What Type of Dance did Miriam really do?

As previous posts alluded to this fact, Old Testament figures living approximately around 1-2000 BC did not do Jazz or Hip Hop, which are modern creations around 1-2000 AD.  So these dances are new and not typical of traditional dances that the people of God,  the Israelites, danced.

So what dances did they dance?

To discover the answer to this complex question, we must look at historical documents, references, and vernacular of that time. These things will give us insight into how Miriam and her peers moved to celebrate their victory in escaping from the Egyptians by God’s hand drowning them in the Red Sea.

Exodus 15:20 says ~

“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”

First,  let’s frame the historical year,  for this sets the precedence over all forms of dance we have today. Since there are numerous calendars and ambiguous dates and slightly different references according to each civilization’s understanding of time,  we surmise the Exodus occurred around 1200-1500 BC.

Second, let’s clarify some of the vocabulary of that era:

Timbrel,  pictured below,  looks like a modern day tambourine.


Biblical dancing as described in Hebrew & Aramaic  suggests these particular motions of the body:

Machol ~ to whirl the body

Hhalaeem ~ jewels or also, tremble, writhe

These movements are both classic to Oriental dance or known as Middle Eastern dance.

Today these dances are known as Belly Dance , with distinctions by country or by type: Turkish belly dance, Egyptian belly dance, Lebanese belly dance, Cabaret, Tribal/Gothic belly dance, and Classic American belly dance.

Third, examine this information I found on the website “thebestofhabibi.com”,  which refers to authors Meyer Gruber & Carlos Suares,  on the dance of the Shulamite woman  in the book of Song Of Solomon:

“‘the curve of your hips seem to torment themselves.. [using] curves as circular movements..making skillful circular rotations of the hips.. [they are] trembling or writhing’…which are all movements basic to belly dance”.

From these words of witness, we can deduce Miriam and the other women with her, probably BELLY DANCED. They belly danced  to mark their freedom from slavery, their new relationship with the Lord, and their new journey to a promise land. And God didn’t seem to disapprove. The Bible records numerous times when the Lord spoke His disapproval when He felt it. Yet this was recorded as an example of praise to God, not something to be hidden.

The Bible, one of the oldest religious documents found on earth, was written around 1000 BC through 500 BC, according to allabouttruth.com. The Word of God is the first to record this type of dance for the Lord. In comparison with other major religious works, the Koran was written in 650 AD, the Veda circa 500 BC & after, the Tao-te-ching around 600 BC, and the Bahagavad Gita between 200 BC to 200 AD.

So why aren’t we belly dancing in the church today? It belongs to Him and His people as clearly shown in His Word. And why is this beautiful precious dance more acceptable for worldly performances that for godly worship?

Hmmm…Something to think about.

Why I Bellydance, being a Christian

belly girl

As a Christian dancer, most people think when I dance to praise to Lord, that I do what’s labeled as praise dance, which usually  incorporates beautiful flowing white or creme robes, props such as a flag, a pole, or a scarf. Although I do use props, you probably wont see me in a robe doing traditional praise dances to God. Instead I use a variety of dances to offer my gift to the Lord.

So I dance a myriad of styles and when people hear belly dance among those styles, they wonder: Is she really saved? How could she possibly dance sensually and claim she is praising God? Can a Christian dancer belly dance too?

When Miriam danced with tambourines and the women joined her (Exodus 15:20), do you think she was doing hip hop? What about ballet? Ha! Those are new dance forms compared to ancient history. They danced to rejoice at the great victory God just showed them by delivering them from Pharaoh of Egypt and his great army, drowned in the sea.

I believe the women in biblical times danced the dances that were native and indigenous  to their land and people. These dances are called folk dances. Now the Israelis in Israel have folk dances today, but are these the same dances that were performed in Moses time? I’m not sure, just like the Modern Hebrew language we have today has been reconstructed in the 1950s, with much historical study, so could their dances be.

My theory is that Oriental Dance, or what America coined as belly dance, is the OLDEST DANCE from the middle eastern lands that we have. I believe it has been passed down from many generations and now shared with us. I think oriental dance is a form of folk dance that is closer to what Miriam and her female companions danced than what we see today.

In that respect, I can use Oriental Dance to praise God too. Of course, America, has altered its appeal, dress, perception, and environment, and I am very careful not to play into that ideal. I dress modestly, know the dance’s purpose, and only use it in a non lusting environment. Most true belly dance performers, are not strippers, but dance in family environments, special performances, and, at times, pull several people from the audience to dance with her.

Although I do not foresee belly dancing going to the alter of a church anytime soon, I will continue to hope the people can understand and celebrate its purity and beauty and see it as the oldest form of dance we have that connects us with the ancestors.

(image: from MEE cd cover)