DREAMS FROM GOD
Dreams from God were received by Jehovah’s servants and by persons not devoted to him. (1 Ki. 3:5; Judg. 7:13, 14) Some furnished warnings that protected His servants, and others gave them guidance. Thus, in a dream God warned Abimelech king of Gerar not to touch Sarah, with the result that she remained undefiled. (Gen. chap. 20) Complying with “divine warning in a dream,” the astrologers who visited Jesus did not return to murderous Herod. (Matt. 2:11, 12) In response to angelic instruction in dreams, Joseph took Mary as his wife and also fled with Jesus and Mary into Egypt. Later dreams from God led Joseph to return from Egypt with them and settle in Nazareth in order to fulfill the prophecy, “He will be called a Nazarene.”—Matt. 1:18-25; 2:13-15, 19-23.
Some dreams from God gave his servants assurance of divine favor or helped them to understand how Jehovah was aiding them. When God was about to conclude a covenant with Abram (Abraham), a deep sleep and great darkness fell upon the patriarch, Jehovah then apparently speaking to him in a dream. (Gen. 15:12-16) At Luz (Bethel) God caused Jacob to have a dream in which he saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, thus denoting communication with heaven. Angels ascended and descended on it and a representation of Jehovah was stationed above it, God then pronouncing a blessing on Jacob. (Gen. 28:10-19; compare John 1:51.) It was also by means of a dream that God, years later, showed his approval of Jacob and gave him angelic instruction to return to his homeland.—Gen. 31:11-13.
As a youth, Jacob’s son Joseph had dreams showing he had divine favor, these dreams also being prophetic. In one, he and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field. Joseph’s sheaf stood erect and those of his brothers encircled and bowed down to it. In another dream, the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him. (Gen. 37:5-11) Both of these dreams were fulfilled when Jacob and his household moved to Egypt during a severe famine. To obtain food, they all became dependent upon Joseph, then Egypt’s food administrator.—Gen. 42:1-3, 5-9.
Some dreams from God experienced by persons not worshiping him were also prophetic. In Egypt, while Joseph was imprisoned with Pharaoh’s chief of cupbearers and chief of bakers, these men had dreams that God enabled Joseph to explain as meaning that in three days the chief cupbearer would be restored to his position, whereas the chief baker would be executed. This occurred three days later, on Pharaoh’s birthday. In time these dreams served the purpose of bringing Joseph to Pharaoh’s attention as having God’s spirit.—Gen. chap. 40
Warning and the prophetic element were combined in two dreams Pharaoh of Joseph’s day had in one night. In the first, he saw seven fat-fleshed cows devoured by seven poor, thin-fleshed cows. In Pharaoh’s second dream, seven full and good ears of grain came up on one stalk, only to be swallowed up by seven shriveled, thin, wind-scorched ears of grain. Joseph, ascribing the interpretation to God, correctly explained that both dreams pointed to seven years of plenty to be followed by seven of famine. (Gen. chap. 41) It was God’s direction to save many from starvation and particularly to preserve the life of Abraham’s descendants, to fulfill his promises to Abraham.—Gen. 45:5-8.
Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar also had two prophetic dreams from God. One was of a metallic image with a gold head, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of copper, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay. A stone cut out without hands struck and crushed its feet and then pulverized the rest of the image. Daniel identified Nebuchadnezzar as the “head of gold,” the image indicating that a succession of human kingdoms would follow that of Babylon. Ultimately, God would set up a kingdom that would “never be brought to ruin.”—Dan. 2:29-45.
In another dream from God, Nebuchadnezzar beheld a great tree that was chopped down, its remaining rootstock being restrained with “a banding of iron and of copper” until “seven times” passed over it. In keeping with Daniel’s explanation, boasting Nebuchadnezzar (symbolized by the tree that was cut down) went mad, remaining in that state until seven times, or years, passed. Thereafter he acknowledged God’s supremacy and, his sanity having returned, he was reestablished in his kingship.—Dan. chap. 4; see APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS.
Daniel himself had a dream from Jehovah in which he beheld four huge beasts coming up out of the sea, these creatures representing human governments. (Dan. 7:1, 3, 17; see BEASTS, SYMBOLIC.) Daniel also saw the Ancient of Days, from whom “someone like a son of man” received lasting “rulership and dignity and kingdom.”—Dan. 7:13, 14.
Joel foretold the figurative dreaming of dreams under the influence of God’s spirit, evidently indicating that Jehovah’s servants would see fulfilled the dreams the prophets saw in ancient times. (Joel 2:28) One fulfillment occurred at the outpouring of the holy spirit on Pentecost of 33 C.E., when persons speaking many languages understood Jesus’ disciples who spoke to them in various tongues “about the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:1-18) The major fulfillment would be realized during the last days of this system of things.
When Jesus Christ stood on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor’s wife sent him this message respecting Jesus: “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I suffered a lot today in a dream because of him.” (Matt. 27:19) The Bible does not state that the dream was of divine origin, but if it was from God, the report of it may have served to warn Pilate that Christ’s case was one of extreme importance.
Natural dreams may be stimulated by certain thoughts or emotions, sensations or daily activities (anxiety, one’s physical condition, his occupation, and so forth). These dreams are of no great significance. (Ps. 73:20) A hungry person may dream of eating, a thirsty one of drinking, but he awakes unsatisfied. Comparable delusion was in store for all the nations “waging war against Mount Zion.”—Isa. 29:7, 8.
Concerning the pagan view of dreams, it is stated: “Babylonians had such trust in dreams that on the eve of important decisions they slept in temples, hoping for counsel. Greeks desiring health instruction slept in shrines of Aesculapius, and Romans in temples of Serapis. Egyptians prepared elaborate books for dream interpretation.” (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 7th ed., 1961, p. 141) But such practices did not exist among faithful Hebrews and early Christians. The Scriptures warn against looking for omens, whether in natural dreams or in various incidents.—Deut. 18:10-12; see DIVINATION.
False dreams are Biblically condemned. According to the Law, a false dreamer who urged the committing of idolatry was to be put to death. (Deut. 13:1-5) God might sometimes speak to his true prophets by means of dreams (Num. 12:6), but he was against the “prophets of false dreams,” who led his people away from true worship. (Jer. 23:25-32; 27:9, 10) Practicers of divination were described as speaking “valueless dreams.”—Zech. 10:2.
The Bible speaks of dreams in a figurative sense in describing the ungodly defilers of the flesh who slipped into the Christian congregation. Jude warned fellow believers against such men “indulging in dreams,” these persons apparently dreaming (imagining) that they could with impunity violate God’s Word and defile flesh in the congregation. This was a mistake, for they would inescapably receive adverse judgment from the Supreme Judge, Jehovah.—Jude 8; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10, 18-20.