References to dance in the Bible

topic posted Thu, April 7, 2011 - 10:46 PM by  Shira
Just for fun, here are some assorted references to dance in the Bible. These in particular reference BOTH dancing AND the word "timbrel", which was the name of a frame drum that closely resembled the modern-day tambourine. Now, I'm not saying these imply that there was a tambourine dance in Biblical Israel - they could simply be implying that "someone" danced while "someone else" played a tambourine to provide them with musical accompaniment. I invite you to read the passages below and draw your own conclusions.

Jeremiah 31:4 "I will build you up again,
and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt.
Again you will take up your timbrels
and go out to dance with the joyful"

Exodus 15:20 "Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing."

Judges 11:34 "When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of timbrels! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter."

1 Samuel 18:6 "When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres."

Psalm 149:3 "Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp."

Psalm 150:4 "praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,"
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    Re: References to dance in the Bible

    Fri, April 8, 2011 - 5:57 PM
    The elders of Gilead ask him to be their leader in the campaign against the Ammonites, but he holds out for a more permanent and a broader position, and the elders agree that, provided Jephthah succeeds in defeating Ammon, he will be their permanent chieftain. On behalf of Israel as a whole and in reliance on the might of God the Judge, Jephthah challenges the Ammonites. Jephthah swears an oath:
    "Whatever/whoever emerges and comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be God’s, and I shall sacrifice him/her/it as a holocaust."[1] (Judges 11:31 - a holocaust is a burnt offering).

    Ah, I thought I recognized the reference: not all dances end up happily.....
    "Jephtha's Rash Vow" (1807), by James Gundee & M. Jones, London. From an English edition of Flavius Josephus's works.
    The victorious Jephthah is met on his return by his daughter, his only child. Jephthah tears his clothes and cries, "Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low!" but is bound by his vow: "I have given my word to God, and I cannot go back on it" (Judges 11:35). The girl asks for two months' grace, "... that I may go down on the mountains ... and bewail my virginity" (Judges 11:37). And so Jephthah "carried out his vow with her which he had vowed" (Judges 11:39). The story ends by recounting how "the daughters of Israel went four days each year to celebrate about[2] the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite" (Judges 11:40).
  • Re: References to dance in the Bible

    Sat, April 9, 2011 - 9:08 AM
    When I've done dance workshops at church (usually liturgical, not BD) I love pointing out that Miriam was *at least* 80 when she led that dancing (Moses was 40 before he left Egypt, spent 40 years away & she was his *older* sister!) so no excuses!
    • Re: References to dance in the Bible

      Sun, April 17, 2011 - 7:14 AM
      What is a timbrel?
      I learned dancing with a tambourine today and that felt pretty archaic. ; )
      • Re: References to dance in the Bible

        Sun, April 17, 2011 - 10:42 AM
        A timbrel is a frame drum. Some people say it's similar to a tambourine, but the original Hebrew word is "taph", which resembles the Arabic word "deff", so I suspect that the instrument a timbrel refers to is probably more like a modern-day deff, which is larger than a tambourine (which is called riqq in Arabic) and doesn't have the jingles.

        According to, the word is "Used in Bible translations, chiefly to render Heb. taph , cognate with Arabic duff "drum," of imitative origin." (Here's the link to that page: )

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