From BiblePortal Wikipedia

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [1]

The name of a place mentioned in  2 Kings 14:7 , where it is said that Amaziah king of Judah slew ten thousand men of Edom, in the valley of Salt, and took Sela by war, and called the name of it  Isaiah 16:1 , and may be intended by the word Sela, translated rock, in  Judges 1:36   Isaiah 42:11 . The ruins of this place were in modern times first visited by Burckhardt, 1812, and attest the splendor of the ancient city. He says, "At the distance of a two long days' journey northeast from Akabah, is a rivulet and valley in the Djebel Shera, on the east side of the Arabah, called Wady Mousa. This place is very interesting for its antiquities and the remains of an ancient city, which I conjecture to be Petra, the capital of Arabia Petraea, a place which, as far as I know, no European traveller has ever visited. In the red sandstone of the which the valley is composed are upwards of two hundred and fifty sepulchres, entirely cut out of the rock, the greater part of them with Grecian ornaments. There is a mausoleum in the shape of a temple, of colossal dimensions, likewise cut out of the rock, with all its apartments, its vestibule, peristyle, etc. It is a most beautiful specimen of Grecian architecture, and in perfect preservation. There are other mausolea with obelisks, apparently in the Egyptian style, a whole amphitheater cut out of the rock, with the remains of a palace and of several temples. Upon the summit of the mountains, which closes the narrow valley on its western side, (Mount Hor,) is the tomb of Haroun, or Aaron. It is held in great veneration by the Arabs." That this was indeed the ancient Sela or Petra is established by various concurring proofs; Josephus, Eusebius, and Jerome affirm that the location and ruins correspond with the notices given in the Bible, and by Pliny and Strabo.

Subsequent travellers, especially Laborde, have given minute and graphic description of this wonderful city, with drawings of the principal ruins. The valley of Petra, 2,200 feet above the great valley El-Arabah, is about a mile long from north to south, and half a mile wide, with numerous short ravines in its sides, making its whole circuit perhaps four miles. It is accessible through ravines at the north and the south; but the cliffs, which define it on the east and west, are precipitous, and vary from two hundred to one thousand feet in height. The main passage into the city is on the east, and begins between cliffs forty feet high and fifty yards apart, which soon become higher, nearer, and full of excavated tombs. This winding ravine is a mile long, and gives entrance to a small brook; its sides at one place are but twelve feet apart and two hundred and fifty feet high. At the termination of this narrow gorge you confront the most splendid of all the structures of Petra, el-Khusneh, the temple mentioned by Burckhardt, hewn out of the face of the opposite cliff. Here you enter a wider ravine, which leads northwest, passes the amphitheatre in a recess on the left, and at length opens on the great valley of the main city towards the west. The tombs excavated in these, and in all the side gorges, are without number, rising range above range; many of them are approached by steps cut in the rock, while others are inaccessible, at the height of nearly four hundred feet. The theatre was so large as to accommodate more than three thousand persons. The palace, called Pharaoh's house by the Arabs, is the chief structure not excavated in the mountain that survives in any good degree the ravages of time; it was evidently a gorgeous building. Most of the valley is strewn with the ruins of public edifices and with fragments of pottery. The brook flows through the valley towards the west, and passes off through a narrow gorge like that by which it entered. One of the finest temples, the Deir, stands high up in a ravine on the west side. It is hewn out of the solid rock, are eight feet in diameter. A singular charm is thrown over the whole by the beauty of the stone from which these various structures are wrought. It is fine and soft sandstone, variegated with almost every variety of hues, red, purple, black, white, azure, and yellow, the deepest crimson and the softest pink blending with each other, while high above the sculptured monuments the rocks rise in their native rudeness and majesty. The whole strange and beautiful scene leaves on the spectator's mind impressions, which nothing can efface.

