Have you ever wondered why many of the Psalms end in the word “Selah“? What does that term mean and why is it even important? If we consider the context of the passages and who they were written to, we can glean a few potential meanings. After considering each possible explanation, we can actually combine the meanings, and apply it to our lives today. Since this word was used 74x in the Old Testament, that shows God thought it important enough to include, so let’s discover why!

The book titled “Psalms” is a collection of songs, written by King David and others, with the intention of them being sung to the Lord. These could be reminders to the Israelites, or a confession, or sung while praying to the Lord. The word Selah is mentioned 71x in the Psalms, and always at the end of a verse or a collection of important thoughts.

For example, King David wrote Psalm 3, and he ended 3 of the 8 verses with this term. Here are 2 of them:
“I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
“Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah

And again in chapter 4, he writes 8 verses “To the choirmaster”, and ends 2 of the verses (or sections/thoughts) out of 8 verses with Selah. It is believed to be a musical term, meant to show when there should be an interlude, or intermission; a pause in the lyrics. Here is 1 of these verses:
“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah

Having read that verse, I think it states pretty plainly to ponder and be silent, considering those things that he mentioned and had just been sung about.

So let’s practice for a moment. Read through these verses, and after each one, ponder and be silent, dwelling on their message:

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah.”

In distress you called, and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah

I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land. Selah.

Lastly, Habakkuk 3:1-19 is a prayer by the prophet Habakkuk as he had a lengthy conversation with God. The truth is, his entire book is less prophecy for the Israelites and more his direct conversation with the Lord including complaints and questions of God’s judgments. In the end, he realized that the wisdom and justice of the Lord works out all things. When Habakkuk recalls what God has done and who He is, he has the readers pause and reflect, to remember and recognize the importance and power of God’s work among the people:
“His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways….Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah
You split the earth with rivers.”

Habakkuk 3:3b-6, 8b-9

In a nutshell, God’s Word is filled with such remarkable expressions, truths, and wisdom that far exceeds our own – of who God truly is – that the authors are indicating the importance of resting and contemplating what we have learned, at intervals where a new reminder occurs.

Herein is wisdom: when we pause for a moment or have an intermission during our reading, listening or singing of scripture, to reflect and weigh what we have just learned or heard; and after considering these truths, to praise God for His mercy, power, grace and consistent faithfulness to us in sharing His truths with us individually through His written Word, and His creation. Selah.

Food for thought: Try applying “Selah” to your own Bible reading every day. Yes, it takes some time, but that is how we allow truth to sink deeper into our hearts and minds. This is how the Holy Spirit can remind us of what we have learned.

Fun facts: Contemplation: to view or consider with careful and thoughtful attention. Meditating on things of God.

Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Selah in Scripture