What does “Selah” mean?

A reader recently asked me if I’d found a good definition of Selah. Given my mild obsession with the Psalms as of late, I enjoyed looking into this.

The definition of selah has long been a mystery. The word is taken straight from ancient Hebrew—it’s just transliterated into your alphabet. It’s a verb, which means it could be directions to the original musicians and singers.

You’ve probably come across a few ideas. “Pause” and “Crescendo” probably appear in some of your Bible margins—mostly because scholars have associated the Hebrew word selah with other Hebrew words that mean “silence” or “to raise.” Somehow, this signal contributed to the ancient Hebrew poems that we find it in.

One cool way of seeing what Hebrew words mean is to see how the ancient Jewish translators thought of it. When the Old Testament was first translated into Greek, they translated the Hebrew word selah to the Greek word diapsalma, which means “musical interlude.”

In my opinion, if the Old Hebrew translators thought selah means “musical interlude,” it’s probably the closest definition.

But I still like to imagine Selah means “air harp solo.”

Air harp on Make A Gif

I used my favorite Bible study tool, Logos Bible software, to do research that made this post possible. If you're a Bible geek like me, you might want to check it out.