisher of this book pray that selāh will become an important word in your Christian walk. May God richly bless you.
Scriptures for Study: Read the following occurrences of selāh: Psa_24:10; Psa_44:8; Psa_50:6; Psa_59:13; Psa_62:8; Psa_66:4; Psa_68:19; Psa_68:32; Psa_143:6.
Soli deo Gloria — To God alone be the glory.