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Selah (Hebrew: סֶלָה‎, also transliterated as selāh) is a word used frequently in the Hebrew Bible, often in the Psalms and is a difficult concept to translate. (It should not be confused with the Hebrew word sela‘ (Hebrew: סֶלַע‎) which means "rock.") It is probably either a liturgico-musical mark or an instruction on the reading of the text, something like "stop and listen". "Let those with eyes see and with ears hear" is most concise. "Selah" can also be used to indicate that there is to be a musical interlude at that point in the Psalm. [1]

The Psalms were sung accompanied by musical instruments and there are references to this in many chapters. Thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master" include the word "Selah". Selah notes a break in the song and as such is similar in purpose to Amen in that it stresses the importance of the preceding passage. Alternatively, Selah may mean "forever", as it does in some places in the liturgy (notably the second to last blessing of the Amidah). Another interpretation claims that Selah comes from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which means "to hang", and by implication to measure (weigh).[2] Also "Selah" is the name of a city from the time of David and Solomon.[3]


In Islam and in Arabic generally, Salah (صلاة‎, also pronounced Ṣalāt) means "prayer", and selah means "connection". Both words come from the same original root sel which means "connect".

It is probable that the reason for the confusion is that the word has all the meanings suggested, concurrently.

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Etymology

Its etymology and precise meaning are unknown. This word occurs seventy-one times in thirty-nine of the Psalms, and three times in Habakkuk 3. It is found at the end of Psalms 3, 24, and 46, and in most other cases at the end of a verse, the exceptions being Psalms 55:19, 57:3, and Hab. 3:3, 9.

The significance of this term was apparently not known even by ancient Biblical commentators. This can be seen by the variety of renderings given to it. The Septuagint, Symmachus, and Theodotion translate διάψαλμα — a word as enigmatical in Greek as is "Selah" in Hebrew. The Hexapla simply transliterates σελ. Aquila, Jerome, and the Targum translate it as "always". According to Hippolytus (De Lagarde, "Novæ Psalterii Græci Editionis Specimen" 10), the Greek term διάψαλμα signified a change in rhythm or melody at the places marked by the term, or a change in thought and theme. Against this explanation Baethgen ("Psalmen," p. 15, 1st ed. Göttingen, 1892) notes that Selah also occurs at the end of some psalms.

"Sela" on a Tympanon of the Nikolaikirche in Stralsund

According to Tony Warren[4] there is an alternate interpretation: Selah, [celah], is from the primary Hebrew root word [calah] which means 'to hang,' and by implication to measure (weigh). This is readily understood because in Biblical history, money, food and other valuables were 'weighed' by hanging or suspending them on a type of balance (the equivalent of our measuring scale) to determine their value. We find an example of this word [calah] as it is literally translated 'valued,' in the book of Job, indicating that which is measured.

Job 28:15-16

"It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire."

The word translated valued is the exact same Hebrew word [calah], and it quite obviously means "measured against." In this context, God is telling us that wisdom "cannot be measured against the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire." Here the translation 'valued' is to illustrate the measuring of something for an exchange. i.e. wisdom cannot be measured with the gold of Ophir. It is beyond that value. In verse nineteen we see this very same illustration again.

Job 28:19

"The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold."

Again, this word translated valued is the Hebrew word [calah] meaning measured. This passage is declaring of wisdom that, "The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither can it be measured against pure gold." In other words, it is beyond comparison or measuring against. And by these type examples of comparing scripture with scripture, noting a word's context, and how it relates to other words, we can very easily begin to see the true meaning of words. And in this context, this means "measured" against something else, illustrating that wisdom cannot be measured, not even with pure gold. What does Selah Mean So seeing that this Hebrew word [calah] means to 'measure,' as in weighing something in the balances, we better understand how the word Selah [celah], which is derived from it, is illustrating that we should measure or value what has been said. In other words, just as we would say today, the diplomat should, "weigh what he says carefully." Or if we were to say that, "The lawyer measured his words to the Jury." Or again, if we said, "we should consider the Professor's words wisely." All those sentences are speaking of the very same thing. And the word [celah] is used in this very same way. It is an illustration that we should 'measure' or value carefully what has just been said. And you may not realize this (because it's so seldom brought to light), but it is not only in the Psalms and Habakkuk, it is also a word which is used in the lamentations of Jerusalem. And of course, it is 'hardly' illustrating a musical stop or poetic notation there.

Lamentations 1:15

"The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men in the midst of me: he hath called an assembly against me to crush my young men: the Lord hath trodden the virgin, the daughter of Judah, as in a winepress."

