From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [1]

The visions of the night are called dreams. And before the more open revelations by the Lord Jesus Christ, certain it is, that the Lord not unfrequently made use of their ministry in the church. Hence, the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob were thus exercised. ( Genesis 15:1-21;  Genesis 28:1-22) And Joseph's dreams, when related to his father and brethren, were made instrumental to excite the envy of his brethren.  Genesis 37:5-6, etc. Yea, the Lord declared concerning dreams, while the church was in the wilderness, that he would make himself known to his servants the prophets in this way. ( Numbers 12:6) And even in the days of the New Testament dispensation, dreams were not in disuse for occasionally revealing the mind of the Lord. Concerning the safety of the child Jesus, by removing him into Egypt, this was directed by an angel appearing by night to Joseph in a dream. ( Matthew 2:13) But while the Lord was thus pleased, by the means of dreams, to make known to his people, as occasion might require, the purposes of his will, he was no less pleased to direct his servants the prophets, by open revelation, to guard against all imposition from lying dreams, and false visions of men's own forming. The prophet Jeremiah was taught thus to declare the Lord's mind concerning these things, "I have heard what the prophets said, that prophecy lies in my name; saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets, that prophecy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their heart, which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams." ( Jeremiah 23:25-27) In the open day-light of that full revelation the gospel hath brought, the greatest caution should be observed respecting attention to dreams. Upon every occasion of the sort, the faithful in Christ Jesus would do well to remember the Lord's direction upon another subject, in respect to them that sought after familiar spirits; "to the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." ( Isaiah 8:19-20) Far be it from any one to limit the Holy One of Israel; but by this reference upon all exercises of the mind concerning dreams the children of the Lord will be preserved from error. To say that dreams are wholly done away under the gospel dispensation, and that the Lord never doth speak by them to his people, would be opposing a well known Scripture concerning them, which wholly related to the latter-day ministry. The prophet Joel was commissioned to declare, and the apostle Peter explained what he said, in direct reference to the days of the manifestation of the Holy Ghost, that the Lord would in the last days, "pour out of his Spirit upon all flesh; and that in consequence of his mercy, their sons and their daughters should prophecy, and their old men dream dreams, and their young men see visions." ( Joel 2:28;  Acts 2:17) So that to say their entire use is done away, would be presuming to be wise above what is written. At the same time to suppose, that the common and ordinary dreams of the night are intended to direct the mind of the Lord's people, would be to lessen the divine authority of God's holy word, which, in all cases; is able to make us "wise unto salvation through the faith that is in Christ Jesus." The exercise of the mind in dreams is certainly among the wonders we meet with in life, which are not the least surprising, though the least to be explained. We know that the whole body is perfectly conscious, and asleep; while there is a somewhat in us, or belonging to us, that is, at times, very busily engaged and employed. We talk apparently with others, and we hear them talk with us. We travel far and near; transact great concerns; not unfrequently converse with persons, whom in our waking hours we know to be dead; but yet in sleep sometimes forget this and sometimes not. We hear their voice and perfectly recollect it; their person, manner, and the like, are as familiar to us as when living. Yea, sometimes circumstances of a similar nature are brought before us in our sleep, both with the dead and living whom we never knew. These, with numberless other particularities, are among the dreams of the night, of which the body, asleep and torpid, is wholly unconscious; but of which the mind or thinking faculty, or the somewhat indescribable, be it what it may, is most earnestly engaged in, and highly interested about. Who shall say what this is? Who shall describe it? Who shall define its use? And there is another very striking particularity in dreams, that while it carries the fullest conviction to that thinking faculty, that somewhat indescribable being acted upon, in a way and manner no man can explain, serves to prove, that the whole is somewhat more than the effect of fancy, though not unfrequently the trifling nature of the thing itself is as trifling. I mean when persons far remote from each other, have one and the same dream, or are apparently engaged in one and the same concern in that dream, without any previous communication on the subject; yea, perhaps without any previous knowledge of each other. And let me add another particularity as striking as any, concerning the exercise of the mind, or thinking faculty, in dreams, beyond the power of any man to account for; namely, when we receive instructions or help on any point, during our dreaming hours, from a person or persons, then supposed to be with us, which, without whose aid we could not in ourselves have accomplished. I will beg to illustrate this, by the relation of a plain matter of fact, which I had from a friend of mine, with whom I lived many years in the habits of great intimacy: indeed, the same, more or less, may be found perhaps in every man's experience, on one point or other. My friend was a good classic, and conversant with the best Latin authors. In one of his dreams he fancied himself reading one of his favourite books, which he was in the habit of constant reading, when a passage occurred that he could not construe. He tried again and again to translate it, but all to no purpose. Mortified with himself, he was about to close the book and relinquish the attempt, when a person looking over his shoulder gently upbraided him on his dulness ( Luke 24:35) and construed the passage to him. Now the question is, who was this looker-on, for he himself was asleep, and alone? The reader will sadly mistake my meaning, from all that I have here said upon dreams, if he thinks I am bringing forward a justification of that farrago of unconnected, trifling, and impertinent stuff, which some make of dreams. Too many there are, whose waking hours are little better than the merest unmeaning dreams of the night. But making all due allowance for such things, certain it is, that in the early ages of the world, the Lord was pleased to make use of the ministry of dreams. And though under the gospel we have a more sure guide to take heed unto, yet it were to limit the Holy One of Israel to say, that they now are never used, and their ministry hath totally ceased. No doubt, the greatest jealousy maybe proper to exercise concerning them; and certainly, we must be safe in rejecting them in all points, where they are not in perfect agreement with the glorious gospel of the ever-blessed God.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

