Dance in the Bible

King-David-dancing-before-the-Lord

Is dance something you associate with the God of the apostles and the prophets? Christianity has a reputation for calm and conformity that at times strikes me as quite incongruent with the ancient accounts we supposedly hold in high esteme. There are numberous examples but just consider these two:

Dancing in praise, for whom God is

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! (Pslams 150:3-6)

Dancing in thanksgiving, for what God has done

For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” (Exodus 15:19-21)

8 Comments

  1. See also Song of Songs 6 – “Dance, dance, dear Shulammmite, Angel-Princess! Dance, and we’ll feast our eyes on your grace! Everyone wants to see the Shulammite dance her victory dances of love and peace” (The Message Bible).
    I’m sure Lucy can add a few more.

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  2. There are the elements of dance in Ezekiel 1 e.g. “They went in any one of the four directions they faced…Where the creatures sent, the wheels went; when the creatures stopped, the wheels stopped, when the creatures lifted off, the wheels lifted off, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels”. Maybe a `holy hoedown” – like folk-dancing in an Israelite sense?

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  3. Both Peterson and Moltmann refer to the Trinitarian metaphors of dance. I will look those up and post them shortly here. Unless of course, somebody beats me to it.

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  4. In the NT orcheomai (can’t cut and paste Greek symbols Matt on this website for some reason)can be used of playful dancing of children (Luke 7.32); Herodias’s dance before Herod (Mt 14:6) or the joyous dancing of the father and his household when the prodigal son returns home.
    Dance played a significant part in Israelite life and religion. It involved rhythmic movement, skiping about, leaping, whirling, writhing, twisting, agility, finger movements, reeling, circling, group processions,celebrative and sacred expression, spontaneous movements, interpretive movement, joyous movement, war dances (e.g. Job 21:11; Eccl. 3:4; 1 Sam. 18:7; 2 Sam. 6:5).
    Summarised from The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopeadia of the Bible, Merrill C Tenney (ed) Vol D-G page 11. (1975; Grand Rapids).

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  5. Dance appears to have always played a major role in Jewish culture and faith throughout the ages.
    Not so in much of modern Christianity until only quite recently (late 1960’s onwards), and then very reservedly and often very suspiciously. That I find quite sad.

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  6. Good thing I don’t dance very reservedly or suspiciously (unless I am portraying a role that requires it), LOL. I’ll get back to this thread later on when I’m home from work and have access to my copious files on the subject of dance in relation to the Christian life and faith.
    Meanwhile, Happy 21st Birthday to Christian Dance Fellowship of Britain who is celebrating in appropriate style this weekend!
    http://www.cdfb.org.uk

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  7. A 1903 translation of the Bible (Ferrah & Fenton) has notes which claim that various other versions of the Scriptures obscure, by translation and tradition, references to “dance” which is embedded in the roots of the Hebrew language.
    Following are a few excerpts of references from “Strong’s Concordance” which can be compared in various translations by looking up using Bible Gateway. http://www.biblegateway.com
    I have also listed a few Greek words and references from the New Testament
    HEBREW
    2342 Chuwl, chiyl
    twist or whirl in circular or spiral manner, dance, shake.
    JUDGES 21: 23 – daughters of Shiloh danced
    ISAIAH 1: 8 – “and the nursing child will play (dance) by the hole of the cobra”
    7540 Raqad (raw-kad), to stamp, spring about (wildly or for joy), dance, jump, leap, skip.
    ECC. 3: 4 “A time to mourn and a time to dance”
    1 CHRON. 15: 29 “King David leaping and making merry”
    4234 Machowl (maw-khole), a round dance, dancing.
    PS. 149: 3 “Let them praise His Name with dancing”
    PS. 150: 4 “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing”
    JER. 31: 13 “Then the virgin shall rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old together, for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and give them joy for their sorrow”
    1523 Giyl (gheel) or guwl (gool), spin around under the influence of any violent emotion, rejoice, cringing / fear, glad, joy, joyful.
    joy / rejoice – 1CHRON. 16: 31 “let the earth rejoice”
    PS. 2: 11 “Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling”
    PS. 9: 14 “I may rejoice in Thy salvation.”
    PR. 23: 24, 25 “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice… And let her rejoice who gave birth to you”
    IS. 29: 19 “And the needy of mankind shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel”
    35: 1, 2 “rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy”
    41: 16 ” And the storm will scatter them, But you will rejoice in the Lord”
    ZEC. 1: 9 “Rejoice greatly”
    IS.61: 10 “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul shall exalt in my God”
    GREEK
    20 – agalliasis (ag-al-lee-as-is) from 21 – agalliao, jump for joy, exult, be exceedingly glad, with joy, rejoice greatly, leap, spring up, joy
    LK. 1: 44 “The babe leaped in my womb for joy”
    1 PET. 4: 13 “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, (joy / dance): so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice (joy / dance) with exultation.”
    JUDE 24 “and make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy”
    MATT. 5: 12 “Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great”
    5525 – charos (khar-os), a ring or round dance as in a choir – dancing.
    LK. 15: 25 “he heard music and dancing.”
    ACTS 6:5 – a deacon (attendant, servant, waiter, teacher, minister, host, friend) was appointed, and it is said that leading dance was one of their duties.

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