In my religious experiences, one thing could be said; many opinions abound on the subject of dancing. The diversity of opinions are interesting, and depending on the upbringing and exposure of the individual they will express disdain, enjoyment or neutrality.

Conservative Christian thinking in times past may have been that dancing leads to sin. Other conservative sects such as the infamous Shaker movement may have been the opposite.

Dancing and denominations sometimes brings to mind thoughts of those in the Pentecostal movement or Charismatic movement.

But what does the Bible really teach on the subject? In my many years of the Sabbath keeping faith I’ve heard very little spoken about a subject that has such prominence in the Scriptures.

Many subjects that have a negative stigma or connotation are relegated to a “backseat” place in teaching, let alone in worship.
I intend to inform the reader of this study and the importance, especially in these latter days, of implementing the direction of Yahweh’s Word in worship.
It’s important to remember that in some pagan cultures dancing is considered a religious ritual and many counterfeit worship styles can be found all over the earth. Please do not be distracted by this as you read this study.


In our Strong’s Concordance we find four words related to our subject. Dance, danced, dances, and dancing will make up the bulk of our study. Several Hebrew words are used to describe dance or dancing. Instead of listing all the Strong’s numbers for each word we will go over most of them in Scripture hopefully giving us a contextual aspect that a numbered list may not achieve.

Exodus 15:20 has the first occurrence of a form of dance in the Bible:
“And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.” WOY

The term “dances” is the Hebrew word mechôlâh from H4246 meaning a dance: - company, dances (-cing).

This is a reference to the Exodus of the Israelites and after crossing “yam suph” they were rejoicing for Yahweh had delivered them from the Egyptians. Yahweh had drowned Pharaoh’s army in the sea, and they were giving thanks unto Him with timbrel and dance (earlier in the chapter we read they sang unto Yahweh).

A Quick Turn For The Worse

After such a blessed occasion found in the above paragraph there is a sad turn for some of the Israelites in the next example of dance. Our study picks up in Exo. 32 as Moses was away from his people up on the mount.

Verse 19 reads: “And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger grew hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” WOY

Even though this is the same Hebrew word H4246 we see that the Israelites have perverted beautiful, worshipful act such as dancing. They worshipped their molten calf with song and dance as they did the Creator, a pivotal mistake that will incur a notable punishment from Yahweh.

Daughters of Shiloh

An interesting account occurs in Judges when the men of Israel have already slain a good portion of the tribe of Benjamin. It seems they have slain all the women and children of that tribe, and are feeling somewhat remorseful of that act.

“Then the elders of the congregation said, How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing the women are destroyed out of Benjamin? And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel. Howbeit we may not give them wives of our daughters: for the children of Israel have sworn, saying, Cursed be he that giveth a wife to Benjamin. Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of Yahweh in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance (H2342) in dances (H4246), then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favourable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them. And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance.”
Jdg 21:16-24

One could make the assumption, based on the account above, that dancing at a Feast of Yahweh is permitted especially of the unmarried women. In verse 21:21 we have two Hebrew words H2342 and H4246. Since we already have defined H4246 here is the definition of H2342 from Strong’s:

As this definition is much more general in meaning we must gather that its association with H4246 secures its meaning of (to) “dance”.

David Danced, Michal Was Cursed

Probably our most famous reference comes out of 2 Sam 6 as we find Yahweh’s favored, David rejoicing before his Creator.

“And it was told king David, saying, Yahweh hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of Elohim. So David went and brought up the ark of Elohim from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness. And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of Yahweh had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before Yahweh with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Yahweh with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.” 2 Samuel 6:12-15 WOY

But in David’s household an adversary was lurking:

“And as the ark of Yahweh came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before Yahweh; and she despised him in her heart. Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself And David said unto Michal, It was before Yahweh, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of Yahweh, over Israel: therefore will I play before Yahweh. And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight: and of the maidservants which thou hast spoken of, of them shall I be had in honour. Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no child unto the day of her death.”
2 Samuel 6:16-23

More than one lesson could be learned in this passage, first, when you are lead to rejoice before Yahweh do not stifle the urge. Second, if you see someone dancing and worshiping the Almighty be careful not to judge them negatively.

