What do the Words ‘Selah’ and ‘Higgaion’ Mean?
Mysterious Words in Scripture
‘Selah’ occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms, as well as in Habakkuk 3:3, 9 and 13.
There are six distinct opinions as to its meaning:
- a pause
- a repetition, like da capo
- the end of a strophe
- a playing with full power (fortissimo)
- a bending of the body, an obeisance;
- a short, recurring symphony (ritornello). It probably means an orchestral interlude or change from piano to forte.
With reference to the meaning of the word ‘Higgaion,’ 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.
The use of ‘Selah’ and ‘Higgaion’ in scripture:
God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah – Habakkuk 3:3
You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah – Habakkuk 3:9
You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah – Habakkuk 3:13
The Lord has made himself known; he has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah. – Psalm 9:16