Bible Dreams – A Philistine King

Bible Dreams – A Philistine King

Bible Dreams – A Philistine King.

“That night God came to king Abimelech in a dream…” (Genesis 20:3); “As Jacob slept, he dreamed of a stairway…” (Gen. 28:12); “In my dream, the Angel of the Lord said to me, ‘Jacob!” (Gen. 31:11); “One night, Joseph had a dream…” (Gen. 37:5); “The previous night, God had appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream…” (Gen. 31:24); “Interpreting dreams is God’s business, so go ahead and tell me your dreams,’ said Joseph.”(Gen. 40:8); “Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed… (Gen. 41:1);“When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.” (Judges 7:15); “That night, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream.” (1 Kings 3:5, and 9:2); “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means,’ said King Nebuchadnezzar. He sent for Daniel at once.” (Daniel 2:3, 14); “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream…” (Matthew 1:20, also in 2:19 and 2:22); “God had warned the Magi in a dream.” (Matt. 2:12); “Pilate’s wife sent him a message, saying ‘Let that innocent man alone! I suffered through a terrible nightmare about Him last night!” (Matt. 27:19).

Why would God, who has every means of revelation at His disposal, choose dreams as a way to contact a person and convey vital guidance? Dreams tend to be unreliable, unpredictable, illogical, and poorly remembered if at all. Many if not most dreams don’t seem like a very trustworthy vehicle for divine communication. They can be mistranslated so easily, and sometimes are so bizarre it’s hard to take them seriously. And we know now that dreams can be affected by external things like room temperature, what we ate or drank before bedtime, the events of the day, or even if there are any lingering aromas in the house. And because dreamers are in an unconscious state, dreams are outside of our control as the unfettered imagination runs wild.

Nonetheless, God speaking through dreams didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows in Scripture. Everyone from pagan kings to heroic saints were not surprised by this strategy of God to reach them. We now realize that after decades of so-called dream science, the whole topic of dreams are just as mysterious now as in ancient times. Dreams remain a fascinating frontier when it comes to scientific research, and we still simply cannot confirm why we have this ability to mentally experience vivid pictures, stories and images while in an unconscious state. God in His wisdom knows when to approach someone with divine intervention while a person is in a dream state. He knows who is a likely prospect for His appearance in a dream. Perhaps some people are more receptive to God’s guidance when in an unconscious state, which says a lot about a person’s stubbornness when in a conscious state. Perhaps it is only during a dream that a person doesn’t have much of a choice of whether to listen or not, knowing that dreamers are captive audiences. Maybe God waits for when a certain person’s resistance is down. Perhaps a person’s imagination might be more picturesque and creative during a dream, able to manage an other-worldly, heavenly message. We just don’t know for sure the motivation of God in using dreams, of course, because His very presence is a mystery as He somehow travels back and forth between spiritual, material and imaginative realities. But we do know that God often chooses to work in mysterious ways and in this matter of dreams, He has chosen, and continues to choose, dreams to warn, instruct, guide, reveal His presence, and encourage us. God loves us so much that He will do whatever it takes to reach us whether awake, or asleep, or everything in between.

“While in Philistine country as a foreigner, Abraham introduced his wife, Sarah, by saying, ‘She is my sister.’ So King Abimelech of Gerar sent for Sarah and had her brought to him at his palace. But that night God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him, ‘You are a dead man, for that woman you have taken is already married!’” (read all of Genesis 20 for the full story).

Even the great Abraham, God’s chosen Patriarch, the famous Father of the Faith, had his weak moments. Soon after God’s call to leave his homeland in Ur and head for Canaan, a severe famine had forced Abram and is wife Sarai to take a detour to Egypt. While there, Abram realized his beautiful wife would arouse some attention from Pharaoh, so Abram spread the word that Sarai was his sister. There seemed be an unwritten law during that time in ancient history that a king could not commit the indignity of taking someone else’s wife into his harem. So Abram thought that if Pharaoh knew Sarai to be his wife, Pharaoh would simply kill him and take Sarai. So, Abram’s dishonest strategy of speaking of Sarai as merely his sister found a ready audience in Pharoah, who felt free to assume Sarah into his royal harem. Unfortunately for Pharaoh and his household, God then punished the royal palace by sending a terrible plague of some sort. Naturally, Pharaoh put two and two together, and was furious about Abram’s deception. Pharaoh acted quickly and had Abram and all his family expelled from Egypt. (Genesis 12:10-20).

Abraham seemed to be a slow learner in situations like this, and so when he faced an identical dilemma in Philistine country later, he repeated his dishonesty. Once again, the Bible is not shy about revealing when the saints of God proved their humanity and had less than a shining moment. Abraham repeated the deception to King Abimelech that he did to Pharoah, with the same result. This time, when Sarah was forced into the King’s royal harem, God came to the king in a dream. Unexpectedly, God and Abimelech actually engaged in a conversation while Abimelech was in his unconscious state fully asleep! Here we find God and a dreamer in dialogue, of all things. God told the king that he was as good as dead, since he did the unpardonable sin of taking another man’s wife. Abimelech rightly responded to God with claims of innocence, since Abraham had deceived him. Somehow, I enjoy learning about this drama between the Philistine King who was filled with righteous indignation before the almighty God. God then answered the king by agreeing that the king was indeed innocent, and that nonetheless he had better return Sarah to her husband Abraham. God also told him that if he knew what was good for him, he should also ask prophet Abraham to pray for him. Naturally, Abimelech was outraged that Abraham would pull a stunt like that, especially because God had sent a plague of infertility as punishment onto all the women in the palace! To make sure his conscience was clear and that his reputation was intact, Abimelech gave parting gifts to Abraham: sheep, goats, cattle, servants and a financial reparation of 25 pounds of silver. It’s interesting that Abraham made out like a bandit after being dishonest, and that God didn’t seem to hold Abraham accountable in the least for being deceptive.

There is a double mystery here: God breaking into a sleeping man’s dream, and then the unconscious sleeper somehow being able to hold a logical dialogue… an unconscious man having a conscious conversation while still in the middle of a dream! Here we find, and not for the last time, God and a dreamer having a perfectly reasonable back-and-forth discussion. God is revealing here His supernatural ability to enter someone’s dream, as well as the power to enable an unconscious man to speak in a conscious manner. What is actually more astounding is that our merciful God thought to warn a super-pagan Philistine King of impending death. God indeed showers His mercy upon the righteous and the unrighteous. One can hope that perhaps King Abimelech recognized this quality of Abraham’s God and was inspired to consider more deeply, to perhaps even fear more righteously, the God of the Chosen People.