Dreams in the Bible – Introduction

Dreams in the Bible – Introduction

Dreams in the BibleIntroduction.

“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 smells in the bedroom. And because dreamers are in an unconscious state, dreams are outside of our control as our 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 someone. 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.

We do know that dreams most occur during the final stage of sleep called the REM stage (Rapid Eye Movement), when our brains are most active before waking, our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and our breathing is particularly shallow and irregular. It could very well be that dreaming helps us to maintain mental health, that we seem to process emotions, memories, and events during our dreams. There is a probability that we work through unresolved emotions and fears through our dreams. Unfortunately, dreaming also seems to be when relive unwelcome traumas and other events in our lives. The comforting spiritual reality here is that if God can be present with us in positive ways in our dreams, it also means we can count on His presence with us in our nightmares or night terrors as well.

Another mystery about our dreams is that there have been so many inventions and inspired ideas that have come to dreamers when in their unconscious states. Products like the sewing machine and Google arrived via dreams, as well as ideas such as the theory of relativity, the structure of the atom, the Periodic Table, and the model for our DNA. Countless artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists have been inspired in significant ways while dreaming. It is fascinating to consider how we are able to brainstorm while dreaming.

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.

I found it helpful in this study of “Dreams in the Bible” to seek out the difference between dream and vision. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the two in Scripture, and sometimes a passage seems to refer to a combination of the two. For the most part, though, when we see the Hebrew rod “halom” in the Hebrew Bible, a dream is the context. The same goes when we see the Greek word “onar” in the New Testament, the passage referring specifically to a dream. In the beginning of this article, we can see many references to dreams in particular. But there were many visions as well throughout Scripture, when God chose to reveal a divine message to a waking person.

To my mind, it is just as amazing that God would even use dreams, as it is that the dreamers didn’t seem to have a second thought about it. The dreamers heard God’s messages loud and clear and had no hesitation to follow along with what God had to say. Now, that is true faith, isn’t it?