DREAMS . Sleep impressed primitive savages as a great mystery; and they consequently attributed a peculiar significance to the dreams of sleepers, as phenomena which they could not control by their will or explain by their reason. In the lowest stage of culture all dreams were regarded as objectively real experiences; the god or spirit actually visited the dreamer, the events dreamed actually occurred. Hence any one who was subject to frequent dreaming was looked on as a special medium of Divine energy, and many sought to produce the state by artificial means, e.g. fasting or the use of drugs. In process of time dreams came to be treated rather as Divine warnings than as actual occurrences. Such admonitions could be deliberately sought, e.g. by sleeping in a sacred spot, such as the temples of Asklepios or Serapis or the grotto of Trophonius; or they could come unsought, when the gods wished either to reveal or to deceive. (Plato, however, while allowing that the gods may send dreams, denies that they can wish to deceive men). Thus, for instance, among the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Arabs, the Egyptians, a profound importance was attached to dreams; there were professional interpreters of them (cf.   Genesis 40:5;   Genesis 40:8;   Genesis 41:1 ,   Daniel 2:5 ), and manuals were compiled to aid the work of elucidation (cf. the Oneirocritica of Artemidorus of Ephesus). Wiser theorists might discriminate between dreams, but popular superstition tended to regard them all as omens, to be explained, as far as possible, in accordance with definite rules.