The four words translated 'hath trodden under foot' is actually the very same Hebrew word Selah [celah]. Here in the lamentations or mourning of Jerusalem, God is illustrating that the Lord has "measured" or weighed all the mighty men in the midst of her. In other words, it is an illustration that they were weighed in the balances, and found wanting (Daniel 5:27), thus their judgement is required. So again we see the word is illustrating measured. And just so that there is no confusion, note carefully that the second part of that verse where it says the Lord hath "trodden [darak] the virgin," is an entirely different word, and indeed means to tred. No doubt in this context, this is why it was thought the word [celah] should also be translated trodden. What does Selah Mean As we know, this word is extensively used in the Psalms. And the reason is that the psalms are a prayer book, divinely-inspired songs of the people of Israel, often messianic, allegorical, and historically parabolic. That is to say, history, replete with spiritual meanings. The Selah is there to signal the believer to 'measure' carefully the meaning of what has been said. i.e., here is wisdom, reflect and understand. Just as the Hebrew word Amen [amen] is an exclamation of confidence or truth and certainty of what has been said, so Selah [celah], is an exclamation that we should measure and reflect upon what has been said.

Psalms 4:4

"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah."

Psalms 9:20

"Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah."

Psalms 57:6

"They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah."

Psalms 62:8

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

Psalms 89:3-4

"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,
Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah."

Whether of urging our meditation upon our sinfulness, declaring God is our refuge, or speaking in 'types' about Christ, this word is an exhortation for us to be wise and measure or weigh what has been said that we understand. It is used in the Psalms seventy-three times, and is also used in Habakkuk three times. Each time it is illustrating that we should measure wisely or 'weigh' solemnly what is said.

Habakkuk 3:13

"Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah."

This is not a passage to pass over lightly as just a simple narrative. Here is wisdom and spiritual understanding. Whenever we see this word in scripture, we should understand that the Lord is exhorting us to 'weigh' these things thoughtfully, and to reflect and consider in good sense judgment, what is 'really' being said.

Modern ideas

E. W. Bullinger believes "Selah" is a conjunction linking two verses (or thoughts, or Psalms) together either in contrast, further explanation, or to mark a cause/effect relationship.

Another meaning is given by assigning it to the root, as an imperative that should not properly have been vocalized , "Sollah" (Ewald, "Kritische Grammatik der Hebräischen Sprache,"p. 554; König, "Historisch-Kritisches Lehrgebäude der Hebräischen Sprache," ii., part i., p. 539). The meaning of this imperative is given as "Lift up," equivalent to "loud" or "fortissimo," a direction to the accompanying musicians to break in at the place marked with crash of cymbals and blare of trumpets, the orchestra playing an interlude while the singers' voices were hushed. The effect, as far as the singer was concerned, was to mark a pause. This significance, too, has been read into the expression or sign, "Selah" being held to be a variant of "shelah" (="pause"). But as the interchange of "shin" and "samek" is not usual in Biblical Hebrew, and as the meaning "pause" is not held to be applicable in the middle of a verse, or where a pause would interrupt the sequence of thought, this proposition has met with little favor.

Grätz argues that "Selah" introduces a new paragraph, and also in some instances a quotation (eg, psalms 57:8 et seq. from 108:2 et seq.) The fact that the term occurs four times at the end of a psalm would not weigh against this theory. The Psalms were meant to be read in sequence, and, moreover, many of them are fragments; indeed, psalm 9 is reckoned one with psalm 10 in the Septuagint, which omits διάψαλμα (diapsalma) also at the end of psalms 3, 24, and 46 B. Jacob (l.c.) concludes (1) that since no etymological explanation is possible, "Selah" signifies a pause in or for the Temple song; and (2) that its meaning was concealed lest the Temple privileges should be obtained by the synagogues or perhaps even by the churches.

Contemporary usage

"Selah" is used in Iyaric Rastafarian vocabulary. It can be heard at the end of spoken-word segments of some reggae songs. Its usage here, again, is to accentuate the magnitude and importance of what has been said, and often is a sort of substitute for Amen. The Iyaric term has also been said by folk etymology to signify "Seal up" as in, "may JAH seal up any inadvertent mistakes in what was said".[5]

Furman Bisher, the well-known former sports editor and current columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has for decades signed off his columns with "Selah."

