3 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah[a] 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah Psalm 3
Through the Bible: Psalm 3-4, 12-13, 28, 55
The Hebrew word selah appears 74 times in the Old Testament, and all but three are in the Psalms. It appears three times in Psalm 3: once at the end of verse 2, after David cries out because of how many foes are rising up against him.
Then again in verse 4, after David writes,
I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.
And finally, after the declaration of praise in verse 8:
Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people.
The precise meaning of selah is one of the enduring mysteries of the Bible. Since it figures so prominently in the Psalms, most commentators believe it is some kind musical direction— a note to the musicians to pause or rest. We all need reminders to rest. And if we don’t rest, then God will often rest us. Think about Psalm 23: the Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures (see Day 209: How a Panic Attack Taught Me the Meaning of Selah )
Some think it is related to a Hebrew word meaning to weigh or measure something in a balance. So perhaps it indicates that a profound word has just been spoken, and the reader should carefully consider it. Weigh that word in the balance. Especially if it is something hard to understand. Measure it against the rest of Scripture. Remember the Bereans in Acts 17 (see Day 330: Be a Berean)
Others suggest it is related to Hebrew words meaning to praise or to lift up. Maybe Selah is the Psalms’ equivalent of the Church Clap.
I’m grateful for the wisdom of translators who leave the word untranslated. That way, it gives us the freedom to make a mash-up definition with all three meanings:
“Pause: Weigh what you just read in the balance, and carefully consider it, because it’s really heavy. And when you do, lift up your hands in praise.”
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