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Dancing is found frequently through The Bible. Some of the original Hebrew words of the Old Testament were (pronounced) kheel or khool meaning to twist or writhe, raw-kad meaning to jump or stamp, and kaw-rar meaning to whirl. In the New Testament, the Greek word (pronounced) or-kheh-om-ahee means a circular motion. Like so many other things, dancing was viewed as either good or bad, depending on how and why it was done.

Harp Good and Bad

After the Israelites miraculously crossed the Red Sea, they danced as an expression of their giving thanks to The Lord, which was good:

"For when the horses of Pharaoh [see Who Was The Exodus 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 timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels 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 RSV)

While Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving The Ten Commandments, the Israelites danced in lude and idolatrous debauchery, which was evil:

"When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a noise of war in the camp." But he said, "It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear." And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tables out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it upon the water, and made the people of Israel drink it. And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought a great sin upon them?" (Exodus 32:17-21 RSV)

Dancing In The Bible

The Israelites danced as expressions of joy and thanksgiving, but it was very different from the dancing that is commonly seen today. During Bible History, males and females usually danced separately, and dancing was a form of joy or worship, not courtship. There is no record of Jesus Christ, or any of the apostles, or leaders of the church dancing, however there are numerous references to others:

"Praise the Lord! Sing to The Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the faithful! Let Israel be glad in his Maker, let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King! Let them praise His Name with dancing, making melody to Him with timbrel and lyre! For The Lord takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with victory." (Psalm 149:1-4 RSV)

"And it was told King David, "The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the Ark of God." So David went and brought up the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the Ark of The Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David danced before The Lord with all his might" (2 Samuel 6:12-14 RSV)

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 RSV)

"They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of The Lord, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall languish no more. Then shall the maidens rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry." (Jeremiah 31:12-13 RSV)

Fact Finder: How was dancing involved in the martyrdom of John The Baptist?
Matthew 14:6-11

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This Week's Bible Quiz

What translation of the Bible does the abbreviation stand for?

1. KJV

2. RSV

3. NIV

4. ASV




8. YLT

9. NEB

10. TEV

For the answers to this January 29 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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