Dreams in the Bible

Dreams In The Bible And Their Meaning

Dreams in the Bible are dated back to the cultures of the ancient Near East. Dreams were categorized into various types, and each was interpreted differently. In the Hebrew Bible, the other word implied for dreams is Halom

Some of the dreams stated are ordinary, and while others have signs of destiny. Dreams in the Bible are supposed to be messages from God that were either auditory or visual. Dreams symbolize life’s journey and desires. They tend to influence the decisions that we take. 

Dreams have always been a point of fascination for most people. In the Bible, God conveys through dreams, sometimes they can be symbolic, and often they have clear instructions. Dreams are an essential aspect of numerous stories and incidents that have been mentioned in the Bible. The word dream appears the most amount of time in Genesis (33 times in total) and then in Daniel’s book (27 times in total).

Dreams have always been objects of mystery and mystique to humankind. Dreams can be about hopes, fears, and anxieties. Most dreams are related to the people and incidents that have occurred during the day.

In Jewish culture, Talmud states that dreams are one-sixtieth of prophecy. Talmud states every dream has a meaning, and an insightful and wise interpreter can only make the correct interpretation. In the Torah, Joseph is considered a dreamer who experienced dreams first hand and also interpreted them.

who had dreams in the bible
Jacob's dream by Jusepe De Ribera

Dream Interpretation In the Bible

Dreams in the Bible are categorized mainly into three types: messages of impending misfortune or good fortune, warnings about false prophets, and ordinary, non-oracle dreams. The meaning and interpretation of dreams might vary, and the differentiation between a dream and vision is necessarily not crystal clear.

In the Bible, there are two interpreters Joseph and Daniel, who are filled with wisdom and help translate dreams. The Bible emphasizes the importance of dreams, as also mentioned in Genesis. The purpose of dreams in the Bible is to send messages from God that communicate either his command or the prophecy of a critical event.

Jewish culture always had faith in dreams to be of some value, and they believed every dream has some important message or meaning. According to Talmud, dreams are 1/60th of prophecy.

Dreams can seem to be very vivid and real. Specific thoughts, incidents, activities, emotions make an impression in your mind and can lead the way for your dreams, and the course of positive and negative thoughts might incline your dreams to be fair and fruitful or evil and nightmares.

The vicious dreams can be scary and leave you in distress; this was also discussed in the Hebrew Bible:

“It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.”

The dream here explains that if you have some evil thoughts and emotions, then your dreams might also seem closer to reality or real. That is why people who often experience nightmares suffer from anxiety issues, panic attacks, and depression.

 Jewish people believed that the Hebrew Bible provides relevant information about dreams. Many wise leaders of Judaism have faith in the presence of dreams, and that is often discussed in many of their teachings and doctrines. The dreams are translated and interpreted by understanding and analyzing symbols by the wise and chosen interpreters. As per the Talmud, there are in total of four types of dreams that can come to fruition:

  •  A dream that occurs in the wee hours of the morning
  •  If you dream about someone else 
  • A dream that already has its interpretation done and is a dream within a dream.
  • If a dream occurs repeatedly and on different occasions

How many Dreams are mentioned in the Bible?

While going through the Jewish holy books like the Bible, it has been observed that the Hebrew Bible consists of 15 accounts of dreaming using the exclusive terminology ‘dream’ or ‘to dream.’ Dreams in the Bible have not been described as physiologically or psychologically but are inspirations from God. They also have importance within the world of Hebrew literature. 

Types of Dreams in the Bible

Dreams have been one of the modes of communication from God. In the Bible, dreams do not rely on or are inclined towards astrology but are relatively simple in understanding. They are mainly categorized into two types: Visual dreams (those seen) and Auditory (those heard). 

The visuals refer to as symbolic dreams in the Bible and are needed to be interpreted. They usually intend to have a hidden meaning or message. These dreams are mainly found in the interpretations of Joseph and the stories of Daniel in the Bible. The symbolic dreams have been discussed in great lengths in the Bible in comparison to the auditory dreams. 

The auditory dreams show the dreamers’ authority, and supremacy as these have clear communications or messages from God to King Solomon, Abimelech, or patriarchs such as Jacob.

There is also a categorization in the Bible between the good and the bad dreams. The one who sleeps with peace and content in heart sees a good dream. The one who sleeps with anxiety, panic, and insecurities will often see a bad dream.

The real reason behind a good dream or a bad dream is still unknown, as good people do not have good dreams, and bad people do not always have bad dreams. Sometimes there are also false dreams in the Bible, which can be ignored by the dreamer completely.

As per Judaism, the one who sees bad dreams can redeem himself by fasting. Fasting has great potential to avoid potential damages; it must be accompanied by repentance and Torah prayer.

Fasting is only applicable when considering your dream to have definite meanings, but if you think of them to be futile, then there is no need for any fasting. Fasting can be started from the moment a person arises from his sleep after seeing a nightmare.

