How shall these two words properly be understod?

The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. (Psalm 9:16 KJV)

Are the common understanding of these two words correct as to mean meditation and paus?

הגיון Higayion (H1902)
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סלה Selah (H5542)
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  • 1
    The Davis Dictionary of the Bible provides the following definition: A musical term occurring in Psalm 9:16. The word is used elsewhere in the sense of solemn sound, meditation see Psalm 19:14; 42:3; Lamentations 3:63. In Psalm 9:16 the word is combined with Selah, which means a pause of unusual duration and solemnity. Commented Jun 20, 2021 at 10:09
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2 Answers 2


How shall these two words properly be understood?

The Insight on the Scriptures has the following information for the two words:


A technical term of musical direction. As used at Psalm 9:16, the word may signify either a solemn, deep-toned harp interlude or a solemn pause conducive to meditation.


A transliterated Hebrew expression found frequently in the Psalms and also appearing in Habakkuk chapter 3. Although it is generally thought to be a technical term for music or recitation, its exact significance is unknown. It is held by some to mean a “pause, suspension, or holding back,” either of the singing of the psalm for a musical interlude or of both singing and instrumental music for silent meditation. In either event, the pause was doubtless used to make the fact or sentiment just expressed more impressive, to allow the full import of the last utterance to sink in. The Greek Septuagint rendering of Selah is di·aʹpsal·ma, defined as “a musical interlude.” Selah always appears at the end of a clause and generally at the end of a strophe, every occurrence being in a song containing some kind of musical direction or expression. In Psalm 9:16 it is accompanied by “Higgaion,” there understood by some to be associated with the music of the harp.


This is a difficult question, but based on the small evidence available, I will concentrate on the words ‘SELA’ (a particular region/mountain) & ‘SELAH’ (general area/desert)

Isaiah 42:10-11

10 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11 Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the tops of the mountains.

Based on the above, in my opinion, it is clear that ‘Sela’ clearly relates to a place/region where Kedar lived

Sons of Ishmael

(Ishmael Sons Genesis 25)

Kedar is Ishmael's son and it is accepted that they lived in the desert/Arabia.

Ezekiel 27:21

Arabia and all the princes of Kedar were your favored dealers in lambs, rams, and goats; in these they did business with you

Job 6:19 - Son Tema [the Land of Tema in Arabia named after another son of Ishmael]

Jeremiah 25:23, 24

23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who have shaven temples; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed peoples that live in the desert;

Genesis 25:18

They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria; he settled down alongside of all his people.

Genesis 21:20-21

20 And God was with the boy, and he grew up and settled in the wilderness and became a great archer. 21 And while he was dwelling in the wilderness of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt. [talking about Ishmael]

Deuteronomy 1:1

These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan, in the Arabah, opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab. [Paran is also in Arabia]

Isaiah 60:7

All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple. [Nebaioth another son of Ishmael]


It is clear from the above and in particular Isaiah 42:10-11 that Selah is a place/area in Arabia and relates to the descendants of Ishmael who settled there in the desert and were Bedouins living in tents. They were Arabs and were arguably illiterate and spoke a different language from the Jews.

The descendants of Ishmael are promised in the bible to be a great nation.

This is a brief summary that is sufficient for this question, without going into full details about all the descendants of Ishmael and mentioning all passages related to them. I will point out a few passages for the reader’s interest;

Habakkuk 3:2-4

2 O LORD, I have heard the report of You; I stand in awe, O LORD, of Your deeds. Revive them in these years; make them known in these years. In Your wrath, remember mercy! 3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His glory covered the heavens, and His praise filled the earth. 4 His radiance was like the sunlight; rays flashed from His hand, where His power is hidden.

Isaiah 28:11

Nay, but by men of strange lips and with another tongue will he speak to this people;

Isaiah 29:12

And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”

Deuteronomy 33:2

And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them.

The above clearly relates to the descendants of Ishmael, not the Jews, the Gentiles, or Jesus.


Hebrew SALA or SELA is SALAH or Saleh in Arabic. Vowels are added to letters in Hebrew and Arabic to change the sound of letters. This is similar to the letters E, O, and other vowel letters in English.

Sela: סלע:
ס = S
ל = L
ע = A

Sela – name of a Mountain in Media, Saudi Arabia

Isaiah 60:7

All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.

[Nebaioth another son of Ishmael – Josephus & Jerome write about the Nebaioth / Nabateans who were a great trading community of ‘Petra’ however, ‘Madian Saleh’ less knows was their second largest city.]

Madin Saleh – is a desert in Saudi Arabia – where the eldest son of Ishmael Nebaioth's descendants lived (the Nabateans)

Isaiah 21:1, 2

1 The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. 2 A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease.

Psalms 84:4

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah

Psalms 46:3

[Though] the waters thereof roar [and] be troubled, [though] the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

Habakkuk 3:3

God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah

  • Thank you for your contribution! Isaiah 42:11 Sela is H5554 סלע while Selah in e.g Psalm 68:19 is H5542 סלה. They are two different words with different spellings! Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 7:39
  • 1
    @DanielDahlberg hope you are well. Thank you for your comment, apologies for the delay in replying. Yes - my answer was not very clear, I have amended it and added a note at the end. My position is that Sela is a particular area / mountain and Selah is the wider region / desert. Commented Sep 4, 2023 at 14:32
  • I'm good thanks, hope you well as well! Is Hab 3:3 what has been added? Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 9:12
  • 1
    @DanielDahlberg - The first line was changed and after the conclusion i have put ADDED - everything after that Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 13:43

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