[Course 32 Index] [Prophetic-School Index] [Mini-Series Index] [Prev Lesson] [Next Lesson]

-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

Author: Teresa Seputis ts@godspeak.net http://www.godspeak.net
Editor: Kevin Nolan

Dream Misinterpretation

Lesson 11

By Teresa Seputis

It is no surprise that the Bible has a lot to say about dreams. There are over 30 different passages in Scripture that address them. But you might be surprised at exactly what it has to say about them, because it does not synch up with popular teaching on the subject.

I did my research on dreams by searching Scripture for verses that contain the words "dream" or "night vision." Then I went back and looked at those verses in context, often picking up surrounding verses to understand the meaning of the passage. Then I collected those passages into a file and began to organize them based on what they said. I ended up with four main categories and a collection of miscellaneous verses that I grouped together as "other" and divided into subcategories. I will talk about the "other" verses later, but let's start by looking at the main categories:

1. Literal Dreams
God speaks clearly and directly to the person in the dream, not using symbolism. Often, the person dreams of an angel speaking to them. The Bible has twelve passages with this type of dream. The passages include:

  1. Genesis 20:3,6 - God warns king Abimelech that Sarah is Abraham's wife, and tells him to return her to Abraham.

  2. Genesis 31:10-13 - an angel gives Jacob instructions regarding rams that he is earning as wages for his labor.

  3. Genesis 31:24 - God instructs Laban not to harm Jacob.

  4. Numbers 12:6 - God says that He speaks to prophets in dreams.

  5. 1 Kings 3:5,15 - God speaks to Solomon in a dream.

  6. Jeremiah 23:28 - God says that He speaks to prophets in dreams to give them messages to prophesy.

  7. Micah 3:6 - God says He talks to His prophets in dreams.

  8. Matthew 1:20 - Angel tells Joseph in dream to take Mary as his wife.

  9. Matthew 2:13 - Angel tells Joseph in dream to take Mary/Jesus to Egypt.

  10. Matthew 2:19-20 - Angel tells Joseph in dream to leave Egypt and go home.

  11. Acts 16:9 - Man from Macedonia appears to Paul in night vision and asks him to come to Macedonia to help them.

  12. Acts 18:9 - God tells Paul in night vision not to be afraid to keep preaching the gospel.

2. Clearly Understood Directional Dreams

God gives direction in dreams but the Bible doesn't say if the dream is literal or symbolic. Either way, the meaning of the dream is easily and instantly understood by dreamer, and no interpretation was needed. There were three passages in this category.

  1. Matthew 2:12 - Three wise men warned in dream not to return to Herod.

  2. Matthew 2:22 - Joseph warned in dream to go to Galilee instead of Judah.

  3. Matthew 27:19 - Pilate's wife warned in dream that Jesus is innocent.

3. Symbolic Dreams Foretelling Future Events But NOT Requiring Interpretation

There are times when God used symbolic dreams to speak to people, but the dreamer (and others who were told the dream) seemed to instantly understand the symbols and the meaning of the dream. There are three verses in this category.

  1. Genesis 37:5-8 - Joseph dreams his brother's sheaves began to bow down to him and his brothers instantly understood this as Joseph would one day rule over them.

  2. Genesis 37:9-10 - Joseph dreams of the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. His family understood this as Joseph becoming a very great person who they would have to show honor/respect to.

  3. Judges 7:13 - a soldier has a dream of a barley bread striking and defeating the Midianites, and understood this to be God giving the victory to Gideon. This gave frightened Gideon the courage to lead his troops into battle.

4. Symbolic Dreams Foretelling Future Events That Requiring Outside Interpretation

These are dreams where the dreamer did not understand the symbolism and it had to be explained to them by a third party (either a prophet or an angel).

  1. Genesis 40:5,8-15 - Joseph interprets the chief butler's dream while he is in prison. The dream used three branches on a vine to represent three days, and it used him serving a cup to Pharaoh as a sign that he would be released from prison and restored to his job/position. An unbeliever had this dream and it was interpreted by a prophet.

