Question – …Is it okay for certain kinds of dancing?


The Bible says that David danced. Is it okay for certain kinds of dancing?


“And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod” (2 Samuel 6:14).

“Again the long train was in motion, and the music of harp and cornet, trumpet and cymbal, floated heavenward, blended with the melody of many voices. ‘And David danced before the Lord,’ in his gladness keeping time to the measure of the song.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 707.

“David’s dancing in reverent joy before God has been cited by pleasure lovers in justification of the fashionable modern dance, but there is no ground for such an argument. In our day dancing is associated with folly and midnight reveling. Health and morals are sacrificed to pleasure. … God is not an object of thought and reverence; prayer or the song of praise would be felt to be out of place in their assemblies. This test should be decisive. Amusements that have a tendency to weaken the love for sacred things and lessen our joy in the service of God are not to be sought by Christians. The music and dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing. The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him.” The Adventist Home, 517.

Speaking of the night of deliverance from Egypt, Ellen White wrote, “That vast helpless throng—bondmen unused to battle, women, children, and cattle, with the sea before them, and the mighty armies of Egypt pressing behind—had seen their path opened through the waters, and their enemies overwhelmed in the moment of expected triumph. Jehovah alone had brought them deliverance, and to Him their hearts were turned in gratitude and faith. Their emotion found utterance in songs of praise. …

“Like the voice of the great deep rose from the vast hosts of Israel that sublime ascription. It was taken up by the women of Israel, Miriam, the sister of Moses, leading the way, as they went forth with timbrel and dance. Far over the desert and sea rang the joyous refrain, and the mountains re-echoed the words of their praise—‘Sing ye to Jehovah, for He hath triumphed gloriously.’ ” Patriarchs and Prophets, 288, 289.

A Time to Weep

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose. . .
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up. . .
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.…”
–Ecclesiastes 3:1–4

Have you been troubled and confused over the Bible verses about dancing? What do these verses mean? Many are using these verses to bring in celebration. Do you understand these verses? Can you give a reason for your faith?

The first point we need to understand, in this study, is that the type of dancing we have today and the type of dancing in Bible times do not compare at all. Look at what Ellen White says in Adventist Home, 517: “David’s dancing in reverent joy before God has been cited by pleasure lovers in justification of the fashionable modern dance, but there is no ground for such an argument.…The music and dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing. The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him.”

Now, laying aside that the style of dancing today is not what is represented in the Bible, we will go forward to look at the time and place of dancing in the Bible.

A Time to Dance—After a Day of Victory

In Exodus 15, Miriam sang and danced to the Lord after the destruction of the wicked. In Judges 11, Jephthah’s daughter sang and danced after the Lord delivered them in battle. In 1 Samuel 21:11, the people sang and danced, “saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” In these verses the time for dancing is clearly after a day of deliverance or victory. We can conclude that dancing is symbolic of the joy of the redeemed after salvation and deliverance.

Dancing— After the Destruction of the Wicked

“As the Hebrews witnessed the marvelous work of God in the destruction of the Egyptians, they united in an inspired song of lofty eloquence, and grateful praise. Miriam, the sister of Moses, a prophetess, led the women in music.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, 236. “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.’” Exodus 15:20–21.

David’s Dancing a Song of Deliverance

And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD unto His place, which He had prepared for it.…Thus all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. 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.” 1 Chronicles 15:3, 28, 29.

Victory—After Destruction of the Enemy

“So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.” Judges 11:32–34.

“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?’” 1 Samuel 21:11. “Is not this David, of whom they sang one to another in dances, saying, Saul slew his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” 1 Samuel 29:5.

A Time to Mourn Day of Atonement

In the timeline of the Sanctuary, the Day of Atonement was a day to mourn, a day to sigh and cry.

“…on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.” Leviticus 16:30, 31.

“It shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls.” Leviticus 23:27.

In What Day Do We Live?

“Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” James 4:8, 9.

“…pine away for your iniquities, and mourn.…” Ezekiel 24:23.

“…they…shall be on the mountains like doves of the valleys, all of them mourning, every one for his iniquity.” Ezekiel 7:16.

“We are now living in the solemn period of the antitypical Day of Atonement. In the type, the sins of the people were, on the atonement day, to be called to mind and repented of. It was a time of humiliation and affliction of soul.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 5.

This tells us it is time to sigh and cry, the time to mourn, not dance.

Is This a Day to Celebrate?

Ezekiel 9:4–6 tells us those who sigh and cry are sealed for salvation and those who are not sighing and crying are slaughtered with the sword.

Does This Sound Like a Day to Celebrate?

