Selah: Meaning


Se-lah! Se-lah! (Sung to the tune of "Hey-ya" in my head, not even kidding). Selah has been popping up everywhere today. A lovely reader shared with me today that she named her daughter Selah---which I think is a fantastic name! Unique, full of meaning, love it. 

Later I read an update from a friend on her blog that ended with an exclamation of "Selah!" And of course, my father in law loves Selah worship music. Selah Selah Selah. It's everywhere. And it occurred to me that I don't actually know what Selah means. So I did what any responsible internet user would do. I googled it.

I was surprised to find that there is not really clear definition/meaning for the word Selah. There were all sorts of interpretations. It's Hebrew, for sure. Possible meanings: "To measure or weigh in the balances", "value", "to praise or lift up", "to pause and think calmly about", "rock", "stop and listen", "amen", "forever", or the most just stands for a musical interlude or pause. And I guess it was also a city.

(If you use the name/expression and have a specific meaning---feel free to share it with me.)

I like "to pause and think calmly about" because it implies a quiet reflection...something I do often. It also has a lot of implications about having value and finding balance. It's a good word to embody of lot of the changes John Paul and I are experiencing right now with becoming parents, helping plant a church, and so many other things.

And of course it made me think about the meanings of the names we have in mind for the baby.

John Paul and I love the idea of choosing names that are full of meaning. John Paul's name is special because it has a story. It wasn't chosen until the moment he was born. He had the cord wrapped around his neck and could have died, but he didn't. And so his dad named him John Paul. John means "God is gracious" and Paul means "dependent on God". Because for his dad, John Paul would be here without God's grace upon which he was dependent.

A lot of the names we've chosen we've put a lot of thought into the meaning. A name doesn't have to have any significance. I love my name and it just means "Christmas" in french. But, we like the idea of it having meaning. There's always a chance that our child will find meaning and sentiment in their name. If we name them after a family member...they may want to know more about the person they were named after. If we name them after a person in the Bible, they may find themselves reading those passages and relating to that person more because of the shared name. They may wonder why we chose the name we did.

Here's an example of a name we specifically didn't pick because of the meaning:


John Paul and I think that the name Absalom is really cool. And one meaning is "my father is peace". Not bad. But we'd never name our child Absalom. And that's mostly because in the Bible, Absalom was arrogant, vain, a murderer, a traitor that tried to overthrow his Father the King and incite a rebellion, sexually promiscuous, and was eventually caught by his hair in a tree and then murdered. What an embarrassing way to go. Absalom is also the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland (at least Tim Burtons version) and characters is a lot of other literature. But alas, none of them are very endearing. I still think it 's a sweet name, but we just couldn't bring ourselves to name our son after a rebellious murderer. One website said "it is seldom used today perhaps because of its traditional association with grief." Yeah...

Right now, the name we have picked out for a girl doesn't have any real special meaning or story. We just like it and the meaning is nice if not special. The name we have picked out for a boy has a lot of meaning. And that's the thing...words and names only have the meaning we give them. We are in no way determining the person they will be with their name so I'm not real worried about having some grand reasoning for the name...but it can't hurt to try right?


  1. But "Absalom, Absalom!" is such a great Faulkner novel! Granted, not full of happy endings either though..

  2. Ha yes! That was definitely one of the "literature references" I was thinking of, but doesn't do a whole lot in the favor of the name.

  3. HAHA! Now singing Selah's name to Hey-ya! Love it!
    There's so much in a name, huh?
    Naming is just such a big deal. You're giving a human something to be identified with for the rest of their life.
    Something you have to love if you're going to call something so precious to you so often.
    Such a big responsibility.
    So many possibilities.

    I love how God already knows the perfect name for these children. Such peace when you think that he's just waiting on our hearts to settle on the perfect name.

  4. my good friends named their daughter selah :) i think it's beautiful!