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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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machol , literally, moving or leaping in a circle. Gesenius however translates machalath "a stringed instrument," and machol "dancing" Mendelssohn makes machol , "a hollow musical instrument" (Psalms 150:4, margin) Expressing joy, as contrasted with mourning (Ecclesiastes 3:4; Psalms 30:11). The woman nearest of kin to the champion in some national triumph or thanksgiving, and who had a kind of public character with her own sex, led a choir of women; as Miriam (Exodus 15:1-20) (while Moses led the men), Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:34), Deborah (Judges 5) (while Barak led the men). Some song or refrain in antiphonal answer. forming the burden of the song, accompanied the dance (Exodus 32:18-19; 1 Samuel 18:7; 1 Samuel 21:11). The women are represented as "coming out" to do this and meet the hero.

Miriam went out before "Jehovah, the Man of war" (Exodus 15:3; Exodus 15:20-21), and answered the entire chorus. But the women glorifying Saul and David, having no leader, "answered one another." The special feature of David's conduct before the returning ark (2 Samuel 6:5-22) is that he was choir leader, the women with their timbrels (2 Samuel 6:5; 2 Samuel 6:19-20; 2 Samuel 6:22) taking a prominent part. Michal ought to have led them; but jealousy of David's other wives, married while she was with Phaltiel, and attachment to the latter (2 Samuel 3:15-16), and the feeling that David's zeal rebuked her apathy, led her to "come out to meet" him with sneers not songs.

The dance necessitated his taking off his royal upper robes to "dance with all his might." This she called "uncovering himself in the eyes of the handmaids." His leading thought was to do honor to God who had delivered him from all his enemies (1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 13:16; 2 Samuel 6:21-23). Enthusiasm was kindled by these religious dances, which enlisted at once the tongue and the other members of the body in acts of worship; which explains Psalms 35:10. David says, "All my bones shall say, Lord, who is like unto Thee?" the very language that the Israelites, while the women danced to the Lord, uttered as their song after the Red Sea deliverance (Exodus 15:11). The dance, however, was generally left to women (Judges 21:19-23). It is mentioned as a censure on their looseness that "the people rose up to play" at Aaron's calf festival (Exodus 32:6; 1 Corinthians 10:7), also that the Amalekites were "dancing" (1 Samuel 30:16).

The woman leader usually in the East leads off the dance, and the other women exactly follow her graceful movements. In Song of Solomon 6:13 allusion possibly is made in the "two armies" to two rows of female dancers vis-avis in performing; but the spiritual sense refers to the two parts of the one church army, the militant and the triumphant. Dancing accompanied festivity of a secular kind (Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:13; Lamentations 5:15; Luke 15:25), especially that of women and children (Job 21:11; Matthew 11:17). Dancing by men and women together was unknown; as indeed the oriental seclusion of women from men would alone have sufficed to make it seem indecorous. Maimonides says that in the joyous Feast of Tabernacles the women danced separately in an apartment above, and the men danced below. Herod's extravagant promise to Herodias' daughter shows that it was a rare deed in those regions (Mark 6:22-23).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Dance'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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