The Hebrew word signified "to leap for joy," Psalms 30:11; and the action of the lame man healed by Peter and John, Acts 3:8, more nearly resembled the Hebrew dancing than the measured artificial steps of modern times do. The Jewish dances were expressive of religious joy and gratitude. Sometimes they were in honor of a conqueror, as in the case of David, 1 Samuel 18:6,7; when he had slain the Philistine giant, "the women came out all the cities of Israel singing and dancing." It was practiced on occasions of domestic joy. See the case of the prodigal sonís return. In the religious dance, the timbrel was used to direct the ceremony, and some one led, whom the rest followed with measured step and devotional songs; thus Miriam led the women of Israel, Exodus 15:20,21, and king David the men, 2 Samuel 6:14 Psalms 150:4.
Several important conclusions have been drawn from a careful comparison of the portions of Scripture in which there is allusions to dancing. It was religious in its character; practiced exclusively on joyous occasions; only by one of the sexes; usually in the daytime, and in the open air: no instances are on record in which the two sexes united in the exercise; and it was not practiced for amusement. The exceptions to this latter assertion are "vain fellows," alluded to by Michal, 2 Samuel 6:20, the ungodly rich families referred to by Job, Job 21:11, and the daughter of Herodias, Matthew 14:6.
Among the Greeks and Romans dancing was a common pastime, resorted to in order to enliven feasts, and also on occasions of domestic joy. Still Cicero says, "No one dances, unless he is either drunk or mad;" and these words express the prevailing sense as to the impropriety of respectable individuals taking part in the amusement. Hence the gay circles of Rome, as is the case in the East at the present time, derived their entertainment from the performances of professional dancers. These were women of abandoned character; and their dances, like those in heathen temples, were often grossly indecent, Isaiah 23:16.