For the Israelites, dancing was a form of public rejoicing. Usually the women were the ones who danced, though men also danced on occasions (Exod 15:20; Judg 21:21; Jer 31:4,13). People danced to celebrate great national occasions such as victories over enemies (1 Sam 18:6-7), or private occasions such as the return of a long-separated member of the family (Luke 15:23-25).

There were, however, indecent kinds of dancing, such as those associated with idolatry and certain forms of entertainment (Exod 32:19; Mark 6:21-22). Children liked to dance in some of the games they played (Job 21:11; Matt 11:17), and people in general liked to dance at some of Israel’s more joyous religious festivals (Judg 21:19-21). Dancing was part of Israel’s public expression of praise to God after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exod 15:20-21) and during the bringing of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:14-15). In time, it became a regular part of Israel’s public worship (Ps 149:3; 150:4). (See also MUSIC; SINGING.)

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