“Son of man, prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD; Say, A sword, a sword is sharpened, and also furbished: It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth?…Cry and howl, son of man…terrors by reason of the sword shall be upon My people: smite therefore upon thy thigh.” Ezekiel 21:9–12. “Son of man…prophesy against the land of Israel, And say…Behold, I am against thee, and will draw forth My sword out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.…Sigh therefore, thou son of man, with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes.” Ezekiel 21:2–6.

Celebrate Now— Mourn Later— at the Wrath of God

“In that day did the Lord GOD of hosts call to weeping, and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: And behold joy and gladness.…” Isaiah 22:12, 13.

Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.” Luke 6:25.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that…I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head.…Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.…” “The Lord GOD of hosts is He that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn.…” Amos 8:9–11; 9:5.

“The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musik. The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head…Thou hast utterly rejected us; Thou art very wroth against us.” Lamentations 5:14–16, 22.

Mourn and Cry in Repentance

“We are now living in the solemn period of the antitypical Day of Atonement. In the type, the sins of the people were, on the atonement day, to be called to mind and repented of. It was a time of humiliation and affliction of soul.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 5.

Mourn That God’s Wrath May Be Turned Away

“Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent Him of the evil that He hath pronounced against you.” Jeremiah 26:13.

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness.…” “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil.…Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation.…Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ‘Spare Thy people, O LORD, and give not Thine heritage to reproach.…’”
Joel 2:1, 2, 12–17.

“Gird yourselves, and lament, ye priests: howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God: for the meat offering and the drink offering is withholden from the house of your God. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD.” Joel 1:13, 14.

Go Not to the House of Feasting—Celebration

“Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.” Jeremiah 16:8, 9.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.…Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Ecclesiastes 7:2–4.

A Time to Celebrate

In the Sanctuary service, the Feast of Tabernacles comes after the Day of Atonement. A time of sighing and crying comes first, then comes the day of celebration.

Celebration Comes After We Are in Heaven

“The feast of tabernacles was the great holiday of the nation. This feast was preceded by a day of atonement…when every one was to afflict his soul by confessing his sins.…This humiliation was to prepare the way for the celebration of the feast of tabernacles.” Review and Herald, July 7, 1896. “The Feast of Tabernacles…celebrated the ingathering of the fruits of the earth, and pointed forward to the great day of final ingathering.…The people of Israel praised God at the Feast of Tabernacles, as they called to mind His mercy in their deliverance.…They rejoiced also in the consciousness of pardon and acceptance, through the service of the day of atonement, just ended.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 541, 542.

In Heaven Our Mourning is Turned to Joy—Dancing

The Bible tells us God’s people will first mourn, then He will deliver His people and turn their mourning into joy. It is in heaven that we will celebrate. It is in heaven that we will experience the joy the Bible dance represents.

“Behold, I will…gather them from the coasts of the earth,…a great company shall return thither. They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble.…Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,…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.” Jeremiah 31:8, 9, 12, 13.

“Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.” Psalms 30:11. “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:11.

A Time to Dance

In Psalms 149 and 150, David talks about dancing in the sanctuary. Many are using these verses as proof to bring dancing into the church services. What do these verses mean? Can you give a reason for your faith? We have already clarified that dancing in the Bible is much different than the dancing we have today. Dancing in the Bible represents the joy of the redeemed in the day of their salvation. Now we will look at the time and place of David’s dancing in the Psalms.

“Sing unto the Lord a new song.” Psalm 149:1. Does the Bible give us a time and place to sing “a new song“? We are told the 144,000 sing “a new song,” the song of Moses.

“Upon the crystal sea before the throne…are gathered the company that have ‘gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image’…And they sing ‘a new song’ before the throne, a song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand. It is the song of Moses and the Lamb,—a song of deliverance.” The Great Controversy, 648, 649.

This song is sung in heaven, after the great day of deliverance and victory. Now we can understand David’s song of dancing in Psalms 149 and 150. The “new song” that David is talking about is after the great day of victory, the great day of judgment upon the wicked.

Song of Moses—Heaven’s Victory Song

“O sing unto the LORD a new song; for He hath done marvellous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory. The LORD hath made known His salvation: His righteousness hath He openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.…Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Psalms 98:1, 2, 4.

“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 twoedged sword in their hand; To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all His saints. Praise ye the LORD.” Psalm 149.

“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.” Psalm 150.

In this last chapter of Psalms, David sings praises to God for the final destruction of the wicked. The dance here does not apply to the Day of Atonement. The time and place here is when the wicked are destroyed. Do not let anyone fool you into thinking we are in the day of Celebration.

A Time to Clap Your Hands

Is the clapping of hands to be a part of worship? The Bible speaks of God’s people clapping their hands. Are these verses literal, or are they also symbolic of the joy of the redeemed? Isaiah 55:12 says, “For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

“The psalmist calls upon the trees to praise the Lord; and the prophet Isaiah declares that all the trees of the field shall clap their hands in that day when the word of the Lord shall have accomplished its work of salvation among men.” Signs of the Times, February 2, 1882.

