September 19, 2007
Andres C. Guevara Jr.

The Bible doesn't give specific instructions on dancing. The Bible does not say “Thou shalt not dance.” In fact, dancing is mentioned several times in the Bible.

In I Thess. 5:21-22 we are commanded to PROVE all things - to hold fast to that which is good, and to abstain from all appearance of evil. Increasingly dance is being brought into the churches. As Bible believers, it is our responsibility to "prove" from the Scriptures whether this is pleasing to the Lord or not. It must be put to the test. Hence, the purpose of this study is to put dancing to the test of God's inspired Word.


Like so many other things, dancing was viewed as either good or bad, depending on how and why it was done.

A. Good Dancing

A study of these accounts will reveal that each involved an expression of rejoicing or religious enthusiasm because of some victory or accomplishment.

Some dancing was an exuberant expression of thanksgiving.
--Exodus 15:20 - Miriam and the women danced as an expression of thanksgiving to God for His marvelous work in rescuing the children of Israel at the Red Sea and defeating the nation that had enslaved them for so many years. Miriam led the women "with timbrels and with dances",after the deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
--2 Sam. 6:14 - King David danced before the ark as it was finally brought into Jerusalem. David's thanksgiving for the safe return of the ark of God was evidenced as he "danced before the Lord with all his might" (II Samuel 6:14). David dancing was not done for amusement, pleasure, exercise or art. It was an expression of thanksgiving and gratitude towards God.

>Jepthah's daughter greeting him with "timbrels and with dances" after a great victory (Judges 11:34). >Maidens of Shiloh - Judges 21:19-23.
>Women of Israel when Philistines were defeated - 1 Sam. 18:6-7. Women danced to celebrate one of King David's victories.
>Turning to 1 Samuel 30:16, we read of soldiers (men only) dancing.

  1. Some dancing was a natural expression of joy (Ps.30:11; Jer.31:4).

  • In Psalm 30:2, the psalmist prayed to God and the Lord healed him. David then states that in doing so, God turned his mourning and sorrow into joy, which was expressed by dancing.

  • In Ecclesiastes 3:4, Solomon wrote that there is a time for almost everything. He includes a “time to dance,” in contrast to a “time to mourn.”

  • The prophet Jeremiah foretold a time when dancing would be the joyous result of God’s work. A figure of the joy of God's people (Israel) in the last days in the Messianic era (segregated by gender) - Jeremiah 31:4, 13.

2. Some dancing was incorporated into the worship of God (Ps. 149:3; 150:4). In these two psalms, the psalmist commands his Jewish readers to praise and worship God in dance. This speaks of praising God through dance.

Whatever type of dancing is mentioned here, it is certainly mentioned in a good light as a heartfelt expression of thanksgiving, joy, worship, and praise. This type of dance was an occasion of public rejoicing (for victories or other blessings granted by God), &/or an act of worship (due to God's blessings being gratefully acknowledged).


B. Evil Dancing

However, other types of dancing were clearly evil in nature. Since the term "dancing" is capable of expressing a broad range of man's thoughts, it may also portray that which is lewd and sinful.

  1. Some dancing was designed to incite lust (Matt.14:6- 8). Daughter of Herodias danced for the sensual pleasure of Herod and (presumably though not stated) others. The dancing of the daughter of Herodias had such appeal to the base human passion that Herod promised to give her anything she might desire, a rash promise which led to the murder of John the baptizer This certainly was not a dance inspired by the Spirit of God, for after her dance, Herodias asked for the head of John the Baptist, and her father gave it to her. Herod & others derived pleasure from her dance - Sensual & enticing to the eye. If this dance followed the Roman custom of the time, it was a very lewd and sensual dance done in immodest attire. This type of dance was associated with lust, self-indulgence, sinful motives & results.


  2. Some dancing led to lewd behavior (Ex.32:19- 25). In this section, Moses, having received the law from God, returned from the mount to find the people dancing naked around the golden calf which they had formed. The children of Israel became involved in lewd dancing and idolatry. In this dance the people "made them naked unto their shame. The children of Israel danced in a shameful and unrestrained way before the golden calf. Reverted to paganism. This angered the Lord greatly (Ex. 32:9-10). Moses too was angered (vs.19) and broke the tablets containing the ten commandments. Such dances were suggestive and lewd. This is part of Old Testament worship, but, of course, was not approved.


  3. Some dancing was viewed as inappropriate by onlookers (II Sam.6:14-16). David's dance in this context was not evil in itself (the dance was good!), but it had an evil effect on some of the onlookers, namely Michal. The description of David's dance: he "danced before the Lord with all his might .... leaping and dancing before the Lord" (2 Sam 6:14-16) suggests three features of that particular display and the mode of dancing which it represented: violent exertion, leaping (mephazzez), and whirling round.