  2. Genesis 40:5,16-19 - Joseph interprets the chief baker's dream while he is in prison. The dream used three baskets of bread to represent three days and the birds stealing the bread from the baskets represented the baker being executed. An unbeliever had this dream and it was interpreted by a prophet.

  3. Genesis 41:1-7 - Pharaoh's two consecutive dreams of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, which only Joseph could interpret for him. The seven healthy cows and seven plump heads of grain represented seven years of plenty. The seven gaunt cows and the seven thin heads of grain represented seven years of famine. A political leader (also an unbeliever) had this dream and it was interpreted by a prophet. Then the prophet advised the ruler on how to respond to the dream.

  4. Dan 2:2-45 - Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue made out of various different materials. Each of the materials represented various things that would happen to Babylon in the future. The dream was given to an unbeliever who was also a top political leader, and it was interpreted by the prophet Daniel. There was an unusual aspect to this dream -- the interpreter had to get the content of the dream by supernatural revelation before the king would trust him to interpret it.

  5. Daniel Chapter 2 - Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the tree being chopped down and given to the beasts of the field. The dream was given to the unbelieving king in verses 5-17, and it was interpreted by prophet Daniel in verses 19-27. Then verses 28-36 detail the fulfillment of that dream and the kings partial conversion as a result of his experience with God.

  6. Daniel Chapter 7 - This is described both as a dream and as a vision by the prophet Daniel. It was highly symbolic in nature and Daniel was unable to understand the symbolism of what he saw in the dream/vision. Verses 1 to 8 indicate that it started as a dream of the four beasts and it sounds like maybe Daniel woke up at the end of that dream and found himself in a vision. Verses 9-14 are a vision of the Ancient Of Days destroying the beast he dreamed about. Daniel did not understand the symbols, but the dream or vision itself was self-interpreting because in the vision itself (verses 15-27) Daniel approaches one of the beings in the vision and asks them to explain it to him, and they do. Technically this might fit in category three of symbolic dreams that are instantly understood by the dreamer (because he got the interpretation as part of the dream and ensuing vision). But I am going to leave it in this category because Daniel did not understand it until an angel explained it to him. This was an apocalyptic dream given to a prophet, followed by a vision, and interpreted by an angel.

    I should note that Daniel had two other apocalyptic visions (with no accompanying dream). The first is recorded in Daniel 8:1-14 as a vision of ram, goat and desolation of temple. In Daniel 8:15-47, the angel Gabriel interprets the vision for Daniel. The other is in Daniel 10:10-21, 11:1-45, 12:1-13, where Daniel has a vision he does not understand and an angel appears to him in response to that vision and then gives him lengthy end-time prophecy that spans three chapters. Also, John in the book of Revelation has similar apocalyptic visions that need to be interpreted by angels. These are visions (not dreams) given to prophets and interpreted by angels. The apocalyptic stuff appears to be very symbolic and cryptic because God is not yet releasing the understanding of this revelation. Daniel 12:9 tells us "And he said, 'Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.'"

Note that all of the dreams in this category that are symbolic and interpreted by prophets were given to unbelievers, and usually to top political leaders. There are no cases in the Bible of God giving a symbolic dream to one of His followers and then sending a prophet to interpret it for them.

So, what should we glean from this? Dream interpretation in the Bible looks quite different from what we practice today. Perhaps we need to sit down and prayerfully explore the subject with the Lord, and see what He has to say to us on this topic.

Our next lesson will discuss this some more. But I would like to give you a chance to "chew on this" for a while before you read the next lesson. Think about it, take it to the Lord, and see what He says to you about modern-day dream interpretation.

-- © GodSpeak International 2005 --
-- Do not republish without written permission from <copyright@godspeak.org> --

[Course 32 Index] [Prophetic-School Index] [Mini-Series Index ] [Prev Lesson] [Next Lesson]