Selah (Psalm 66)

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The Hebrew word Selah occurs 74 times in the Old Testament, often at the ends of stanzas within the psalms or at the ends of entire psalms. Three of these occurrences appear in the prayer song of Habakkuk 3. While scholars concur that this is a musical term, there is little agreement as to its precise meaning.

  • Some suggest that Selah is derived from salal, which means “to lift up”. If this is correct, Selah could be an instruction either to raise the voice or to increase the instrumenta volume during an interlude.
  • Some take it to indicate a pause or breath in singing, perhaps reflecting an understanding of the instrumental interlude above.
  • Some posit that Selah marks an affirmation of what has just been sung – much like the Amen in later Judaism and Christianity.

The presence of musical directions within the psalms reminds modern readers that these compositions were not intended simply to be read but were for Israel a part of a total, vibrant worship experience.


 

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