Bible Question:

Is dream interpretation a Christian practice? Or is it something to stay away from?

Bible Answer:

While the Bible gives us examples of dreams and occasions when dreams were interpreted, God clearly tells us that dream interpretation is a rare ability given only by God. What follows is an explanation of what the Bible reveals about dream interpretation. The answer to the question, “Can Christians interpret dreams? If so, how?” is given.

Dreams In The Bible

Dreams appear throughout the Bible from Genesis through Acts and are mentioned in seventeen books of the Bible. The first dream recorded in Scripture is found in Genesis 20:3-6. It was given to a king called Abimelech. We are not given in significant details about the dream.

Jacob’s Dream

The next recorded dream was given to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-17. This dream was described in more detail. Here is the dream,

He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” Genesis 28:12-16 (NASB)

Amazingly, the dream is not interpreted for us.

Joseph’s Dream

The patriarch Jospeh had a significant dream and it is recorded in Genesis 37:5-10.

Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. He said to them, “Please listen to this dream which I have had; for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.” Then his brothers said to him, “Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Genesis 37:5-8 (NASB)

This is the first dream that is interpreted in the Bible. The interpretation was given by Joseph’s brothers and they were correct. Joseph would rule over them in the distant future.

Interpretation of Dreams

Dream interpretation is difficult, but not when God wants the dream to be understood. In Daniel 2:2 we are told that King Nebuchadnezzar a dream but none of the significant men in his kingdom could interpret the dream. Here is a brief summary of the discussion the king had with these men.

Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.” Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “ O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” The king replied to the Chaldeans, “ The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” Daniel 2:2-7 (NASB)

. . .

The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.” Daniel 2:10-11 (NASB)

This reveals that dream interpretation is not a science and it is not a gift. These men of the occult could not understand the dream.

But God gave the prophet Daniel an unusual ability to interpret special dreams. God enabled Daniel to understand the king’s dream. This fact is recorded for us in the book of Daniel. This was not common.

Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision . . . Daniel 2:17-19 (NASB)

Later in Daniel 5:12 we are told that God gave the prophet Daniel and unusual ability to understand dreams. This reveals that dream interpretation is not common.

This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation. Daniel 5:12 (NASB)

If God still communicates to us through dreams, we will need someone to help us understand – someone whom God has gifted by His Holy Spirit to understand. We cannot be sure that God still speaks through dreams today since dreams stopped for a while in the Old Testament.

. . . the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli. And word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. 1 Samuel 3:1 (NASB)

Unfortunately, there are some who pretend to interpret dreams and claim God has spoken when in fact He has not. Listen to this passage,

If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 (NASB)

It does not matter how godly someone may appear or how exciting his/her experience seems to be, the standard of truth is still God’s Word. We need to be students of the Word of Truth so that we can identify false teaching.

Conclusion:

If you have had a dream and desire to know the meaning of the dream, it is recommended that you ask God for an understanding of the dream, just as the prophet Daniel did (Daniel 2:17-19. However, any interpretation will not violate any passage or verse in the Bible.

We do not need dreams to know about God, about salvation, about Jesus or how we ought to live. Scripture contains everything we need to know God and how to live.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB)

. . . seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 (NASB)

Suggested Links:

What kind of ministry do these dreams and visions point to?
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
Joseph’s Dream
Is it bad for Christians to be interested in the occult?
What is the connection between the Holy Spirit and dreams and visions?