1. Among the Jews . In both Testaments we find significance attached to dreams (  Genesis 37:6;   Genesis 37:9;   Genesis 41:25 ,   Judges 7:13 ,   Daniel 2:28;   Daniel 7:1 ff.,   Matthew 1:20;   Matthew 2:13;   Matthew 2:20 ,   Acts 23:11;   Acts 27:23 ), and in OT times it seems that a great deal of vulgar superstition existed with regard to such phenomena; similarly necromancy and sorcery, though discouraged by the higher thought of the nation (cf.   Deuteronomy 18:10-11 ), were undoubtedly practised. We find hardly any traces, however, of dreams being regularly sought;   1 Samuel 28:15 may be one; and in   Genesis 28:12-19 and   1 Kings 3:5 it is possible to suppose a reference to the practice of sleeping in a sacred locality in order to receive a Divine communication. On the whole, the general trend of OT teaching is as follows: Dreams may in some cases be genuine communications from God (  Job 33:15 ,   Jeremiah 23:28 ), and as such are reverenced (  Genesis 20:3;   Genesis 31:10 ff.), though   Numbers 12:6-8 treats them as an inferior medium; but there are false dreams and lying dreamers, against whom precautions are necessary; and the idea that habitual dreaming is a certain sign of Divine inspiration is stoutly combated (cf.   Jeremiah 23:25;   Jeremiah 23:32;   Jeremiah 27:9;   Jeremiah 29:8 ,   Zechariah 10:2 ,   Ecclesiastes 5:7 ), and it is definitely recognized that the interpretation of dreams belongs to God, and is not a matter of human codification (cf.   Genesis 40:8 ).

2. General . The consideration of dreams is partly a subject for the sciences which treat of the general relations between body and spirit, and partly a matter of common sense. It seems clear that dreams are connected with physical states, and that their psychological origin lies mainly in the region beneath the ‘threshold of consciousness.’ But all dreams and all waking states are states of consciousness, whether it be partial or complete, and as such are subject to law; if any are to be regarded as ‘supernatural,’ it must be owing not to their methods but to their messages. Some dreams convey no message, and can be explained as valuable only by a resort to superstition. Others may be real revelations, and as such Divine; in abnormal cases the power of spiritual perception may be intensified and heightened in the dream-state, and thus an insight into Divine truth may be obtained which had been denied to the waking consciousness. Similarly Condorcet is said to have solved in a dream a mathematical problem which had baffled his waking powers, and Coleridge to have dreamt the poem of Kubla Khan . But under any circumstances the interpretation of a dream ‘belongs to God’; the question whether its message is a Divine communication or not must ultimately be answered by an appeal to the religious consciousness, or in other words to the higher reason. The awakened intelligence must be called in to criticise and appraise the deliverances received in dreams, and its verdict must decide what measure of attention is to be paid to them. Dreams, in short, may be the source of suggestions, but scarcely of authoritative directions.

A. W. F. Blunt.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

The dreams of common people were important to them, but the dreams of kings and of holy men or women were important on a national or international scale. One of the results was that many of the nations surrounding Israel had religious figures skilled in the interpretation of dreams. These figures could be consulted at the highest level of government for important decisions. In such nations as Egypt and Assyria, these interpreters even developed “dream books” by which they could give interpretations according to the symbols of a dream.

Dreams were important in the Old Testament, too. Israel was forbidden to use many of the divining practices of her neighbors, but over a dozen times God revealed something through a dream. When we recognize that night visions and dreams were not strictly distinguished, we can find many more times in the Old and New Testaments that God used this method to communicate. In fact, prophecy and the dreaming of dreams were to be tested in the same way according to  Deuteronomy 13:1 . In  Numbers 12:6 again prophecy and dreams are placed on equal footing. Saul complained that “neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets” did God answer him (  1 Samuel 28:6 ). Joel wrote that when the Spirit comes “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” ( 1 Samuel 2:28 ).

What Dreams Were Interpreted? Not every dream was thought to be from God. Not every dream was a significant. Some could be wishful thinking ( Psalm 126:1;  Isaiah 29:7-8 ). In times of need and especially when a person sought a word from God, dreams could be significant. In the Old Testament the interpreted dreams were most often those of prophets and rulers.

Not every dream needed to be interpreted. To note this we can distinguish three types of dreams. A simple “message dream” apparently did not need interpretation. For instance, Joseph, in  Matthew 1:1 and   Matthew 2:1 , understood the dreams concerning Mary and Herod even though no mention is made of interpretation. A second type, the “simple symbolic dream,” used symbols, but the symbolism was clear enough that the dreamer and others could understand it. The Old Testament Joseph had this kind of dream in  Genesis 37:1 . Complex symbolic dreams, though, needed the interpretive skill of someone with experience or an unusual ability in interpretation. The dreams of Nebuchadnezzar described in  Daniel 2:1 and   Daniel 4:1 are good examples of this kind of dream. Even Daniel himself had dreams in which the symbolism was so complex that he had to seek divine interpretation (  Daniel 8:1 ).