Literary instances

"Selah!" is used at the end of the second part (titled Dimanche) of Conversations dans le Loir-et-Cher by French writer Paul Claudel (1935). Selah is the last word in Anita Diamant's book, The Red Tent and in Edward Dahlberg's Because I Was Flesh. In Hunter S. Thompson's collected works "Songs of the Doomed" and Fear and Loathing in America: the Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist the word "Selah" is used frequently in letters and diatribes written from the 1960s to the 1990s. The word is used similarly to the word "allora" in Italy. It is also akin to Kurt Vonnegut's use of the phrase "So it goes" in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Selah in the Psalms". http://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2007/07/selah-in-the-ps.html.  
  2. ^ Tony Warren. "What Does Selah Mean". The Mountain Retreat. http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/faq/selah.html. Retrieved 2008-09-13.  
  3. ^ William R. Shepherd (1923). "Reference Map of Ancient Palestine". http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/shepherd/ancient_palestine_ref_1926.jpg. Retrieved 2008-09-13.  
  4. ^ http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/faq/selah.html
  5. ^ "Selah in Urban Dictionary". Urban Dictionary (database). http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=selah. Retrieved 2009-06-09.  

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

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Selah [1] is a small city in the Columbia River Plateau region of Washington State.

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

Interjection

Selah

  1. An exclamation, used to punctuate Psalm verses.
    • God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah. (Psalm 52:5, KJV)
    • I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah. (Psalm 61:4, KJV)

Proper noun

Selah

  1. A female given name derived from the biblical interjection ( possibly mistaken for a name) .

Anagrams


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

a word frequently found in the Book of Psalms, and also in Hab 3:9, Hab 3:13, about seventy-four times in all in Scripture. Its meaning is doubtful. Some interpret it as meaning "silence" or "pause;" others, "end," "a louder strain," "piano," etc. The LXX. render the word by daplasma i.e., "a division."

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Term of uncertain etymology and grammatical form and of doubtful meaning. It occurs seventy-one times in thirty-nine of the Psalms, and three times in Hab. iii. It is placed at the end of Ps. iii., ix., xxiv., xlvi., and in most other cases at the end of a verse, the exceptions being Ps 5520, lvii. 4, and Hab 3:3, 9. Of the psalms in which it is found, twenty-three belong to the group in which "Elohim" is used to designate God; twenty-eight to that called by Briggs the "director's ( (missing hebrew text) ="choir-leader"; See Psalms, Critical View) copies"; and twenty to the "Davidie" collection. Again, nine of the twelve Korahite and seven (LXX. eight, including lxxx. 8) of the twelve Asaph psalms have the term. Three psalms with "Selah" are headed "Miktam"; seven, "Maskil"; ten, "Shir"; twenty-six, "Mizmor"; while Habakkuk iii. is superscribed "Tefillah."

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Technical Term.

That the real significance of this curious term (or combination of letters) was not known even by the ancient versions is evidenced by the variety of renderings given to it. The Septuagint, Symmachus, and Theodotion translate διάψαλμα—a word as enigmatical in Greek as is "Selah" in Hebrew. The Hexapla simply transliterates σελ. Aquila, Jerome, and the Targum give it the value of "always" (Aquila, ἀεί; Jerome, "semper"; Targum, for the most part (missing hebrew text) = "in secula" or (missing hebrew text) = "semper"). Theodotion in Ps 917 has the translation ἀεί; the Quinta gives εἰς τοὺς αἰόνας ( (missing hebrew text) ); and the Sexta, διαπντός, (in Ps 204, εἰς τέλος). Jacob of Edessa, quoted by Bar Hebræus (on Ps 101), notices that instead of διάψαλμα some copies present αεί= (missing hebrew text) ; and he explains this as, referring to the custom of the people of reciting a doxology at the end of paragraphs of the liturgical psalms. In five passages (see Field, Hexapla on Ps. xxxviii. [Hebr, xxxix.] 12) Aquila offers, according to the Hexaplar Syriac, (missing hebrew text) ="song," the ἀσμα by which, Origen reports Aquila to have replaced the διάψαλμα of the Septuagint. According to Hippolytus (De Lagarde, "Novæ Psalterii Græci Editionis Specimen" 10), the Greek term διάψαλμα signified a change in rhythm or melody at the places marked by the term, or a change in thought and theme. Against this explanation Baethgen ("Psalmen," p. xv., 1st ed. Göttingen, 1892) urges the circumstancethat the enigmatical expression occurs also at the end of psalms. The cogency of this objection would hold if the mark had been inserted by the original writer and not, as is most probable, by a later editor who may have expected the Psalms to be recited in succession without reference to the divisions in the Masoretic text; or if it were an indubitable fact that where in the Hebrew a psalm now ends it ended in the original. Augustin (on Ps 43) regards διάψαμα as indicating that what follows is not to be joined to the preceding. He suggests also the possibility that the Hebrew "Selah" meant "Fiat" = "Let there be [made]." The Masoretic accentuation always connects "Selah" with the preceding, as though it were part of the text or thought, most likely because it was held to mean "forever." In fact, the vowel-points in (missing hebrew text) seem to indicate a "ḳere" (missing hebrew text) (with "ḳameẓ" on account of ת)= "forever" (see B. Jacob in Stade's "Zeitschrift," xvi. [1896] 129 et seq.).