C. Non-religious Dancing

     1.    Some dancing was of a civil and non religious nature. For example, there was the custom of women greeting the return of victorious soldiers with music and dance (1 Sam. 18:6). It is likely that this was closer in nature to cheer-leading than what we would call dancing today.

     2.    Some dancing was evidently part of a celebration festivity (Luke 15:25). The household danced in celebration of the son’s return. It is likened to the joy of heaven over a sinner who repents (vs. 7, 10). It was probably roughly equivalent to a folk dance. The Bible simply mentions that it occurred. It is neither condoned nor forbidden in the passage.

Of course these dances could be categorized as either good or evil, depending upon what actually took place at the celebrations. We simply do not have enough information to judge properly.

     3.   Some dancing was the expression of the innocence of youth (Matt. 11:16-17). Jesus used the illustration of children dancing as they played with each other. This is innocent playing among children. No mention of people of the opposite sex dancing with each other. Nothing sensual or sexual about these dances.


Categorically, there are two types of dancing in the Bible:

  1. WORLDLY DANCING—practiced by men and women together and is associated with sin and immorality.

  1. Religious dancing but with nakedness and unrestrained behavior—Exodus 32:19

  2. The wicked send their children to dance—Job 21:7,11-12,13.

  3. Dancing associated with drinking—I Samuel 30:16

  4. Sensual, enticing, lewd that caused the beheading of John the Baptist—Matthew 14:6

  1. SPIRITUAL DANCING—practiced privately or with members of the same sex before the Lord.

  1. Triumphant dance of what God hath done from Red Sea—Exodus 15:20-21

  2. Victory dance from battle—Judges 11:34-35; Judges 21:21; I Samuel 18:6

  3. Thanksgiving dance because of the return of the ark of the Lord—II Samuel 6:14-16.



What is dancing?
The Webster’s Dictionary defines dancing as "to move the body, especially the feet, in rhythm, ordinarily to music”. The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament carried with it the idea of whirling and turning.

The Greek words used in the New Testament have to do with lifting up the feet or leaping with regularity of motion.


Dancing is found frequently through The Bible.

In the Old Testament some of the original Hebrew words were pronounced:

  1. kheel or khool meaning to twist or writhe,

  2. raw-kad meaning to jump or stamp, and

  3. kaw-rar meaning to whirl.

    In the New Testament, the Greek word pronounced:

  1. or-kheh-om-ahee means a circular motion.

The following definitions of various terms relating to dancing were taken from Strong's Concordance. Examples of their usage are included as well. What we want to see through these definitions is that our modern concept of dance may be quite different from the concept of dance found in the Bible.

A.  Hebrew Terms for Dance:

Description: mekhowlaw  Eight occurrences; translates as "dance" five times, "dancing" twice, and "company" once. (Dancing, dance).

  • This term says nothing about what KIND of dance it was. Do NOT assume that the way men and women dance today was the same as the ancients.

Description: khool  

To twist, whirl, dance, writhe, fear, tremble, travail, be in anguish, be pained. (Qal)—to dance,to twist, writhe, to whirl, whirl about; (Polel)—to dance, to writhe (in travail with).

  • Judges 21:23 - In this passage, the ladies were dancing, which meant that they were whirling about. Don't read more into this term than is there.

Description: khawgag 

16 occurrences; translates as "keep" eight times, "… feast" three times, "celebrate" once, "keep a solemn feast" once, "dancing" once, "holyday" once, and "reel to and fro" once. To hold a feast, hold a festival, make pilgrimage, keep a pilgrim-feast, celebrate, dance, stagger. (Qal)--to keep a pilgrim-feast, to reel.

  • I Sam.30:16 - This example describes what transpired after a military battle. It is used about 16 times, but translated "dance" only once. It is usually translated "to keep a feast."

  • Exodus 5:1 - Here the term speaks of keeping a feast unto the Lord in the wilderness. (Lev.23:39)

  Description: kawrar Two occurrences; translates as "dance" twice. To whirl, dance; whirling, dancing (participle).

  • This is the term that is used twice to describe David's dance, and translated "dance" both times in our KJV Bibles. (II Sam.16:14,16)

Description: rawkad  

Translates as "dance" four times, "skip" three times, "leap" once, and "jump" once. To skip about. (Qal)—to skip about; (Piel)—to dance, leap. (Hiphil)—to make to skip.

  • I Chron.15:29 - The king was skipping and leaping; that was his "dance." The term is used in Nahum 3:2 of the "jumping" of the chariots. It is used in Ps.114:6 of "skipping like rams."