How and by Whom Were Dreams Interpreted? Since several religions and cultures developed people skilled in interpretation, this skill undoubtedly was communicated to later generations both through writings and through training a new generation by apprenticeship.

In the Old Testament Joseph and Daniel are the preeminent interpreters of dreams. It is no accident that they used their skills in the courts of non-Israelite rulers. Daniel's story in  Daniel 2:1 , especially, demonstrates several points about dream interpretation. First, Nebuchadnezzar believed his dream to have meaning. Second, he summoned all those with skill in interpretation of dreams, but they could not meet his demands. Apparently, even the best interpreters could be “stumped” sometimes. Third, Daniel was able to narrate the dream to the king and to explain the dream after Daniel and his friends had prayed. Here can be seen the Israelite view of the source of an interpreter's skill. The accounts of Joseph identify God as the Source of Joseph's ability when he came before Pharaoh ( Genesis 41:16 ).

Were Dreams Ever Wrong or Wrongly Interpreted? Dreams were neither foolproof nor infallible. Both Jeremiah and Zechariah spoke against relying on dreams to express the revelation of God. Dreams could come without being God's word ( Jeremiah 23:28 ). Jeremiah lumped dreamers together with soothsayers, sorcerers, and false prophets ( Jeremiah 27:9 ). He cautioned exiles in Babylon not to listen to dreamers and false prophets who told them that the Exile would not be long ( Jeremiah 29:8 ). Zechariah pointed people toward the Lord, apparently because they were relying on dreamers and others to give them the truth ( Zechariah 10:1-2 ). Thus, while dreams were often used by God to reveal His will, there is a warning, too, not to rely on this method to know the will of God. See Inspiration; Oracles; Prophets; Revelation.

Albert Bean

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

The easterns, in particular the Jews, greatly regarded dreams, and applied for their interpretation to those who undertook to explain them. The ancient Greeks and Romans had the same opinion of them, as appears from their most eminent writers. We see the antiquity of this attention to dreams in the history of Pharaoh's butler and baker, Genesis 40. Pharaoh himself, and Nebuchadnezzar, are instances. God expressly condemned to death all who pretended to have prophetic dreams, and to foretel futurities, even though what they foretold came to pass, if they had any tendency to promote idolatry,  Deuteronomy 13:1-3 . But the people were not forbidden, when they thought they had a significative dream, to address the prophets of the Lord, or the high priest in his ephod, to have it explained. Saul, before the battle of Gilboa, consulted a woman who had a familiar spirit, "because the Lord would not answer him by dreams, nor by prophets,"  1 Samuel 28:6-7 . The Lord himself sometimes discovered his will in dreams, and enabled persons to explain them. He informed Abimelech in a dream, that Sarah was the wife of Abraham,  Genesis 20:3;  Genesis 20:6 . He showed Jacob the mysterious ladder in a dream,  Genesis 28:12-13; and in a dream an angel suggested to him a means of multiplying his flocks,  Genesis 31:11-12 , &c. Joseph was favoured very early with prophetic dreams, whose signification was easily discovered by Jacob,  Genesis 37:5 . God said, that he spake to other prophets in dreams, but to Moses face to face. The Midianites gave credit to dreams, as appears from that which a Midianite related to his companion; and from whose interpretation Gideon took a happy omen,  Judges 7:13;  Judges 7:15 . The Prophet Jeremiah exclaims against impostors who pretended to have had dreams, and abused the credulity of the people: "They prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him tell it faithfully, saith the Lord,"  Jeremiah 23:25;  Jeremiah 23:28-29 . The Prophet Joel promises from God, that in the reign of the Messiah, the effusion of the Holy Spirit should be so copious, that the old men should have prophetic dreams, and the young men should receive visions,  Joel 2:28 .