Modern Views.

Nor is there greater unanimity among modern scholars than among the ancient versions. Only on one point there agreement, namely, that "Selah" has no grammatical connection with the text. It is either a liturgico-musical mark or a sign of another character with a bearing on the reading or the verbal form of the text. As thirty-one of the thirty-nine psalms with the caption "To the choir-master [ (missing hebrew text) ]" present "Selah," the musical value of the mark has been regarded as well assured. In keeping with this it has been assigned to the root (missing hebrew text) , as an imperative that should properly have been vocalized (missing hebrew text) , "Sollah" (Ewald, "Kritische Grammatik der Hebräischen Sprache,"p. 554; König, "Historisch-Kritisches Lehrgebäude der Hebräischen Sprache," ii., part i., p. 539). The meaning of this imperative is given as "Lift up," equivalent to "loud" or "fortissimo," a direction to the accompanying musicians to break in at the place marked with crash of cymbals and blare of trumpets, the orchestra playing an interlude while the singers' voices were hushed. The effect, as far as the singer was concerned, was to mark a pause. This significance, too, has been read into the expression or sign, "Selah" being held to be a variant of "shelah" ( (missing hebrew text) ="pause"). But as the interchange of "shin" and "samek" is not usual in Biblical Hebrew, and as the meaning "pause" is clearly inapplicable in the middle of a verse or where a pause would interrupt the sequence of thought, this proposition has met with little favor. Neither has that which proposes to treat it as a loan-word from the Greek ψάλλε = "strike the harp," etc.

Grätz ("Kritischer Commentar zu den Psalmen," i. 93 et seq.) argues that "Selah" introduces a new paragraph as it were, a transition in thought, and also in some instances a quotation (e.g., Ps 578 et seq. from cviii. 2 et seq.). The fact that the term occurs four times at the end of a psalm would not weigh against this theory. As stated above, the Psalms were meant to be read in sequence, and, moreover, many of them are fragments; indeed, Ps. ix. is reckoned one with Ps. x. in the Septuagint, which omits διάψαλμα also at the end of Ps. iii., xxiv., and xlvi. B. Jacob (l.c.) concludes (1) that since no etymological explanation is possible, "Selah" signifies a pause in or for the Temple song; and (2) that its meaning was concealed lest the Temple privileges should be obtained by the synagogues or perhaps even by the churches.

More Liturgical than Musical.

Another series of explanations is grounded on the assumption that its signification is liturgical rather than musical. It marks the place, and is an appeal, for the bystanders to join in with a eulogistic response. Briggs ("Jour. Bib. Lit." 1899, p. 142) accepts the etymology and grammatical explanation given above, i.e., that "Selah" is a cohortative imperative, meaning "Lift up [your benediction]," the eulogy with which psalms or sections of psalms were concluded. One would expect the imperative to be in the plural if the address was to more than one bystander. However, Briggs' explanation indicates the line along which the mystery connected with this term or combination of consonants is to be removed. It has been suspected that "Selah" is an artificial word formed from initials.

Probably a Contracted Form.

