What Does the Bible Say About Dreams?

 Rev.  Kevin R. Airrington

I get questions like this all the time: “I have been dreaming a lot about being in water, feeling water flowing in my heart. What is happening to me?”

My sister recently had a question for me that went something like this: “Can our loved ones who have died give us signs; like a dream?”

Some of you may be looking for a scientific answer.  I will not necessarily go there…to the study of dreams, bu I will do my best to answer this question from a biblical point of view.  perhaps in the end we will have out biblical foundation for the definition of a dream, the reason or cause for the dream, we will discuss the reality of dreams and God’s purpose for dreams.  Fair enough?

The Definition of a Dream

As I said in the introduction to this essay I will be using a biblical definition, it may not be what you have read in science journals and that is fine.  My authority comes from the Word of God.

JACOBS'S DREAM
JACOBS DREAM Genesis 28:10-22

When we thinking of dreams we typically think of when we are asleep. Day dreaming also comes to mind.  For the purposes of this essay we will be focusing on the dreams that occur while we are asleep.  The Bible defines a dream in Job 33:15, “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;”. The Bible says several things in this one verse. First of all, a dream is a vision of the night. The verse also teaches that a dream occurs when deep sleep falls upon men. According to the Bible, a vision is something that occurs when a man is awake, while a dream is something that occurs when a man is asleep. Some who study dreams say that we are always dreaming when we sleep, but we only remember the dreams right before we awake. This would actually fit with the scriptures in several cases where men remember a dream that actually woke them up.

I just can’t help it…I need to stop and worship God right now!

Raise your hands and bless the Lord right now…worship His Holy Name!

The Cause of a Dream

From everything that I have read about dreams, it seems as though we still do not have solid answers as to what causes them.  Again we turn to the Bible and we will see if we can draw some wisdom from the man of great wisdom, King Solomon.

Together let’s look at

For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words..”

I have read that many who study dreams tell us that while our body is at rest (we are asleep) our mind is very busy.   What does, ” a multitude of business causes dreams?”  In the book LIVING BEYOND OUR DREAMS by Dr. Miracle I. Anyanwu (I know what a name.) on Page 32.  He says, “The Bible specifically says that, the MULTITUDE OF BUSINESS causes dreams to manifest.  This could be the multitude of physical and emotional business or it could be the multitude of mental business, but either way it appears that this is what causes us to dream. Though your body settles in rest, your mind can keep right on working and thinking.  In other words, out of the abundance of our daily physical and emotional ventures, we dream (Food for thought.)”  He goes on to say on Page 32-33, “It would interest you to know that most of these dreams are as a result of our endeavors in the physical world.  They can be a reflection of our daily activities.  Most of the desires a man has in the physical world are reflected in his dreams.  These desires can either be heavenly inspired or ungodly.  Whatsoever that occupies a man’s heart controls (dominates) him.

The Reality of Dreams

Dreams can appear to be very real.  I am paralyzed from the wait down.  I always dream where I am walking.  I had one dream that I was at the bus or train station.  I asked to use the phone.  The ticket master sent me up this dirt road to a pay phone that was in a wooden box that hung on a pole.  I walked the hill…when I reached the phone I discovered the phone was out of order.  In disgust and anger…i walked back down the hill and sat in my wheelchair.  Sometimes you wake up scared, sometimes mad and sometimes sad, yet you realize after a while that it was just a dream and you settle down. The Bible speaks of this in Isaiah 29:8,when it says, “It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.

You may dream of eating or drinking, but when you awake you are still empty. It may have appeared real, but it was not.

Remember, dreams do not always have to mean something.  They may Something else to consider here is that dreams are not necessarily supposed to mean anything.

Consider Ecclesiastes 5:7:

 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

King Solomon is clear.  Dreams, many dreams can mean absolutely diddly squat!  Rather than trust our dreams, no matter how real they may seem we are not to trust them; we are rather to fear God.

Common Purposes for Dreams

God uses various dreams in the Bible for specific purposes.  This is especially tre for the Old Testament.   While, it would seem impractical to state them all in this essay I will cover three that really stand out in my mind.  Let’s see if you agree.

