Every person dreams. In the time of the Bible, people also had dreams. Those were ordinary dreams and also special dreams. In the dreams described in the Bible there is often a message that the dreamer gets from God. People in the time of the Bible believed that God could speak to people through dreams.
Well-known dreams from the Bible are the dreams that Joseph had. He also had the gift of explaining dreams, such as the dream of the donor and the baker. Also in the New Testament we read that God uses dreams to make things clear to people. In the first Christian congregation, dreams were seen as a sign that the Holy Spirit was working.
Dreams in the time of the Bible
In the days of the Bible, people dreamed of today as well. ‘Dreams are lies’. This is a well-known statement and often it is true. Dreams can deceive us. That is now, but people also knew that in the time of the Bible. The Bible is a sober book.
It warns against the deception of dreams: ‘Like the dream of someone who is hungry: he dreams about food, but is still hungry when he awakens; or of someone who is thirsty and dreams that he is drinking, but is still thirsty and dried out on waking ” (Isaiah 29: 8). The view that dreams do not have much to do with reality can also be found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It says: “Crowds lead to dreamy and a lot of talk to babble” and “Dreamy and empty words are enough.” (Ecclesiastes 5: 2 and 6).
Nightmare in the Bible
Fearful dreams, nightmares, can make a deep impression. Nightmares are also mentioned in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah does not speak of a nightmare, but uses the word ” fear of fear ” (Isaiah 29: 7). Job also has anxiety dreams. He says about that: “For when I say,” I find comfort in my bed, my sleep will ease my sorrow, “then you startle me with dreams,
and the images I see frighten me” (Job 7: 13-14).
God communicates through dreams
One of the most important texts about how God can use dreams to get in touch with people can be read in Numbers. There God tells Aaron and Mirjam how he communicates with people.
God speaks with people, with prophets, through dreams and visions. These dreams and visions are not always clear, so come across as riddles. Dreams must be made clear. They often ask for an explanation. God deals with Moses in a different way. God preaches directly to Moses and not through dreams and visions. Moses has a special position as a person and leader of the people of Israel.
The interpretation of dreams in the Bible
The stories in the Bible tell of the dreams that people get. Those dreams often do not speak for themselves. Dreams are like riddles that must be solved. One of the most famous dream interpreters in the Bible is Joseph. He has also received special dreams. The two dreams of Joseph are about the sheaves that bow before his sheaf and about the stars and the moon that bow before him (Genesis 37: 5-11). It is not written in the Bible whether he himself then knew what these dreams meant.
In the continuation of the story, Joseph becomes the one who explains dreams. Joseph can explain the dreams of the giver and the baker (Genesis 40: 1-23). Later he also explained his dreams to the Pharaoh of Egypt (Genesis 41). The interpretation of dreams does not come from Joseph himself. Joseph says to the giver and the baker: ” The interpretation of dreams is a matter of God, isn’t it?” Tell me those dreams someday (Genesis 40: 8). Joseph can explain dreams through the promptings of God.
Daniel and the king’s dream
In the time of the Babylonian exile, it was Daniel who explained the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar is critical of the dream declitters. He states that they should not only explain the dream, but that they should also tell him what he dreamed. The dream interpreters, the magicians, charmers, magicians at his court cannot do that. They fear for their lives. Daniel can pass on the dream and his explanation to the king through divine revelation.
Daniel is clear in what he reports to the king:Neither wise men, charmers, magicians nor future predictors can reveal to him the mystery that the king wants to understand. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has let King Nebuchadnezzar know what will happen at the end of time. The dream and the visions that came to you during your sleep were these ” (Daniel 2: 27-28). Then Daniel tells the king what he dreamed and then Daniel explains the dream.
Dream interpretation by unbeliever
Both Joseph and Daniel indicate in the interpretation of dreams that the interpretation does not come primarily from themselves, but that the interpretation of a dream comes from God. There is also a story in the Bible in which someone who does not believe in the God of Israel explains a dream. The interpretation of dreams is not reserved for believers. In Richteren is the story of a pagan who explains a dream. Judge Gideon, who secretly listens, is encouraged by that explanation (Judges 7: 13-15).
Dreaming in the gospel of Matthew
Not only in the Old Testament does God speak to people through dreams. In the New Testament, Joseph is Mary’s fiancé, again a Joseph, who receives directions from the Lord through dreams. The evangelist Matthew describes four dreams in which God speaks to Joseph. In the first dream, he is instructed to take Mary, who was pregnant, to wife (Matthew 1: 20-25).
In the second dream it is made clear to him that he must flee to Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus (2: 13-15). In the third dream he is informed about the death of Herod and that he can safely return to Israel (2: 19-20). Then, in a fourth dream, Joseph receives the warning not to go to Galilee (2:22). In between get the wise from the East a dream with the command not to return to Herod (2:12). At the end of Matthew’s gospel, mention is made of the wife of Pilate, who in a dream suffered a great deal about Jesus (Matthew 27:19).
Dreaming in the first church of Christ
After the death and resurrection of Jesus it is not that no more dreams come from God. On the first day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is poured out, the apostle Peter gives a speech. He interpreted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as predicted by the prophet Joel: ” What is happening here has been announced by the prophet Joel:” At the end of time, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Then your sons and daughters will prophesy, young people will see visions and old people dream faces.
Yes, I will pour out my spirit on all my servants and servants at that time, so that they will prophesy. “(Acts 2: 16-18). With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, old people will see dream faces and young people visions. Paul was led by the Spirit of God during his missionary journeys. Sometimes a dream gave him the clue where he should go. So Paul dreamed of a man from Macedonia calling to him: ” Cross over to Macedonia and come to our aid!” (Acts 16: 9). In Bible Book of Acts, dreams and visions are a sign that God is present in the church through the Holy Spirit.