Description: machowl  From 2342; a (round) dance: Six occurrences; translates as "dance" five times, and "dancing" once.; (Dance, dancing.)

  • Jer.31:4 - In this passage, dancing is spoken of in conjunction with making merry.



B.   Greek Terms for Dance:

Description: orkhehomahee  Middle voice from orchos (a row or ring); Four occurrences;translates as "dance" four times. (to dance.)

  • Luke 7:32 - This "dance" was part of a child's game.

  • The term is used 6 times - 4 in Luke 7:32 & its parallel in Matt.11:17; and twice describing the dance of Herod's daughter (Mark 6:22; Matt. 14:6).

Description: khoros  Of uncertain derivation; translates as "dancing" once; A band (of dancers and singers), circular dance, a dance, dancing.

  • This term was used only once in Luke 15:25. It was a dance of some sort that occurred when the prodigal son returned.



1. No man and woman together dancing.

Note that there is not one example of a man dancing with a woman. That practice is not found in the Bible.

All Women. Women danced alone or with a group of women.—Exodus 15:20 (Miriam and the women), Judges 21:19-23 (daughters of Shiloh), 1 Sam. 18:6-7 (Women from all the cities). Women seem generally to have danced by themselves, one often leading the rest, both in dancing and antiphonal song.

  • Jepthah's daughter alone—Judges 11:34

  • All Men. Soldiers "danced" (leaped for joy) celebrating together.— 1 Samuel 30:16,

  • David alone. David leaped for joy in a parade procession. But we don't have any examples of a "boy/girl" kind of a dance.—II Samuel 6:14

    Thus, there was no sensual chemistry taking place in these kinds of dances… at least not in the good dances. When we think of a dance, we think of a man and a woman dancing together. That is not a concept found in the Scriptures. There was nothing sensual about the good dances in Bible times. In our culture, it is virtually impossible to separate the two concepts - dance and sensuality.

  •       That leaves us with celebration dances where the sexes do not mingle. It was typically segregated by gender.

          During Bible History, males and females usually danced separately, and dancing was a form of joy or

          worship, not courtship.

    2. Not a performance, show, entertainment or amusement dancing.  

    Others claim that dancing is a harmless form of entertainment None of the good dancing in the Bible was a performance or a show. Rather, they were rather spontaneous expressions of thanksgiving and joy that arose naturally out of the events and circumstances. David wasn't dancing to entertain the crowd - he was no crowd pleaser. In fact, he made some angry!

    There was no such thing as a dance hall or a dance performance. The kind of dancing we see in the Bible wasn't contrived. It wasn't planned. It was just a natural and spontaneous expression of joy, usually in direct response to some exciting event. (Harvest; parade; Red Sea opening up; victory in war; pilgrims returning to Jerusalem, etc…)

    They demonstrated that joy by jumping and leaping and whirling. It wasn't a show. It wasn't planned, contrived, practiced, or performed. In fact, it wasn't even practiced! It was a spur-of-the-moment, spontaneous reaction that filled their hearts with joy and radiated through their bodies. This is identical to what David did.

    David was overcome with joy and leaped up and whirled around in delight because the ark was coming home! Miriam and the women danced after God brought them through the Red Sea, not as a SHOW or a performance, but rather out of sheer delight… awe… gratitude… pure exuberance!

    The performance type dances (done for entertainment; sensual pleasure) in the Bible were evil dances.

      1. Herodias daughter: In Matthew 14:6, The daughter of Herodias danced to incite lust.

      2. Vashti refusal. In Esther 1:1-12, evidently the king wanted Vashti to perform a lewd kind of dance for the men. She refused and was removed from being queen. This is a good lesson for those clamoring to dance today. The Bible honored Vashti for refusing to participate in a dance designed to be a show for the sensual pleasure of the male spectators.

        3. No church dancing.

      Is there dancing in a synagogue meeting? Did they dance in the Holy Place?

      1. David danced along the parade route in bringing the Ark home not in a temple.

      2. Miriam danced on the shores of the Red Sea not in a tabernacle. (Ex.15:20)

      3. The daughters of Shiloh danced in the vineyard not in a worship holy place. (Judges 21:21)

      4. People danced (leaped for joy) spontaneously wherever they were and whenever there was occasion for it.

      Some wrongly claim that believers today should dance as a form of artistic expression to be used in our worship service. Nowhere does the New Testament authorize dancing as an act of church worship. There are no New Testament examples of dancing in worship. Nowhere, from the Old Testament thru the New Testament we can find dancing inside the temple, synagogue, or in the church for worship. Never!

