Volume. XX, No. 7
Sunday, 14 August 2005

From the Pastors Heart: Worship Dance Phenomena - Part 4

We have studied three particular passages concerning David’s dancing last week. I wanted to show you that regardless of the nature of his dancing, it was not related to tabernacle/temple worship. There are a few reasons what I keep distinguishing tabernacle/temple worship from other types of services offered to the Lord. I’ll elaborate the points later. Before we move on to another passage to study, I must make a couple of more comment concerning David dancing passages. I am sure that there are some people who are not convinced yet that David’s dance did not have anything to do with tabernacle/temple worship. Of course, their proposition is wrong. Besides, they need to read some more passages of the Scriptures. Let me go back to 2 Samuel 6. Having blessed his people, David went home to bless his household. Here is a story what had happened then in 2 Samuel 6:20, “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!” Michal is describing the dancing scene so much in detail even to say that David actually uncovered himself while dancing. Ooops! I do not know what to say to my worship dancer friends. Be biblical if you wish to dance in worship, but watch out your clothes!

Another hard fact against the use of David’s case in order to promote worship dance is found in the use of Hebrew and Greek words in those 27 instances of dance related words. There are two Hebrew and two Greek words used. 2 Samuel 6:14 and 16 share exactly the same Hebrew and Greek words, and 1 Chronicles 16:29 uses different words. The words used in 2 Samuel 6 are not used in other references, which makes it hard compare them with other words. However, we can find the exact same Hebrew and Greek words as used in 1 Chronicles 16:29 somewhere else. Ecclesiastes 3:4 and Isaiah 13:21 are the examples. Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Isaiah 13:21, “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.” Both references do not have any relation to temple worship. Especially, the Isaiah passage talks about wild animal’s dancing. There is one more verse that employs the same Hebrew word as in 2 Samuel 6 passages - Job 21:21, “They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance.” Again, it does not have anything to do with worship. If we come over to the New Testament, it becomes clear that there is no worship dance from philological point of view. The Greek word translating a particular Hebrew word for dance in 1 Chronicles 15:29 is used four times in the Gospels. Two instances are used figuratively in Matthew 11:17 and Luke 7:32, and the other two instances are related to Herodias’ daughter’s dance that eventually brought the execution decree against John the Baptist in Matthew 14:6 and Mark 6:22! Again, there is no solid case of worship dance in both Testaments as far as Bible vocabularies are concerned.

Another favorite passage quoted by worship dancers is Exodus 15:20. “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.” There are two points to consider: (1) Miriam led women to music with timbrels and dance. It was not in the setting of whole congregational worship, and (2) the occasion of this music and dance is related to the victory over enemies. In fact, the second point is quite significant because there are a few passages that employ the same Hebrew and Greek words as in Exodus 15:20. For example, a judge, Jephtha’s daughter danced when her father came back from an important battle (Judge 11:34). When David came back from a battle, women danced in 1 Samuel 18:6 and 29:5. Here we need to observe two points: (1) There are other occasions than temple worship that the people of God used music, and (2) a victory over enemies was one of the occasions that people used music and dance. This case was for celebration. Therefore, we can again safely say that Miriam’s case cannot be used to justify the use of dance during worship. Instead, we may need to study on occasions of music and dance in the Bible, with the exclusion of the use of dance for temple worship. I’ll elaborate the point later as I promised before. Before we go further, it would be educational to read Allen Ross’ article, “The Use of the Psalms in Worship” (more):

The cultic dance was part of the celebration (Ex. 15:20, 21; 2 Chron. 6:12-19; Pss. 87:7, 149:3, 150:4, etc.). Again, however, we are speaking of festivals, processions, and joyous celebrations in honor to God. It is very unlikely that modern churches that attempt such a practice could ever approximate the manner and purpose of, say, a David dancing before the Lord.

Psalm 149:3 and 150:4 have been quoted often, too. Psalm 149:3, “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.”
Psalm 150:4, “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” As we have already seen, dance was in early times one of the modes of expressing religious joy (Ex 15:20; 2 Samuel 6:16), not, in particular, for temple worship. If my talk is not clear enough, you may want to read the quote in the above again. These verses from the book of Psalm should be understood in the historical setting. I assume that there are still some people who are not convinced by this explanation. They may still insist that we ought to praise the Lord with singing and dancing. They may mistakenly accuse me that I am denying the teaching in those two verses from Psalms. What I am saying is not that there was no dance in all religious occasions. What I am really saying is that at times the people of God expressed their religious joy by way of dancing. However, it was spontaneous and natural one, and temple service was excluded from the occasions of dancing. Well, we can find a few instances that people danced in the Old Testament. For example, the daughters of Shiloh came to dance, and the men from the tribe of Benjamin took them for their wives in Judges 21:21. It was a festival occasion. The word for dances in this verse is the same word as the one in Exodus 15:20. The virgins of Israel danced during peaceful times (Jeremiah 31:4). Therefore, it is better and wise for us to study the occasions for dancing in the Bible without tying it to temple worship. Again, I used the term, “temple worship.” It is to make a distinction that the temple/tabernacle worship took a very unique place in the Jewish religious life. If I would have to suggest for any further study, there are two areas we can study more: (1) occasions that prompted people to use music and dance besides temple worship, and (2) the meaning of worship – it is because it is necessary for us to understand the meaning of worship to talk about worship dance. Besides, I have kept on making distinctions between temple/tabernacle worship and other religious activities. Therefore, it will be good if we can define what worship is. I hope, by now, that you all agree with me that there was no worship dance either in the tabernacle nor in the temple of God.

Lovingly, Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question Question 7: What are the decrees of God? The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

Please pray for God’s healing for Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Dn Edwin D’Mello, Brothers Yul Sankey, Thomas Tan & Kevin Tye; Daniel Budiman, Mr David Carpenter & Ethan Lov; Sisters Myung Ki, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law, Bee Giok Khut’s mother, and all others who have been afflicted with winter illness. “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions: Rev & Mrs David Koo and their ministry in Sihanoukville and adjacent provinces; provision of a van for Preacher Chang’s Mandarin Ministry (Sihanoukville); God’s guidance for Bro Chhiam Vana Rith as he serves God in Paillin; b) Bro Surish Dharmalingam – Lord’s provision for Laos missions; c) Expectant mother – Sis Michiko Law; d) Children’s ministry - Bro Hai Seng Lim; e) Provision of a Pastor for Ebenezer BPC; f) New home for Neumann family - for their plans to shift to Adelaide; g) Sister BP Churches in Australia; h) Journey mercies - Dn David Yeo (QLD) & Bro Raphael Ng (Quorn, SA).

Praise and Thank God for – a) YAF/Teens, Wed Bible Study & AFG meetings this past week; b) Safe arrival of baby, Joseph, second son of Bro Chanton & Sis Sianglai (Siem Reap); c) His provision for Hope B-P Church.
Next Basic Bible Knowledge Class is to commence soon. Please let Ps Ki or Elder Lee know ASAP if interested in getting baptised, confirmed or membership transferred.

Cambodia Missions in mid-Jan 2006: those interested, please see Ps Ki or Elder Lee ASAP.

Looking Ahead: VBS in October. Speaker is Bro Hai Seng Lim.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041