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bible granny.jpg The Bible contains a lot of dreams and plenty of dream interpretation. Beginning with Genesis and continuing through the Epistles of Paul, the stories of dreams and dreamers outline the history of Israel, predict the birth of Christ and direct the Apostles on their missionary journeys.  Dreams and their interpretation were regarded by the people of God as divine communication and gifts of grace right along with the gifts of prophesy, teaching and healing.

Even after other "spiritual gifts" such as speaking in tongues and prophesying faded away through the centuries, dreams continued to be regarded with awe. With the Azusa Street Revival at the beginning of the 20th Centuries and the growth of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, more Christians began to pay attention to their dreams. Then, strangely, when modern psychology began to take dreams seriously as a "window into the unconscious," other Christians became skeptical again.

We'll examine several of the most familiar scriptures, then explore just a few of the highlights through history.  Stories from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are found on this page. Some very familiar dream stories from the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) are collected on a page of their own, so please click here.

Jacob's ladder 2.jpg One of the first Bible stories we teach children is Jacob's Ladder, from Genesis 28:10. It is a lovely, uncomplicated story suitable for the youngest children and easily adapted to simple songs, hand motions and colorful pictures. And children can easily understand the idea of Jacob's remarkable dream.

That dream is fairly straightforward, without a lot of mystery or theological issues. Angels move up and down a ladder (or stairway) that reaches to heaven, with the Lord standing at the top. Nevermind the little difficulty of how Jacob could see God; this is a dream, after all. And Jacob is given a wonderful promise about children of his own, and blessings for the entire world.

Of course, Jacob could have woken up and decided it was all "just a dream," and continued on with his journey. But he didn't. He received the dream as a gift, a life-changing blessing, and shaped the rest of his life according to the vision he had seen.

Joseph's dream 1.jpg Another favorite dreamer of Sunday School and Summer Camp is Joseph, Jacob's favored son with the coat of many colors. Joseph's story stretches through many chapters of Genesis, beginning with chapter 37. Even those without any training in the Hebrew Scriptures may know the story from Weber & Rice's wonderful musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

There is no avoiding dreams or dream interpretation in Joseph's story. From childhood on, the boy not only dreams dreams but interprets them, not always to his own advantage. Without question, this biblical story bears the credit and blame for convincing our culture that dreams foretell the future.

Curiously, all the dreams somehow disappear from the account after Joseph overcomes adversity and rises to his position of power in Egypt. There is no suggestion that the dreams stop or that he no longer interprets dreams for the Egyptian royalty. Dreams simply are not mentioned again. We don't know if a dream warned Joseph of his brothers' approach. There is no mention of dreams as he examines their motives and scrutinizes their loyalty. The saga ends well, at least for that particular generation. But the dreams are not mentioned in Joseph's story again.

Daniel & lions.jpg The book of Daniel is another Hebrew text filled with dreams and dream interpretation. Small children learn about Daniel in the Lions' Den (chapter 6) and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (chapter 3,) but the dream stories are not so well suited to younger readers.

In chapter 4 of the Book of Daniel, we find an interesting variation in the text. In place of the usual narrative there is what seems to be a document written by King Nebauchadnezzar. He describes a terrifying dream that Daniel reluctantly interprets, foretelling sickness and humiliation for the king. Even more strangely, the dream does not immediately come true. A full year passes before Nebuchadnezzar experiences what today would be called a complete breakdown: he loses his mind and is confined like a wild animal for seven "times," unable to communicate or function as a human being. Then, consistent with Daniel's dream interpretation, the king's sanity returns and he is restored to his throne and glory.

This dream is particularly interesting from a psychological perspective. The king dreamt of a tree which Daniel interpreted as a symbol of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Any Jungian therapist might do the same, following the the principle that the dream is about the dreamer. The top of the tree symbolizes the king's pride and high position over others that must be cut down to size, while the remaining stump and roots represent Nebuchadnezzar's later understanding and humility that provide his restoration.

A modern psychologist might not urge the client to renounce sin and wickedness and to acknowledge the Most High God, as Daniel tremblingly urged Nebuchadnezzar. Not in so many words. But compare those instructions with the basic principles of any 12-step program, and there are a lot of common points. I find that quite remarkable in a text written several centuries BCE.

Find example of dreams in the Christian Texts (New Testament) HERE