That is probably the case, though the resolution of the initials usually suggested, (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) (= "Return to the beginning, O singer"), has to be abandoned. The renderings in the versions, "'olmin," άεί, and the like (= "forever"), if they do not prove that (missing hebrew text) is a corruption for (missing hebrew text) —the word "'olam" standing for the first noun in the benediction—create a strong presumption that the initials of the verse in which "'olam" occurs are hidden in the puzzling word "Selah." Grätz (l.c.) shows that in Ps 5520 (missing hebrew text) is a corruption for (missing hebrew text) (or even for (missing hebrew text) ), meaning "destroy"; and a similar corruption of the first and third consonants throughout has contrived to make "Selah" the "crux interpretum." If in some instances (missing hebrew text) or (missing hebrew text) (= "destroy") be read and in others (missing hebrew text) , the enigma disappears. "K l ḥ" represents the eulogy "Ki le'olam ḥasdo" ( (missing hebrew text) ), hence the (missing hebrew text) or ἀεὶ of the versions—a eulogy which is familiar and which is found as such in the Psalms (Ps 1005, cvi. 1, cvii. 1, cxviii. 1 et seq.; especially cxxxvi.; also I (Chron. xvi. 34, 41; 2Chr 5:13, xx. 21). This is confirmed by the fact that just such phrases as (missing hebrew text) , and perhaps (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) , actually do occur in passages where "Selah" might stand equally well and with as little bearing on the context (Ps 5211, 12). In Ps 3411 (missing hebrew text) at the end is certainly superfluous; but it stands where one would expect this very term (missing hebrew text) ; and, therefore, it is not too bold a conjecture to read here (missing hebrew text) in the sense of a technical abbreviation of the eulogy. In this connection the midrash on Ps. cxviii. is of importance; quoting Isa 3:10, it commands that after the mention of the righteous the words (missing hebrew text) should be added, but that after reference to an evil-doer a curse should be pronounced.

The latter injunction throws light on many passages in which "Selah" has another sense than that noted above, and in which it should be read (missing hebrew text) or (missing hebrew text) (= "Destroy them"), as one word. It is noticeable that the term occurs frequently after areference to evil-doers (Ps 43; vii. 6; ix. 21; xxxii. 5; xlix. 14 [xlix. 16 ?]; lii. 5; liv. 5; lvii. 4, 7; lix. 6; lxii. 5; lxvi. 7; lxxxii. 2; lxxxviii. 8; lxxxix. 46, 49; cxl. 6; Hab. iii. [A. V. ii.] 13); and at the mention of these the bystanders break forth into malediction, as they do into benediction at the mention of God's wonderful deeds. Their comment on the recital is "Destroy them," "Make an end of them," or "of the evils," i.e., "Forego" (as in Ps 888). "Selah" is thus identical with (missing hebrew text) as twice repeated in Ps 5914(Hebr.), "Destroy in anger; destroy that they be no more." This very verse ends with "Selah," which, as explained above, is a repetition (but in the mouths of the bystanders) of the passionate outcry (missing hebrew text) (="Destroy").

Sometimes Meaning "Delete."

Some few passages remain in which (missing hebrew text) seems to fit in neither as a eulogy—i.e., as a corruption of (missing hebrew text) or as an artificial combination of initials making (missing hebrew text) —nor as an imprecation. But even in these the reading (missing hebrew text) (="Destroy") suggests itself, not indeed as a liturgical response, but as a note to indicate that something in the text should be deleted. This seems to be the case in Ps 558 (R. V. 7), where verses 8 and 9 virtually conflict; for the desert is the place where storms blow. "Selah" here has the appearance of a sign that the verse, being a quotation from somewhere else and really not belonging to the psalm, should be omitted. The same holds good in Ps 818, where the third member of the verse is clearly it marginal note explanatory of the preceding. "Selah" after (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) , "at the waters of Meribah, "indicates this fact, and means (missing hebrew text) (="Delete"). Another instance of this is Ps 606, where the words (missing hebrew text) break the connection between verses 6a and 7, and really make no sense. In Hab. iii. (ii.) 3, 9, also, "Selah" points to some defect in the text.

Perhaps the latter use of the term will throw light on the origin of the Greek διάψαλμα. It may be connected with the verb διαψάω = "to rub away thoroughly," "to erase." At all events some of the versions point to a reading in which (missing hebrew text) was visible, e.g., διαπαντός (Sexta), while the translation of Aquila according to the Hexaplar Syriac, (missing hebrew text) , meaning "responsive, antiphonal song," corroborates the assumption that the benediction or malediction was marked as anticipated in the passage.

"Selah" occurs also in the text of the Shemoneh 'Esreh. This fact shows that at the time when the text of this prayer was finally fixed, the term had become a familiar one; and as the "Shemoneh 'Esreh" draws its vocabulary largely from the Psalms, the appearance of "Selah" in the prayer is not strange. In the Talmud that word is treated as a synonym of "neẓaḥ" and "wa'ed," all three signifying eternal continuance without interruption ('Er. 54a, (missing hebrew text) (missing hebrew text) ). Ḳimḥi connects the term with the verb (missing hebrew text) (= "lift up"), and applies it to the voice, which should be lifted up, or become louder at the places marked by it (commentary on Ps 32). Ibn Ezra (on Ps 32) regards it as an equivalent of (missing hebrew text) or (missing hebrew text) , an affirmative corroborative expletive.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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