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What is the current scholarly opinion on the possible translations for "Selah" (סֶלָה‎) as used in the Psalms?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Per Strong's, the word itself means to lift up, exalt.

However, when we see it used in Psalms (per the question), it's accepted that this is a musical term used to accentuate the passage, pause or show interruption. (Again, this is per Strong's.)

Psalms 3:1-2 (NASB)
1 O LORD, how my adversaries have increased!
Many are rising up against me.
2 Many are saying of my soul,
“There is no deliverance for him in God.”
Selah.

Gesenius's Lexicon shows that this term is probably used for rest or silence:

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Wikipedia has a much longer discussion about this one word (including many different opinions).

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Perhaps, an answer of sorts would exist in other musical/ poetic traditions of the middle east in general. It's highly likely there may be a trace of the art/tech of its usage evident in other musical traditions of area. Contemplative poetry is I believe still a high cultural value in the middle east in general....? (Coleman Barks may be best example of this for westerners?) Also, music that provokes religious feeling is a technology that combines the use of both halves of brain. A pause may be for processing to take place. A good musician... Sensitive to his / her audience would pause for feedback from audience? Not being a musician of that sort I can only imagine it would be a very subtle art?

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Welcome to our Biblical Hermeneutics site, Phil! I can't help but notice you raise more questions than the question itself. ;-) We're looking for more complete answers (such as Richard's), so this is more of a comment than a real answer. If you'd like, I can convert it for you or, if you'd prefer, you could edit it some more to fill out a complete answer. Please see How to Answer. –  Jon Ericson Jul 24 '12 at 17:12
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