The first time the term “dance” appears in the Bible is in Judges 21:21 And see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come you out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.
But did you also know that the literal translation of the term “dance” in that verse comes from a root verb meaning “to twist” or “to whirl” and the term “dances” comes from a root word that means “in a circular or spiral manner”? So actually, we could more literally translate the verse as come out to whirl in circles (or spirals). Imagine how much information could be gained about the history of dancing if the term “dance” was translated more literally!
There are eight different Hebrew and Greek terms that are all translated collectively as “dance,” “danced,” and “dancing” and yet, each one really is unique, revealing style, technique and type of movement. For example, in Job 21:11 which is translated in the King James Version as They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance, the literal translation of the word “dance” is from a Hebrew root verb meaning “to stamp” or “to spring about.” Interesting, eh?
The familiar third verse of Psalm 149 could more appropriately be translated as Let them praise his name in the round dance: let them sing praises to him with the tambourine and the harp. And when all the Israelites escape from Egypt, one could legitimately translate Exodus 15:30 as Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and a dance company of women followed her with tambourines. When David danced before the Lord, we know that he literally was bending from the knee. And in 1 Samuel 30:15, the Amalekites were literally “moving in a circle”. When we finally arrive at the New Testament, the round dance is the norm. The Greek term for dance in Matthew 11:17 could be translated literally as We piped for you, but you didn’t move in a ring with repeated motion.