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

Though associated in some passages with trifles and vanities,  Job 7:14;  Ecclesiastes 5:7 , there is yet abundant evidence in the scriptures that God often conveyed His mind to people by means of dreams, and this not only to those who obeyed Him, but also to the heathen.  Genesis 20:3,6;  Judges 7:13 . "God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed: then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man."  Job 33:14-17 . God said that He would instruct His prophets in dreams.  Numbers 12:6 . He also used dreams in the case of Nebuchadnezzar and of Daniel in order to reveal His will and purpose concerning, the future.

Joseph, the reputed father of the Lord, was directed several times by means of dreams; and Pilate was warned by his wife to have nothing to do with that just man because of what she had suffered in a dream.  Matthew 1:20;  Matthew 2:12-22;  Matthew 27:19 . It is to be remarked that in the last days when God pours out His Spirit on all flesh the sons and daughters will prophesy, and the young men shall see visions, and the old men shall dream dreams.  Joel 2:28;  Acts 2:17 . This will be the way that God will make known His mind in those days.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Dreams. The Scripture declares that the influence of the Spirit of God upon the soul extends to its sleeping as well as its waking thoughts. But, in accordance with the principle enunciated by St. Paul in  1 Corinthians 14:15, dreams, in which the understanding is asleep, are placed below the visions of prophecy, in which the understanding plays its part.

Under the Christian dispensation, while we read frequently of trances and vision, dreams are never referred to as vehicles of divine revelation. In exact accordance with this principle are the actual records of the dreams sent by God. The greater number of such dreams were granted, for prediction or for warning, to those who were aliens to the Jewish covenant.

And where dreams are recorded as means of God's revelation to his chosen servants, they are almost always referred to the periods of their earliest and most imperfect knowledge of him. Among the Jews, if any person dreamed a dream which was peculiarly striking and significant, he was permitted to go to the high priest in a peculiar way, and see if it had any special import. But the observance of ordinary dreams and the consulting of those who pretend to skill in their interpretation are repeatedly forbidden.  Deuteronomy 13:1-5;  Deuteronomy 18:9-14. - Schaff.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [7]

Of all the subjects upon which the mind of man has speculated, there is perhaps none which has more perplexed than that of dreaming.

Whatever may be the difficulties attending the subject, still we know that it has formed a channel through which Jehovah was pleased in former times to reveal His character and dispensations to His people.

In regard to the immediate cause of dreaming, the opinions of the ancients were very various.

We believe that dreams are ordinarily the re-embodiment of thoughts which have before, in some shape or other, occupied our minds. They are broken fragments of our former conceptions revived, and heterogeneously brought together. If they break off from their connecting chain, and become loosely associated, they exhibit ofttimes absurd combinations, but the elements still subsist. If, for instance, any irritation, such as pain, fever, etc., should excite the perceptive organs, while the reflective ones are under the influence of sleep, we have a consciousness of objects, colors, or sounds being presented to us, just as if the former organs were actually stimulated by having such impressions communicated to them by the external senses; while, in consequence of the repose of the reflecting power, we are unable to rectify the illusion, and conceive that the scenes passing before us, or the sounds that we hear, have a real existence. This want of mutual cooperation between the different faculties of the mind may account for the disjointed character of dreams. This position might be fully substantiated by an appeal to the evidence of fact. Dr. Beattie speaks of a man who could be made to dream anything by whispering in his ear. Dr. Gregory relates of himself that, having once had occasion to apply a bottle of hot water to his own feet when he retired to bed, he dreamed that he was ascending the side of Mount Etna, and that he found the heat of the ground almost insufferable. Persons who have had a blister applied to their head have been known to dream of being scalped by a party of North American Indians. Sleeping in a smoky room, we may dream of a house or city being in flames. The smell of a flower applied to the nostrils may call forth the idea of walking in a garden; and the sound of a flute may excite in us the most pleasurable associations.