Petra was an ancient city, a strong fortress, and for many ages an important commercial center. It was the chief city among scores, which once filled that region. Yet the prophets of God foretold its downfall, and its abandonment to solitude and desolation, in terms which strikingly agree with the facts. "Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thy heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord,"  Jeremiah 49:7-22 . See also  Isaiah 34:5-15   Ezekiel 35:1-15   Joel 3:19   Amos 1:11,12   Obadiah 1:3-16 . When its ruin took place we are not informed. There were Christian churches there in the fifth and sixth centuries, but after A. D. 536 no mention is made of it in history.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Celah , "the rock," Greek Petra ( 2 Kings 14:7);  Isaiah 16:1, translated "send ye the lamb ("tribute") from Sela through the wilderness to the" king of Judah; Amaziah had subjected it ( 2 Kings 14:7). See for its rocky position  Judges 1:36;  2 Chronicles 25:12;  Obadiah 1:3;  Numbers 24:21;  Isaiah 42:11;  Jeremiah 49:16. The city Petra, 500 Roman miles from Gaza, two days' journey N. of the gulf of Akabah, three or four S. from Jordan. In Mount Seir, near Mount Hor; taken by Amaziah, and named Joktheel, i.e. subdued by God, man without God could not take so impregnable a place ( Psalms 60:9;  Joshua 15:38); afterward in Moab's territory. In the fourth century B.C. the Nabathaeans' stronghold against Antigonus. In 70 B.C. the Arab prince Aretas resided here. The emperor Hadrian named it Hadriana, as appears from a coin.

It lay in a hollow enclosed amidst cliffs, and accessible only by a ravine through which the river winds across its site. A tomb with three rows of columns, a triumphal arch, and ruined bridges, are among the remains. Laborde and Linant traced a theater for sea fights which could be flooded from cisterns. This proves the abundance of the water supply, if husbanded, and agrees with the accounts of the former fertility of the district, in contrast to the barren Arabah on the W. Selah means a cliff or peak, contrasted with Eben , a "detached stone or boulder". The Khazneh , "treasury," in situation, coloring, and singular construction is unique. The facade of the temple consisted of six columns, of which one is broken. The pediment has a lyre on its apex. In the nine faces of rock are sculptured female figures with flowing drapery. (Palmer Supposes Them To Be The Tone Muses With Apollo'S Lyre Above.)

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

SELA means ‘rock,’ ‘cliff,’ or ‘crag,’ and as a common noun is of frequent occurrence in Hebrew. In three or four passages (  Judges 1:36 ,   2 Kings 14:7 ,   Isaiah 16:1-14 :l, and, according to some,   Isaiah 42:11 ) the word appears to be a proper name. In   Judges 1:36 a site near the southern end of the Dead Sea is required by the context. Such a site would also satisfy the requirements of   2 Kings 14:7 and   Isaiah 16:1 . But it is not improbable that more than one place was known as ‘the Cliff ( or Crag).’ It is therefore not Impossible, though far from certain, that the Sela of   2 Kings 14:7 (cf. Joktheel) and   Isaiah 16:1 is, as RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] in the latter passage suggests, and as many have held, the place known later as Petra (which also means ‘rock’). Petra lay about 50 miles nearly due south of the Dead Sea, in a valley ‘enclosed on every side by nearly perpendicular rocks of considerable height’ and ‘composed of sand-stone of many different colours.’ It was the capital of the Nahatæans from the close of the 4th cent. b.c. to the heginning of the 2nd cent. a.d. (when it became a Roman province), and during that period a busy commercial centre. For some description of the buildings of Petra and the rock architecture which have given the city great fame, see Bædeker’s Palestine , p. 206, and the literature there cited. ‘The general character of the buildings at Petra is that of the debased Roman style of the 3rd and 4th centuries a.d.’ Apart from the Biblical statements enumerated above, the history of Petra before the Nahatæan period is unknown.

G. B. Gray.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Se'la or Se'lah. (The Rock).  2 Kings 14:7;  Isaiah 16:1. So rendered in the Authorized Version in Judges as a city, later  2 Chronicles 25:12, probably, known as Petra, the ruins of which are found about two days journey north of the top of the Gulf of Akabah, and three or four south from Jericho, and about halfway between the southern end of the Dead Sea, and the northern end of the Gulf of Akabah. It was in the midst of Mount Seir, in the neighborhood of Mount Hor, and therefore, Edomite territory, taken by Amaziah, and called Joktheel.

