Dance from the Scriptures
In the Old Testament Scriptures several words are translated into ‘dance’. In Ecclesiastes 3:4 it states: ‘a time to mourn and a time to dance’. The word ‘rakad’ means to leap or skip about.
The word karar, which literally means whirling, was used to describe King David’s dance as the Ark was being brought to Jerusalem. II Samuel 6:14
Two other words, mahol and m’hola, are derived from the root word ‘hul’. Interestingly, this verb contains two basic ideas. One is dance, whirling around in circular movements, and the other is writhing in labor pains, travail, tremble or fear.
Mahol is used in Psalms 149 and 150 in the context of praising God. M’hola is used to describe Miriam and others in a dance of joy after crossing the Red Sea. (Exodus 15:20)
Another example of m’hola is from the Song of Solomon 6:13 describing the Shulamite. The picture is of her being entreated to return so that her lover can behold and gaze upon her performing the ‘dance of Mahanaim’, which literally means 'double camp'. The term refers to a camp when Jacob was returning to the land of his fathers (Genesis 32:1-2). The angels of God met him and he said, "This is God's camp." Consequently, it could be understood that the Shulamite’s dancing was pleasing in the sight of God and His angels.
The root ‘hul’ is used in Psalms 97:4 and 114:7 speaks of when the earth writhes or trembles as God’s power is displayed.
In Psalm 96:9 the translation as ‘fear’ or ‘tremble’ seems less appropriate. As all nations are to glorify Him and worship His holiness, a more accurate picture would be of people ‘trembling in joy’ or even in ‘dance’. In combining the two basic ideas of the word mentioned above, one could think of dance as a way to travail in prayer as labor pains bring forth new life.