On Dance & Drama in Worship


Order of Contents

Bible Verses
Articles  2
Book  1
Quotes  2
Natural Worship vs. Dance  1



Bible Verses

Dancing of Heathens

1 Sam. 30:16  “And when he had brought him [David] down, behold, they [the Amalekites] were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating and drinking, and dancing, because of all the great spoil that they had taken out of the land of the Philistines, and out of the land of Judah.”

Job 21:11-13  “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…”


Leaping for Joy

2 Sam. 6:16, 21  “And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart…

And David said unto Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.'”

Lk. 1:41, 44  “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost…  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”

Lk. 6:22-23  “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.  Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven…”

Acts 3:6-8  “Then Peter said, ‘…In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk…  And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

Acts 14:9-10  “The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on thy feet.’  And he leaped and walked.”


Israelite Dancing Outside of Public Worship

Jud. 11:34  “And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances:”

1 Sam. 18:6  “And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music.

1 Sam. 21:11  “And the servants of Achish said unto him, ‘Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?'”

Ps. 30:11-12  “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 glory may sing praise to thee…”

[This is similar to Acts 3:6-8.]

Eccl. 3:1-4  “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born…  a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

Jer. 31:4  “Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.”

Jer. 31:12-13  “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, 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.”

Lam. 5:15  “The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.”

Mt. 11:7  “And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.”

Lk. 7:32  “They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.”

Lk. 15:25, 27  “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 said unto him, ‘Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.'”


Immoral, Israelite, Religious Dancing

Ex. 32:19  “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 waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.”


Extraordinary Instances of Dancing in Worship

Ex. 15:20-21  “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.  And Miriam answered them, ‘Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.'”

[If this event after crossing the Red Sea, involving the song of Moses, be something akin to a civil parade, yet they worshipped the Lord in it.]

2 Sam. 6:14-16, 21  “…when they that bare the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings.  And David danced before the Lord 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 the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart…

And David said unto Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel: therefore will I play before the Lord.'”

1 Chron. 15:29  “And it came to pass, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal, the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart.”


Israelite Dancing at Divinely Appointed Feasts, Not in Public Worship

Jud. 21:19-23  “Then they said, ‘Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Bethel…’  …’Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; and see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, 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 the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their number, of them that danced, whom they caught…”

Ps. 81:1-4  “Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob.  Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.  Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.  For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.”

[The timbrel may imply dancing here.]


Ps. 149

“Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.  Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let 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 the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.

Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.  Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people…  Praise ye the Lord.”


Ps. 150

“Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.  Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.  Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.  Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.”





Begg, James – ‘Dancing in Worship’  (1866)  12 pp.  being Appendix no. IV in The Use of Organs and Other Instruments of Music in Worship, pp. 257-69



Fentiman, Travis – ‘Visual Imagery, Drama & Dancing in Worship’  (2017)  140 paragraphs




Edwards, Brian – Shall we Dance?: Dance & Drama in Worship  Ref  (Evangelical Press, 1984)  153 pp.



Order of Quotes






George Hughes

An Analytical Exposition of the Whole First Book of Moses, called Genesis…  (1672), on Ex. 15, verse 20

“The women’s preparation, verse 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 dances’…

Question. Is this practice now imitable in the Church?

Answer: No, for: 1. This was done by a prophetical and extraordinary instinct.  2. It was a service suitable to that legal constitution at that time.  3. The Gospel only requires spiritual sacrifices of praise and singing.”


Matthew Henry

Commentary on Ps. 149, verse 4

“Let God be ‘praised in the dance with timbrel and harp,’ according to the usage of the Old-Testament church very early (Ex. 15:20), where we find God praised with timbrels and dances.  Those who from this urge the use of [instrumental] music in religious worship must by the same rule introduce dancing, for they went together, as in David’s dancing before the ark, and Judg. 21:21.

But, whereas many scriptures in the New Testament keep up singing as a gospel-ordinance, none provide for the keeping up of [instrumental] music and dancing; the gospel-canon for psalmody is to sing with the spirit and with the understanding.”



Natural Worship vs. Dance

On Natural Worship see ‘Natural vs. Instituted Worship’.



William Ames

A Fresh Suit Against Human Ceremonies in God’s Worship…  (1633), pp. 495-96

“…the Rejoinder [of an opponent] brings abundance of instances [for human ceremonies in worship though they had been idolatrously abused] out of his old store: 1. Kneeling, bowing, prostrating, lifting up of the eyes, and of the hands, shouting, and dancing for joy [which are a form of natural worship].  But these we absolutely deny to be human inventions.

The Rejoinder knew this and therefore by prevention replies: to say these are not human inventions because they partly spring out of natural light is as much as to say they are not because they are human inventions: for what are human inventions, but such as spring out of natural light?  What? the cross and surplice; the cornered-cap and tippet; the bishop’s rochet and cope, with a thousand such like; which whoesoever will equal, or (in regard of naturalness and willfull invention) liken unto lifting up of eyes and hands, etc. in prayer, must for that time lay aside right natural invention and judgment…

I think it would trouble all the graduates in England to find out that natural light from whence bachelors of art, maisters of art, bachelors and doctors of divinity received their several kinds of hoods, even as much as to find out light of nature for all the several habits of monks.  But (says the Rejoynder) all came from natural light, better or worse, more or less agitated, just as men’s long hair and women’s short, which nature itself teaches to be uncomely (according to the apostle’s light [1 Cor. 11:14]) came from the light of nature.

It is natural to a child, for to suck the dug and after to put the hand to the mouth; and after to creep or go: Is it like natural to sound a certain distinct sound upon a trumpet? to dance a certain round, or galliard after every fiddle?  It is natural for a child to signify his discerning of those that it is used to by some such sound as dad and mam, but not to make verses in a certain number.”




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