In the end of the fourth century B.C. it appears as the headquarters of the Nabatheans, who successfully resisted the attacks of Antigonus. About 70 B.C., Petra appears as the residence of the Arab princes named Aretas. It was, by Trajan, reduced to subjection to the Roman empire. The city Petra lay, though at a high level, in a hollow three quarters of a mile long, and from 800 to 1500 feet wide, shut in by mountain cliffs, and approached only by a narrow ravine, through which, and across the city's site, the river winds. There are extensive ruins at Petra of Roman date, which have been frequently described by modern travellers.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Sela or Selah ( Sç'Lah ), The Rock, and named Joktheel.  2 Kings 14:7;  Isaiah 16:1. Rendered "rock" in  Judges 1:36;  2 Chronicles 25:12. Probably the city later known as Petra, the ruins of which are found about two days' journey north of the Gulf of Akabah, It was in the midst of Mount Seir, in the neighborhood of Mount Hor, and therefore Edomite territory. About 70 b.c. Petra appears as the residence of the Arab princes named Aretas. Trajan reduced it to subjection to the Roman empire. Petra lay, though at a high level, in a hollow three-quarters of a mile long and from 800 to 1600 feet wide, shut in by mountain cliffs, and approached only by a narrow ravine, through which the river winds. There are extensive ruins at Petra of Roman date.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [6]

 2 Kings 14:7 Judges 1:36 Isaiah 16:1 Obadiah 1:3

It appears in later history and in the Vulgate Version under the name of Petra. "The caravans from all ages, from the interior of Arabia and from the Gulf of Persia, from Hadramaut on the ocean, and even from Sabea or Yemen, appear to have pointed to Petra as a common centre; and from Petra the tide seems again to have branched out in every direction, to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, through Arsinoe, Gaza, Tyre, Jerusalem, and Damascus, and by other routes, terminating at the Mediterranean." (See EDOM [2].)

Holman Bible Dictionary [7]

 Judges 1:36  2 Kings 14:7 2 Chronicles 25:12  Isaiah 16:1 Isaiah 42:11

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [8]

sē´la ( סלע , sela‛ , הסּלע , ha - ṣela‛ (with the article); πέτρα , pétra , ἡ πέτρα , pétra  ; the King James Version Selah (  2 Kings 14:7 )): English Versions of the Bible renders this as the name of a city in  2 Kings 14:7;  Isaiah 16:1 . In  Judges 1:36;  2 Chronicles 25:12; and  Obadiah 1:3 , it translates literally, "rock"; but the Revised Version margin in each case "Sela." It is impossible to assume with Hull (HD B, under the word) that this name, when it appears in Scripture, always refers to the capital of Edom, the great city in Wâdy Mūsa . In  Judges 1:36 its association with the Ascent of Akrabbim shuts us up to a position toward the southwestern end of the Dead Sea. Probably in that case it does not denote a city, but some prominent crag. Moore ("Judges," ICC , 56), following Buhl, would identify it with es - Ṣāfieh , "a bare and dazzlingly white sandstone promontory 1,000 ft. high, East of the mud fiats of es - Sebkah , and 2 miles South of the Dead Sea." A more probable identification is a high cliff which commands the road leading from Wâdy el - Milḥ , "valley of Salt," to Edom, over the pass of Akrabbim. This was a position of strategic importance, and if fortified would be of great strength. (In this passage "Edomites" must be read for "Amorites.") The victory of Amaziah was won in the Valley of Salt. He would naturally turn his arms at once against this stronghold ( 2 Kings 14:7 ); and it may well be the rock from the top of which he hurled his prisoners ( 2 Chronicles 25:12 ). He called it Jokteel, a name the meaning of which is obscure. Possibly it is the same as Jekuthiel ( 1 Chronicles 4:18 ), and may mean "preservation of God" ( OHL , under the word). No trace of this name has been found. The narratives in which the place is mentioned put identification with Petra out of the question.