This clearly shows that the clapping of hands is symbolic of joy, the joy of the redeemed in the day of their salvation. Just like the verses about dancing, this shows the time and place is clearly after the day of victory and deliverance.

“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the LORD most high is terrible; He is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He shall choose our inheritance for us…God is gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King.…” “Let mount Zion rejoice, let the daughters of Judah be glad, because of thy judgments.” Psalms 47:1–6; 48:11.

Lift Your Hands to the Lord

Are we to lift our hands and sway our bodies in song to praise the Lord? What does the Bible say is the time and place to lift our hands?

“Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2.

“The LORD is good unto them that…quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. He sitteth alone and keepeth silence.…Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” Lamentations 3:25, 26, 28, 40, 41.

These verses are about prayer, not about singing with your hands up in the air.

“And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head.…” Ezra 9:5, 6.

“And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:6.

Based on this verse, if you want to follow the Biblical lifting of hands you must do it on your knees with your face to the ground.

“Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD, in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven.”

“And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying…he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.” 1 Kings 8:22, 54.

Praise the Lord, that, from His Word, we can find the answer!

Dancing Fanaticism—A False Spirit

“I am telling you these experiences, in order that you may know what we have passed through.…
Some fanatics after 1844 would dance up and down, singing, ‘Glory, glory, glory, glory, glory, glory.’ Sometimes I would sit still until they got through, and then I would rise and say, ‘This is not the way the Lord works. He does not make impressions in this way. We must direct the minds of the people to the Word as the foundation of our faith.’

“I was but a mere child at that time, and yet I had to bear my testimony repeatedly against these strange workings. And ever since that time I have sought to be very, very careful lest something of this sort should come in again among our people. Any manifestation of fanaticism takes the mind away from the evidence of truth—the Word itself.

“You might take a consistent course, but those who would be influenced by you might take a very inconsistent course, and, as a result, we should very soon have our hands full of something that would make it almost impossible to give unbelievers the right impression of our message and work. We must go to the people with the solid Word of God; and when they receive that Word, the Holy Spirit may come, but it always comes, as I have stated before, in a way that commends itself to the judgment [reasoning, not emotions] of the people. In our speaking, our singing, and in all our spiritual exercises, we are to reveal that calmness and dignity and godly fear that actuates every true child of God.

“There is constant danger of allowing something to come into our midst that we may regard as the workings of the Holy Spirit, but that in reality is the fruit of a spirit of fanaticism. So long as we allow the enemy of truth to lead us into a wrong way, we cannot hope to reach the honest in heart with the Third Angel’s Message. We are to be sanctified through obedience to the truth. I am afraid of anything that would have a tendency to turn the mind away from the solid evidences of the truth as revealed in God’s Word. I am afraid of it; I am afraid of it. We must bring our minds within the bounds of reason, lest the enemy so come in as to set everything in a disorderly way. There are persons of an excitable temperament who are easily led into fanaticism; and should we allow anything to come into our churches that would lead such persons into error, we would soon see these errors carried to extreme lengths, and then because of the course of these disorderly elements, a stigma would rest upon the whole body of Seventh-day Adventists.

“I have been studying how to get some of these early experiences into print again, so that more of our people may be informed, for I have long known that fanaticism will be manifest again, in different ways. We are to strengthen our position by dwelling on the Word, and by avoiding all oddities and strange exercisings that some would be very quick to catch up and practice.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 42–44.

“Ellen White recounts early experiences. . . . She told incident after incident connected with her early labors shortly after the passing of the time in 1844.…As Sister White continued, she told of some who had strange exercisings of the body and of others who were governed largely by their own impressions. Some thought it wrong to work. Still others believed that the righteous dead had been raised to eternal life. A few sought to cultivate a spirit of humility by creeping on the floor, like little children. Some would dance, and sing ‘glory, glory, glory, glory, glory, glory,’ over and over again. Sometimes a person would jump up and down on the floor, with hands uplifted, praising God; and this would be kept up for as long as half an hour at a time. Among those who took part in these extraordinary forms of fanaticism were some who had once been faithful, god-fearing brethren and sisters. The strange exercisings of body and mind were carried to such lengths that in a few places the officers of the law felt compelled to restrain them by casting them into prison. The cause of God was thus brought into disrepute and it took years to outlive the influence that these exhibitions of fanaticism had upon the general public.” Ibid., Book 3, 370, 371.

“Those things which have been in the past will be in the future. Satan will make music a snare by the way in which it is conducted.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 38.

[All emphasis added.]