Job Speaks

To be fair in our study we must search out as many different Hebrew words as necessary even when they may not contribute to proving our point. This appearance of the word “dance” in Job twenty one seems to be a reference to the act of dancing or something similar such as “stamping” or stomping. Here is the definition first so that you may read advised of the meaning(s).

Strong’s H7540
râqad raw-kad'
A primitive root; properly to stamp, that is, to spring about (wildly or for joy): - dance, jump, leap, skip.

“They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto El, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him?” Job 21:11-15

Those of whom Job is speaking of, are a prideful, haughty bunch at best. This “dance” is not a worshipful act, but an act of rebelliousness. These remind me of those Yahshua spoke of in Mat 24:38, 39:

“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Mat 24:38-39

Praise His Name in The Dance

One of my personal favorite references is found in Psalms 149:

“Halleluyah. Sing unto Yahweh a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. For Yahweh taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in honour: let them sing aloud upon their beds.” Psa 149:1-5

One could read this Psalm and gather that in verse 3 it speaks of all of those mentioned in verse 2. This would mean that this is the first Scripture to include all of Israel and the children of Zion in this dance! In other words, we could conclude that males, females and children would have been included per verse 2. Would this give us all permission to worship in dance? Not just unmarried women?

The Hebrew word used here is H4234:
mâchôl maw-khole'
From H2342; a (round) dance: - dance (-cing).

This Hebrew word seems to infer the type of dance the Israelites were doing. Round dance is eluded to here and other places where H4234 is used. Six references total are mentioned with H4234 and all pertaining to Israelites and not to other pagan cultures. Psalms 149:3, Psalm 150:4, Jeremiah 31:13, Lamentations 5:15, Jeremiah 31:4, Psalm 30:11

When turning to Jeremiah 31:13 we will confirm that dance is indeed permitted to all those in Israel:

“Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of Yahweh, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” Jer 31:12-13

We can see this is a prophetic passage, possibly speaking of future times, but nonetheless it confirms what we have put forth. When reading Psalm 30 we get an even deeper meaning as we read verses 10-12:

“Hear, O Yahweh, and have mercy upon me: Yahweh, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my honour may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Yahweh my Elohim, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. To the chief Musician.” Psa 30:10-12

The dancing here almost seems like a healing of sorts as the act turns the writer from a mournful state to a gladness state of being.

New Testament Examples

One might forget that there are a couple of references to dancing in the New Testament. In these two cases we find one positive example and one negative example. It is important to note that just because there aren’t many positive examples in the NT to prove our point doesn’t mean that it makes our point null and void. We’ll start with a truly sad and negative example as Herodias’ daughter dances for Herod.

“But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John the Baptist's head in a platter.” Mat 14:6-8

Here is the Strong’s definition of the word ‘danced’ from the above verse.

ὀρχέομαι orcheomai {or-kheh'-om-ahee}
Middle voice from όρχος [[orchos]] (a row or ring); to dance (from the ranklike or regular motion).

Last But Certainly Not Least

Our final Scripture comes from Luke 15. One may not place this Scripture with the story of the prodigal son as we focus directly on the mending of relationships. I find the reference, however, fitting as it sums up this study’s intent on making a case for dancing in these latter days. As Yahshua is speaking to His disciples one gets a true sense of what forgiveness entails.

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and took him in his arms, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which has wasted your property with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was right that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:20-32

Some say the prodigal son and his brother are examples of Israel and Judah, others have different explanations. I contend that whatever the prodigal son represents I want to be forgiven of Yahweh and Yahshua the way the father forgives his son in the parable. I want to be joyful and give honor unto Yahweh in the way this article describes whether it be praising, singing or dancing! We can be safe in knowing that Yahweh placed dancing in His Scriptures for a reason, and that no man can take away its beauty and meaning. Let us pray for those who misuse this precious act of worship, and pray for those who twist and distort the given Word.