      It is worth mentioning that there are no examples of Jesus, the apostles, or even elders dancing in the temple or in the church.

      When God does something wonderful in your life - go ahead - rawkad! Jump, skip, and leap for joy! That's what David & Miriam did. That's what good dancing was in the Bible. We encourage you to do the same!

      But if you DO want to leap for joy and shout out… remember Ecc.3:1-4! There is a time and a place for everything! (Dance = rawkad; skip & leap) We would ask that you not rawkad in the middle of our morning worship service. And that is not because skipping, leaping, and shouting is wrong, but because that is just not the place or the time for it!

      There is a time and a place to jump and whirl around. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

      4. No Christian dancing.

      Oftentimes believers refer to David's dance when trying to justify Christian dancing.

      In II Sam. 6:12-14, David was bringing back the Ark of the Covenant from Kirjath-jearim. This was an exceptionally exciting event for him and the people! The term translated dance is used twice to describe what David did on this occasion (vs.14, 16).
      In II Sam.6:16, we are told that David was "leaping." This term in Hebrew is "pazaz" - which means leaping for joy. In I Chron.15:29 a different term is used. It means: to skip about; to dance, leap; to make to skip. Putting these terms together, we can discover what David did. He was skipping along the parade route and leaping and twirling about for joy! Is this kind of dancing acceptable today? Of course it is! It was an expression of sheer enthusiasm and excitement over the glorious fact that the Ark of the Covenant was returning!
      Why did Michal despise David in her heart when she saw David "dancing" (II Sam.6:16)? It was because she was embarrassed at David's childlike exuberance. She thought it undignified and childish for the royal monarch to jumping and twirling for joy. However, God was not ashamed of his childlike exuberance. He was a man after God's own heart. He was truly JOYOUS about the homecoming of the Ark! This was a good cause for jumping and leaping for joy! Michal was not so thrilled over the event, but godly David was.

      Anyone assumes that David dance is a modern dance is a faulty method of interpretation. In the Bible the term meant leap, twirl, or whirl, not dance as we think of it today (waltz, tango, twist, square dancing, etc).


      WHY do folks or some religious groups want to bring dance into their churches?

      1. Because some feel their way of worship service is boring.

      2. Because we want to attract more crowds.   

      3. Because we enjoy the sensuality of modern dance.

      4. Because we have been listening to sensual music all week long and sensual dancing is a natural outcome of sensual music.

      If that is the case, then shame on us! If so, then we have the wrong music, the wrong set of values, and a wrong concept of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth.

      5. No sensual music dancing.


      Sensual music leads to sensual dancing. Ex.32:15-19 describes the music and dancing of the Israelites on the occasion of Moses returning from the Mount with the Law. Moses had just been in God's presence. In verse17, Joshua could hear the noise of the camp in the distance. It sounded to him like the noise of war. Perhaps loud drums were beating. Since he mistook it for war, the music must have been rather rowdy and raucous. The noise was perplexing to him and was not exactly what he was used to. After ruling out several options, he then determined that it was some sort of singing (vs.18). As he drew nearer, he discovered what was really happening. It was lewd music, which led to lewd dancing around an idol (vs.19)! We discover in verse 25 that the people were naked. The playing mentioned in verse 6 was obviously not an innocent game, but a licentious type of playing.

      In this chapter, there was a direct link between the loud, raucous, unusual singing (something godly Moses and Joshua were not accustomed to hearing) and the lewd dancing that it spawns. Sensual music leads to sensual dancing. On the other hand, worshipful, majestic music is appropriate for worship - not dancing.  Worshipful music lifts the soul, not the hips.



      Perhaps the issue began with the music. Once rock and pop music was accepted in the churches, it was only a matter of time before they would be dancing to it. Sensual music leads to sensual dancing, which in turn leads to lewd behavior. Read Exodus 15!

      Where will dancing lead us? A dance that starts off relatively innocently gradually becomes more and more sensual, sexual, and lewd. Dancing in our culture tends to become dirtier and dirtier, and over time, it is gradually accepted. Dance is accompanied by a new form of music: sensual and worldly in nature. Dance and its accompanying music gradually take over and transform the worship service into something entirely different. The pulpit is replaced or overshadowed and worship which should be an offering to God becomes entertainment for men. The focus has shifted from God to man and the devil has accomplished his purpose of undermining the work of God. And many people love to have it so!



      In Exodus 32:19, sensual music led to sensual dancing, which in turn led to lewd behavior. (Naked playing). Illustration: Put a group of teenagers in a hall. Then put on some classical music and observe. Then put on some rock music and turn the volume up, and you will SEE the difference in their behavior. Sensual music will get them moving their bodies. Moving their bodies will excite them and set the chemistry in motion for some potential lewd behavior.