"The rock" (the Revised Version margin "Sela") in  Obadiah 1:3 , in the phrase "thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock." is only a vivid and picturesque description of Mt. Edom. "The purple mountains into which the wild sons of Esau clambered run out from Syria upon the desert, some hundred miles by twenty, of porphyry and red sandstone. They are said to be the finest rock scenery in the world. 'Salvator Rosa never conceived so savage and so suitable a haunt for banditti.'...The interior is reached by defiles so narrow that two horsemen may scarcely ride abreast, and the sun is shut out by the overhanging rocks.... Little else than wild fowls' nests are, the villages: human eyries perched on high shelves or hidden away in caves at the ends of the deep gorges" (G. A. Smith. The Book of the Twelve Prophets . II. 178 f).

In  Isaiah 16:1;  Isaiah 42:11 the Revised Version (British and American), perhaps we have a reference to the great city of Petra. Josephus ( Ant. , IV, vii, 1) tells us that among the kings of the Midianites who fell before Moses was one Rekem, king of Rekem ( akre , or rekéme ), the city deriving its name from its founder. This he says was the Arabic name; the Greeks called it Petra. Eusebius, Onomasticon says Petra is a city of Arabia in the land of Edom. It is called Jechthoel; but the Syrians call it Rekem. Jokteel, as we have seen, must be sought elsewhere. There can be no doubt that Josephus intended the city in Wâdy Mūsa . Its Old Testament name was Bozrah ( Amos 1:12 , etc.). Wetzstein ( Excursus in Delitzsch's Isa3 , 696 ff) hazards the conjecture that the complete ancient nine was Bozrat has - Sela , "Bozrah of the Rock."

This "rose-red city half as old as Time"

Sela was for long difficult of access, and the attempt to visit it was fraught with danger. In recent years, however, it has been seen by many tourists and exploring parties. Of the descriptions written the best is undoubtedly that of Professor Dalman of Jerusalem ( Petra und seine Felsheiligtumer , Leipzig, 1908). An excellent account of this wonderful city, brightly and interestingly written, will be found in Libbey and Hoskins' book ( The Jordan Valley and Petra , New York and London, 1905; see also National Geographic Magazine, May, 1907, Washington, D.C.). The ruins lie along the sides of a spacious hollow surrounded by the many-hued cliffs of Edom, just before they sink into the Arabah on the West. It is near the base of Jebel Harūn , about 50 miles from the Dead Sea, and just North of the watershed between that sea and the Gulf of Akaba. The valley owes its modern name, Wâdy Mūsa , "Valley of Moses," to its connection with Moses in Mohammedan legends. While not wholly inaccessible from other directions, the two usual approaches are that from the Southwest by a rough path, partly artificial, and that from the East. The latter is by far the more important. The valley closes to the East, the only opening being through a deep and narrow defile, called the Sı̄k , "shaft," about a mile in length. In the bottom of the Sı̄k flows westward the stream that rises at ‛Ain Mūsa , East of the cleft is the village of Elji , an ancient site, corresponding to Gaia of Eusebius ( Onomasticon ). Passing this village, the road threads its way along the shadowy winding gorge, overhung by lofty cliffs. When the valley is reached, a sight of extraordinary beauty and impressiveness opens to the beholder. The temples, the tombs, theater, etc., hewn with great skill and infinite pains from the living rock, have defied to an astonishing degree the tooth of time, many of the carvings being as fresh as if they had been cut yesterday. An idea of the scale on which the work was done may be gathered from the size of theater, which furnished accommodation for no fewer than 3,000 spectators.

Such a position could not have been overlooked in ancient times; and we are safe to assume that a city of importance must always have existed here. It is under the Nabateans, however, that Petra begins to play a prominent part in history. This people took possession about the end of the 4th century BC, and continued their sway until overcome by Hadrian, who gave his own name to the city - H adriana. This name, however, soon disappeared. Under the Romans Petra saw the days of her greatest splendor.

