"When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams." - Numbers 12:6b

This evening I did a study of all of the passages in the Bible that mention the words: dream, dreamed, dreamer, dreamers, dreameth, and dreams. My intent was to practice Systematic theology concerning the nature of dreams. (Wayne Grudem defines Systematic Theology as "any study that answers the question, "What does the whole Bible teach us today?" about any given topic.")

Dreams are listed in several different places in the Bible.
Some of the most notable:
Jacob's Ladder - Jacob dreamt of a ladder going from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it.God spoke to him from above, granting him the land of Israel.
Joseph's dreams - Joseph dreamt that his parents and brothers would bow down to him, in two separate dreams. In one, sheaves of grain bowed down to his sheaf. In another, the stars, sun, and moon bowed down to him.
Later while in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's baker and cupbearer. The baker was given three days before he was hung, and the cupbearer was given three days before he was restored.
Joseph also interpreted Pharoah's dream involving cows, and also his second dream involving ears of corn. He correctly predicted 7 plentiful years and 7 lean years for Egypt, and was put in a position of power.

Daniel was given several dreams/visions that are recorded in the apocalyptic style.

My study revealed several items of interest about dreams.

First and foremost is how we are expected to use dreams - dreams are secondary to the use of God's word. "Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully." - Jeremiah 23:28a God warns against false dreamers and prophets in several places (Deut 13, Jer 23, 29:8, Zech 10:2) and that they will be sent to test faith (Deut 13:3). In addition there are characteristically 4 types of dreams reported in the Bible:
Blessings are bestowed upon Jacob (Gen 28:12), Joseph (Gen 37), the cupbearer (Gen 37), Egypt (Gen 41), King Solomon (1 Kings 3).
Abimelech concerning Abraham's wife (Gen 20:3,6), the baker (Gen 40), Egypt (Gen 41), Gideon's enemies (Judges 7:13), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4), and numerous times to Joseph (early father to Jesus) and the Magi in the first two chapters of Matthew.
To Joseph concerning Mary's child, and also to return to Israel from Egypt (Matthew 1 & 2)
Future events:
The visions of Daniel, and also of John in Revelation.

Job 7:14 also states that God frightens us with dreams so that we will turn from evil.

"For God does speak - now one way, now another - though man may not percieve it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds." - Job 14:15

"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, your young men will see visions." - Joel 2:28

Clearly God uses dreams to communicate with man. But are all dreams meant as this communication? Ecclesiastes would indicate not - "Much dreaming and many words are meaningless" (Ecc 5:7) and "dreams come when there are many cares" (Ecc 5:3).

There also seems to be a gift of dream interpretation - possessed by both Joseph and Daniel in Scripture. While it is doubtful that such a powerful version of it is bestowed today, if God uses dreams, then he almost certainly uses interpreters as well.

How then do we know what dreams are meaningful? Can we even have meaningful dreams?

Peter's quotation of the passage in Joel (Acts 2) indicates that the time when the Spirit is poured out has arrived, meaning any common person who has the Holy Spirit can have meaningful dreams. In many cases in the Bible, God directly speaks to the dreamer - while these dreams have the highest consideration, as long as it does not conflict with Scripture, any dream could be communication from God.

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