      How should this knowledge affect our behavior? It means that we should be careful about the kind of music we listen to. Rom.13:14 says that we are to make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.



      Women dancing and moving their bodies in sensual, suggestive motions excites lust in men. That is a fact of life. Sensual dancing between men and women easily provokes impure thoughts.

      Ladies: whether inciting lust in men is your intention or not is irrelevant. Whether you are aware of the reaction from males or not is also irrelevant. It is a FACT. It happens - whether we like it or not, whether you intended to or not. Sensual dancing incites lust. The Bible both Old testament and New testament events gives examples of it and experience demonstrates it.-Exodus 32:19; Matthew 14:6. What more proof do we need? If something you do causes a brother to stumble and sin, we do well to avoid it (Romans 14:13).

      6. No Millennium dancing.

      In the Millennium, God's people WILL dance (Jeremiah 31:4,13 ) But we are not living in the Millennium. This is associated with God’s Kingdom.

      In the Millennium: Christ is present and all rebels and those who introduce evil will face a rod of iron! Evil is not tolerated at all in that day; it is a time of holy law once again. A righteous and omniscient judge (who knows the hearts of all men and women) will rule in that day and only true righteousness will be permitted. Satan is bound. The world system has been crushed - and the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev.11:15). The entire world will be submitted to Christ (at least externally) and there will be MANY (if not most) on earth who know the Lord in a saving way. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth in the same way that water covers the sea (Isa. 11:9). There will be no peer pressure to do evil, but peer pressure to do right! Those who willingly submit to God will be jumping, leaping, whirling, and dancing in the streets in pure, exuberant joy! Our enemies (the world and the devil) are GONE! The only enemy left at that point is the sin nature, which will be kept under check by the iron fist of the Lord Jesus, and it with have no devil or world system to stir it up.


      Things will be VERY different in that day. There will be leaping for joy, but no evil dancing!
      But we are in a church age and not in the Millennium reign of Christ.

      Our age is NOT characterized by righteousness, but by evil. We live in perilous times spiritually. The devil still walks about seeking whom he may devour. The world system is designed to lure us into sin, and away from God and purity. Immorality and promiscuity abound, and evil men are getting worse and worse. The mystery of iniquity is coming to a head. Even some in the churches are described as those who have a "form of godliness but deny the power thereof." The line between the world and the church is being blurred. Our culture is gradually "slouching toward Gomorrah" and it seems that the churches are not far behind. In THIS age we need to use extreme caution lest we fall (I Cor.10:12).

      The reason no dancing is mentioned in the New testament is probably because this is the period of Christ’s rejection and exile.—The Bridegroom is away in a far country.—Matthew 9:14-15. Contrast this with Revelation 19:7, the Marriage of the Lamb. Then will come the time to be “be glad and rejoice” and the joyful dancing referred to in Psalm 149:3 and Psalm 150:4 and Jeremiah 31 will begin.



      The Israelites danced as expressions of joy and thanksgiving, but it was very different from the dancing that is commonly seen today.

      Dancing is certainly acceptable in God's sight IF we understand the terms in their historical setting. We observed that the concept of dance has changed drastically over time. Lots of folk dances in the early centuries from the Philippines and from some countries by the same gender that wear old native garments were not at all a sensual dance. However, there are groups of modern dancers who modernized the performance as they uses sensual music, put men and women in skin tight sensual clothing, dancing together and become a sensual show.
      It is not fair to assume that dancing in Bible days is the same as it is today. It is quite misleading to say, "Dancing is dancing." In fact, dancing (then) is NOT equal to dancing (now).


      The word "dance" in the sense used today does not appear in the New Testament; however, the idea it represents is mentioned and clearly condemned. The Apostle Paul lists -the works of the flesh and notes that "they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Appearing in this list of traits eternally destructive are two terms closely related to modern dancing, namely, "lasciviousness" and "revellings".

           a. "Lasciviousness",--v.19 this according to reliable Greek-English lexicons or even an English dictionary is akin to sexual excesses, having reference to "filthy words, indecent bodily movement, unchaste handling of males and females".

           b. "Revellings" –v.21 this basically refers to excessive feasting and carousing, but has a close relationship with "music and dancing". Who can deny that the body contact between the sexes and the bodily movements associated with dances to modern rock music lead to sexual arousal? In fact, some advocates of dancing stress such to be an outlet for sexual urges. The whole range of the modern dance is designed to express or convey a message, namely, "love-making" and is calculated to be sexually stimulating.

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