on Psalms 3 :2
No help for him in God - These were some of the reproaches of his enemies, Shimei and others: "He is now down, and he shall never be able to rise. God alone can save him from these his enemies; but God has visibly east him off." These reproaches deeply affected his heart; and he mentions them with that note which so frequently occurs in the Psalms, and which occurs here for the first time, סלה selah. Much has been said on the meaning of this word; and we have nothing but conjecture to guide us. The Septuagint always translate it by Διαψαλμα diapsalma, "a pause in the Psalm." The Chaldee sometimes translates it by לעלמין lealmin, "for ever." The rest of the versions leave it unnoticed. It either comes from סל sal, to raise or elevate, and may denote a particular elevation in the voices of the performers, which is very observable in the Jewish singing to the present day; or it may come from סלה salah, to strew or spread out, intimating that the subject to which the word is attached should be spread out, meditated on, and attentively considered by the reader. Fenwick, Parkhurst, and Dodd, contend for this meaning; and think "it confirmed by Psalm 9:16, where the word higgaion is put before selah at the end of the verse." Now higgaion certainly signifies meditation, or a fit subject for meditation; and so shows selah to be really a nota bene, attend to or mind this.
on Psalms 3 :2
Many there be which say of my soul - Or rather, perhaps, of his "life," for so the word used here - נפשׁ nephesh - frequently means Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23; Genesis 9:4; Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21. The object of their persecution, as here stated, was not his soul, as such, in the sense in which we now understand the word, but his life; and they now said that they were secure of that, and that all things indicated that God would not now interfere to save him. They were perfectly sure of their prey. Compare 2 Samuel 17:1-4.
There is no help for him in God - He is entirely forsaken. He has no power of defending himself, and no hope of escaping from us now, and all the indications are, that God does not intend to interpose and deliver him. Circumstances, in the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 16:1 ff), were such as to seem to justify this taunt. David had been driven away from his throne and his capital. God had not protected him when he had his armed men and his friends around him, and when he was entrenched in a strong city; and now he was a forsaken fugitive, fleeing almost alone, and seeking a place of safety. If God had not defended him on his throne and in his capital; if he had suffered him to be driven away without interposing to save him, much less was there reason to suppose that he would now interpose in his behalf; and hence, they exultingly said that there was no hope for his life, even in that God in whom he had trusted. It is no uncommon thing in this world for good men to be in similar circumstances of trial, when they seem to be so utterly forsaken by God as well as men, that their foes exultingly say they are entirely abandoned.
Selah - סלה selâh. Much has been written on this word, and still its meaning does not appear to be wholly determined. It is rendered in the Targum, or Aramaic Paraphrase, לעלמין le‛alemiyn, forever, or to eternity. In the Latin Vulgate it is omitted, as if it were no part of the text. In the Septuagint it is rendered Διάψαλμα Diapsalma, supposed to refer to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing. Sehleusner, Lexicon. The word occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms, and three times in the Book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:13. It is never translated in our version, but in all these places the original word "Selah" is retained. It occurs only in poetry, and is supposed to have had some reference to the singing or cantillation of the poetry, and to be probably a musical term. In general, also, it indicates a pause in the sense, as well as in the musical performance. Gesenius (Lexicon) supposes that the most probable meaning of this musical term or note is silence, or pause, and that its use was, in chanting the words of the psalm, to direct the singer to be silent, to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude or harmony.
Perhaps this is all that can now be known of the meaning of the word, and this is enough to satisfy every reasonable inquiry. It is probable, if this was the use of the term, that it would commonly correspond with the sense of the passage, and be inserted where the sense made a pause suitable; and this will doubtless be found usually to be the fact. But any one acquainted at all with the character of musical notation will perceive at once that we are not to suppose that this would be invariably or necessarily the fact, for the musical pauses by no means always correspond with pauses in the sense. This word, therefore, can furnish very little assistance in determining the meaning of the passages where it is found. Ewald supposes, differing from this view, that it rather indicates that in the places where it occurs the voice is to be raised, and that it is synonymous with up, higher, loud, or distinct, from סל sal, סלה sâlâh, to ascend. Those who are disposed to inquire further respecting its meaning, and the uses of musical pauses in general, may be referred to Ugolin, 'Thesau. Antiq. Sacr.,' tom. xxii.
on Psalms 3 :2
3:2 My soul - Of me: the soul being commonly put for the person. In God - God hath utterly forsaken him. Selah - This word is no where used but in this poetical book, and in the song of Habakkuk. Probably it was a musical note, directing the singer either to lift up his voice, to make a pause, or to lengthen the tune. But withal, it is generally placed at some remarkable passage; which gives occasion to think that it served also to quicken the attention of the singer and hearer.