The only one of our mental powers which is not suspended while dreaming is fancy, or imagination. We often find memory and judgment alternately suspended and exercised. Sometimes we fancy ourselves contemporaneous with persons who have lived ages before: here memory is at work, but judgment is set aside. We dream of carrying on a very connected discourse with a deceased friend, and are not conscious that he is no more: here judgment is awake, but memory suspended. These irregularities, or want of mutual cooperation in the different faculties of the mind may form, for aught we know, the plan by which God gives health and vigor to the whole soul.

How God revealed Himself by dreams, and raised up persons to interpret them, the Scriptures abundantly testify. Under the three successive dispensations we find this channel of communication with man adopted. It was doubtless in this way that God appeared to the father of the faithful, ordering him to forsake country, kindred, and his father's house, and to go into the land that He would show him. To this divine command, Abraham paid a ready obedience. It was by a similar prompt obedience to the admonition conveyed to him in a dream, that Abimelech himself and Abraham, too, were saved from the evil consequences of his meditated act. To Jacob, also, God appeared frequently in a dream ; and his on Joseph, while yet a child, had dreams predictive of his future advancement .

Such were some of the dreams by which God revealed Himself under the patriarchal dispensation, and that the same divine mode of communicating with man was continued under that of Moses is evident from an express word of promise . That dreams were one of the ways whereby God used to signify His pleasure, and from the complaint of Saul to the spirit of Samuel (whom the witch pretended to raise up), when he asked him, 'Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?' Saul answered, 'I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answers me no more; neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee that thou mayest make known to me what I shall do.' And, in order to guard against imposition, Moses pronounced a penalty against dreams which were invented and wickedly made use of, for the promotion of idolatry . Thus Zechariah complains: 'The idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have spoken a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain.' And so Jeremiah , 'I have heard what the prophets said that prophesy lies in My name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed,' etc. Yet this abuse did not alter God's plan in the right use of them; for in it is said, 'the prophet that hath a dream, and he that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord.'

When Gideon warred with the Amalekites, and was alarmed at their vast multitudes, he was encouraged to do God's will by overhearing one of them relate his dream, and another giving the interpretation (Judges 7). Again, it was in a dream that God was pleased to grant Solomon a promise of wisdom and understanding (, etc.). Here we may perceive what converse the Lord was pleased to hold with Solomon in a dream; and the sacred record informs us how punctually everything herein promised was fulfilled.

The knowledge of visions and dreams is reckoned among the principal gifts and graces sometimes bestowed by God upon them that fear Him; so it is said of Daniel and his companions, that 'God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams . And the God who had imparted this spirit unto His servant Daniel soon, in the arrangement of His providence, gave the signal occasion for its exercise recorded in the second chapter of his book. In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar a great variety of ends were attained in reference to Babylon, Israel, and indeed the world—all of which were worthy of God's miraculous interference.

That this method of God's revealing himself was not confined to the legal dispensation, but was to be extended to the Christian, is evident from Joel , 'And afterwards (saith the Lord) I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.' In , we find the Apostle Peter applying this to the illumination of the Holy Ghost. Accordingly, we read that when Joseph designed to put Mary away, because he perceived her to be with child, he was turned from his purpose by a dream, in which an angel made the truth of the matter known to him . And in the following chapter it is stated, that God, in a dream, warned the wise men not to return to Herod. Moreover, in; , Joseph is instructed to flee into and return from Egypt with the child Jesus.

We inquire not how far God may have revealed Himself to man beyond what Holy Scripture records. Some of the dreams both of ancient and modern times, which lay claim to a divine character, are certainly striking, and may, for aught we know, have had, and may still have, a collateral bearing on the development of God's purposes.