DANCING. This has formed a part of religious rites and has been associated with war and hunting, with marriage, birth, and other occasions since the records of man began to be written. It grew out of three basic human reactions: the desire to imitate movements of beasts, birds, even the sun and moon; the desire to express emotions by gestures; and gregarious impulses.
Throughout past ages, dancing has been linked with worship. In sacramental dance worshipers sought to express through bodily movements praise or penitence, worship or prayer. Out of the primitive dances the esthetic dance of civilized ancient nations slowly developed. In these the primary concern of the dancers was to reveal grace, speed, and rhythm, often to appeal to the carnal nature of both participants and spectators. Vashti refused to expose herself to this end (
The religious involvements of dancing are clear from several passages already cited. Added to these could be the dance led by Miriam’s timbrel playing celebrating Israel’s preservation at the Sea of Reeds (
The Psalms scarcely mention dancing, but do frequently describe religious processions. It is possible that dancing was included on these occasions, inasmuch as singers and instrumentalists are mentioned (
Pagan societies utilized the dance for various purposes, including religious ritual. The prophets of Baal employed a kind of limping dance while imploring their god on Mt. Carmel (
Gordon has related the dancing of David (
In the NT ̓ορχέομαι can be used of the playful dancing of children (
While the mode of dancing is not known in detail, it is clear that men and women did not generally dance together, and there is no real evidence that they ever did. Social amusement was hardly a major purpose of dancing, and the modern method of dancing by couples is unknown. See Feasts.
W. O. E. Oesterley, The Sacred Dance (1923); J. Pedersen, Israel III-IV (1940), 759; W. Sorell, “Israel and the Dance”; D. D. Runes, ed., The Hebrew Impact on Western Civilization (1951), 505-511; C. Gordon, “David the Dancer,” M. Haran, ed., Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee (1960), 46-49; H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness That Was Babylon (1962), 190.