Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The root סלע (sl') isn't used as verb in the Bible, but in the cognate Arabic language it means to cleave or split. In the Bible one or two derivatives are used:
- The masculine noun סלע (sela'), meaning rock, crag or cliff (Numbers 20:8, Isaiah 2:21, 1 Samuel 14:4). Apart from being markable geographical points, rocks and cliffs were known to be abodes for wild animals (Isaiah 22:1) or birds (Job 39:28) and even people, living (Obadiah 1:3) or dead (Isaiah 22:16). Figuratively, YHWH was equated with a rock (Psalm 18:2), but so could foreign idols be (Deuteronomy 32:31, 37, using the synonym צור sur). The prophet Isaiah mentions Assyria and "her rock," which may in fact refer to a deity named Sela (Isaiah 31:9). Our word could symbolize solid footing (Psalm 40:2), impenetrableness (Isaiah 33:16), obstinacy (Jeremiah 5:3) and flagrancy (Ezekiel 24:7-8). Specifically named rocks are:
- The Rock of Etam (Judges 15:8, 15:11)
- The Rock of Rimmon (Judges 20:45-47)
- The Rock of Mahlekoth, for some inconsistent reason better known as Sela-hammahlekoth (1 Samuel 23:28, see the link below).
- The masculine noun סלעם (sol'am), denoting an edible locust (Leviticus 11:22 only). It's not clear if or in which way this word has anything to do with the previous noun or the parent root. In other languages comparable words occur which come from verbs that mean to swallow or destroy.