There were times when God used a dream to:

  1. …give a warning.   Look at Matthew 2:12, where the Bible says, “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not  return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”   The Lord came to the wise men in a dream to warn them.  He warned them not to return to Herod, in fact find another way home.   It is interesting to note that in the very next verse Joseph is also warned of the Lord in a dream to flee into Egypt with the Lord Jesus. In my exploration of scripture the first dream that I have seen in the scripture is when God spoke to Abimelech.  God warned him that he had taken another man’s wife.   Would you agree that God warning His subjects via dream is a very common purpose?
  2. …to reveal prophecy.   There once was a man named Joseph.  Joseph was subject to dreams and the interpretation of them.   In Genesis 37, Joseph dreamed a dream about his brethren bowing down to him. If you know the story of Joseph, you know that the dreams are the only evidence of this occurring until he was promoted to the second in command under Pharaoh.  Had it not been for these dreams over the last 13 or so years; Joseph had nothing to hold on to but the these dreams that told his future.   I love the Book of Daniel.  If you have studied Daniel you will remember that Nebuchadnezzar had many dreams that were filled with prophecy.  A careful study of dreams in the Bible we will find many other dreams that fit this category.
  3. …to encourage.  Dreams which bring us encouragement, I do not find as strong of occurrence in the Bible.  But it does exist, enough for me to say, “Hey, God appears in our dreams to encourage us.”    Read Judges chapter 7.  In this chapter we find God thinning out the army of Gideon.   He is the trouble with this.  Gideon is ready to battle the vast army of Midian.  Gideon begins with an army of 32,000 soldiers.  God continues to dwindle this army down to 300 soldiers.  The question you should be asking right now is, “What in the world is God doing?”  To me the answer is clear.  But lets look to God’s Word and see if my “guess” is supported by God’s Word.  Let’s start with a familiar passage in Zechariah 4:6, Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.   Then let’s see what the Psalmist has to say on this matter, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.“, Psalm 20:7.  Clearly the purpose of God was so that Gideon and his men would know beyond any shadow of a doubt that it was the Lord and not their own might.  An interesting lesson.  Imagine, having an income of $80,000 and then all of a sudden God dwindles that income down to $24,000.  In a dream the Lord of Hosts may encourage you saying, “You will learn to lean on me and do more with less.  I am the Lord thy God.”  Just as the Lord instructed Gideon that if he was afraid he should go down unto the host and then he would be strengthened; we too can lean on Christ for our strength.  When Gideon arrived in the host, he heard a man telling a dream to another man. The interpretation of the dream just so happened to be that the army of Gideon was going to defeat the Midianites. Immediately upon hearing of this dream, Gideon was strengthened and he worshiped God. Surely the whole purpose for this man’s dream was the encouragement of Gideon.

Dreams of the Bible and Dreams Today

I do not hold to the heretical position that God no longer speaks to us.  Many well know and preachers whom I love and respect will split with me on this.  But I am right and they are wrong.   God most definitely speaks to us through  our dreams today.  God’s not dead!   These heretics will argue that the now we have the Bible and that we no longer need visions and dreams.  Where do they get this?  Their own imaginations.  I want to share two scriptures of warning at this point.   The first, 2 Peter 1:20, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.  Scripture is not open to any private interpretation.  When his happens you are stepping over the line.

The second warning is this:  “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”, Colossians 2:8  Scripture is not to be biased with deceit and tradition.   Remember the movie, “Fiddler on the roof.”  I can still she Tevye davind and singing and snapping his fingers saying, “Tradition, tradition! Tradition! Tradition, tradition! Tradition!” “dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai,dai!!!!”  I love that movie…and traditions are fine…except where the tradition replaces the intent of the Living God Jehovah!


As a matter of fact the Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”  This is a scripture the heretics use to “prove” that God does not use dreams and vision.  In fact, David did not mean anything close to that.   They say, “another point to consider is Joel’s reference to prophesy, dreams and visions.” In Joel 2:28 he says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:”.   I disagree that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Acts 2:17.  God is not dead!   Joel tells is via prophecy that God will dreams will be used of God to speak to men.    Acts 2:17 confirms not fulfills Joel’s prophecy!

I very strongly believe that God can and will allow people to have dreams that could turn them to Him. For example, I believe God would allow a man to have a dream about hell, if it would keep him from going there.  See Bill Wiese’s account…23 Minutes in Hell where he actually went to Hell…not only as a warning to him but to others as well.

We can give just as much weight to our dreams today as we did in the Bible.  Ultimately when we dream and it causes us concern, we ought to go to God and ask Him if He is trying to teach us something. If the Lord does not burn it into your heart that He is trying to teach you something then chalk it up to a multitude of business and go on about your day.  Because as we discussed earlier not every dream is meant to be interpreted…it may just be a dream and I think most are.

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