According to old tradition Paul visited Petra when he went into Arabia ( Galatians 1:17 ). Of this there is no certainty; but Christianity was early introduced, and the city became the seat of a bishopric. Under the Nabateans she was the center of the great caravan trade of that time. The merchandise of the East was brought hither; and hence, set out the caravans for the South, the West, and the North. The great highway across the desert to the Persian Gulf was practically in her hands. The fall of the Nabatean power gave Palmyra her chance; and her supremacy in the commerce of Northern Arabia dates from that time. Petra shared in the declining fortunes of Rome; and her death blow was dealt by the conquering Moslems, who desolated Arabia Petrea in 629-32 AD. The place now furnishes a retreat for a few poor Bedawy families.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [9]

(Heb. with the art. has-Se'la, הִסֶּלִע , The Rock, as rendered in  Judges 1:36;  2 Chronicles 25:12;  Obadiah 1:3; and by the Sept. [ ] Πέτρα ; A.V. "Selah" in  2 Kings 14:7), the name given in the above passages, and (in the A.V.) in  Isaiah 16:1, to the metropolis of the Edomites in Mount Seir. In the Jewish history it is recorded that Amaziah, king of Judah, "slew of Edom, in the valley of salt, ten thousand, and took Sela by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day" ( 2 Kings 14:7). The parallel narrative of  2 Chronicles 25:11-13 supplies fuller details. From it we learn that, having beaten the Edomitish army with a great slaughter in the "valley of salt" the valley south of the Dead Sea Amaziah took those who were not slain to the cliff, and threw them headlong over it. This cliff is asserted by Eusebius (Onomast. Πέτρα ) to be "a city of Edom, also called by the Assyrians Rekem, " by which there is no doubt that he intends Petra (see Ibid. ῾Ρεκέμ , and the quotations in Stanley's Sin. And Pal. p. 94, note).

The title thus bestowed is said to have continued "unto this day." This, Keil remarks, is a proof that the history was nearly contemporary with the event, because Amaziah's conquest was lost again by Ahaz less than a century afterwards ( 2 Chronicles 28:17). This latter name seems, however, to have passed away with the Hebrew rule over Edom, for no further trace of it is to be found; and it is still called by its original name by Isaiah ( Isaiah 16:1). These are all the certain notices of the place in Scripture; for it may well be doubted whether it is designated in  Judges 1:36 and  Isaiah 42:11, as some suppose. On the ground of the sameness of signification, it is by common consent identified with the city later known as Petra, 500 Roman miles from Gaza (Pliny, 6, 32), the ruins of which, now called those of Wady Musa, are found about two days' journey north of the top of the Gulf of Akaba, and three or four south from Jericho. This place was in the midst of Mount Seir, in the neighborhood of Mount Hor (Josephus, Ant. 4, 4, 7), and therefore in Edomitish territory, but seems to have afterwards come under the dominion of Moab. In the end of the 4th century B.C. it appears as the headquarters of the Nabathaans, who successfully resisted the attacks of Antigonus (Diod. Sic. [ed. Hanov. 1604] 19, 731), and under them became one of the greatest stations for the approach of Eastern commerce to Rome (id. p. 94; Strabo, 16, 799; Apul. Flor. 1, 6). About B.C. 70 Petra appears as the residence of the Arab princes named Aretas (Josephus, Ant. 14, 1, 4; 5, 1, War, 1, 6, 2; 29, 3). It was by Trajan reduced to subjection to the Roman empire (Dion Cass. 68, 14), and from the next emperor received the name of Hadriana, as appears from the legend of a coin (Reland, Paloest. p. 931). Josephus (Ant. 4, 4, 7) gives the name of Arce ( Σαρκη ) as an earlier synonym for Petra, where, however, it is probable that Ἀρκήμ or Ἀρκέμ (alleged by Eusebius, Onomast., as found in Josephus) should be read. The city Petra lay, though at a high level, in a hollow shut in by mountain cliff and approached only by a narrow ravine through which, and across the city's site, the river winds (Pliny, 6, 32; Strabo, 16, 779). (See Petra).