Who interpreted dreams in the Bible?

As per the Bible, the dreamer was not able to interpret or translate the dream. Therefore, a person with immense wisdom was required. They were known as interpreters who charged for their skills. Joseph and Daniel were two of the most discussed interpreters in the Hebrew Bible. As per the Babylonian Talmud, 24 rabbinic interpreters practiced in Jerusalem.

What Can Dreams Symbolize?

There is no definitive and conclusive reason for the occurrence of dreams. But as per thorough research and studies, it is stated that dreams are a cluster of thoughts, emotions, incidents, memories, and symbols that are important for the dreamer.

As per the prophets, the Bible has both visual and auditory dreams. The dreams visualized by Prophets have various symbols like dining with the deity, the presence of smoke and seraphs, and the deity enthroned. There are certain dreams in the Bible as that of Pharaoh, Amos, Daniel, and Jeremiah that communicate and provide information about dreams only through symbols that require interpretation from someone who is filled with wisdom and has honest and pure intentions.

Here are a few examples of symbolism in the Old Testament Bible:

Olive Leaf/ Olive Branch

“And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.”

“And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.”

 In the above two verses mentioned in the Bible, leaf or olive branches represent prosperity, wellness, and peace. It also tells us about the relationship between God and humankind. This motif is used numerous times in the Bible, in different references. In the first instance, it is translated into hope, and in the second instance, it symbolizes the revival of life, humanity, and reunion with God.


11. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put [them for] his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

In the above verse, a stairway symbolizes God’s way and righteous path and is a passage to make way into the abode. It is a link between heaven and Earth. The stairs also represent growth, positivity, and success experienced along the journey of human life.

prophetic dreams in the bible

Can a dream be a vision?

In simple words, vision is the strength to plan, decide, or sight something for the future. It can be defined as your goals or a life that you wish to create. Dreams, on the other hand, are the results of your imagination. Visions are always focusing on the future and have an extended, elaborate plan.

In the Bible, there is a difference between a dream and a vision. Dreams occur when the person is sleeping, while visions are often “in the spirit” and happen when they are awake. In the Bible, Joel declared a prophecy indicating dreams and visions as separate entities.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:”

Dreams are a series of images like one fictional cluster of all the thoughts, emotions, and incidents throughout the day. Visions are clear instructions, messages; these are derived from dreams. God uses both dreams and visions to communicate and transfer clear instructions.

List of dreams in the Bible

The first-ever time when we hear about dreams in the Bible was when God communicated a message to Abraham about his wife, who was taken by Abimelech. God warned Abimelech in a dream and told him:


3. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou [art but] a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she [is] a man's wife. 4. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? 5. Said he not unto me, She [is] my sister? and she, even she herself said, He [is] my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.

This conversation between God and Abimelech states that anyone can receive God’s messages from a normal man to the elite; he is not biassed towards anyone. 


12. And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I [am] the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14. And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15. And, behold, I [am] with thee, and will keep thee in all [places] whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done [that] which I have spoken to thee of. 16. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew [it] not.

In this dream, God had a conversation with Jacob about the number of his descendants and the blessings to be bestowed on them. This dream was a direction and affirmation of God’s blessings and promises.


10. And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle [were] ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. 11. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, [saying], Jacob: And I said, Here [am] I. 12. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle [are] ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. 13. I [am] the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, [and] where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred.

The above dream was a confirmation of God’s word to Jacob and an interpretation of what was seen by Jacob in nature. He asked Jacob to head back to Canaan, and the same confirmation was provided in the dream. He communicated to Jacob by using everyday examples to convey his message.


“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”

This dream was a warning for Laban from God; he told him not to harm or cause any distress to Jacob. He forbade him to communicate with Jacob and not to tell any good or bad news.


5. And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told [it] his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7. For, behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Joseph had a dream, a communication from God which he shared with his brothers, and they rebuked Joseph’s dream and its interpretation. God used everyday examples to communicate with Joseph to make him understand the dreams in a better manner.


9. And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10. And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11. And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.

When Joseph had another communication from God, it was more profound, and it scared his brothers even more. His brothers and father warned him not to believe in the dream and ridiculed him for having such a dream, where he told them that the Sun, the Moon, and the eleven stars were bowing down to him.


“And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.”

9.And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine [was] before me; 10. And in the vine [were] three branches: and it [was] as though it budded, [and] her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes: 11. And Pharaoh's cup [was] in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand. 12. And Joseph said unto him, This [is] the interpretation of it: The three branches [are] three days: 13. Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

In this verse, the cupbearer had a dream where God used everyday things to communicate, and for the dream, the cupbearer needed an interpreter. In the dream, numbers are important as they act as symbols to convey important things.


16. When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also [was] in my dream, and, behold, [I had] three white baskets on my head: 17. And in the uppermost basket [there was] of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head. 18. And Joseph answered and said, This [is] the interpretation thereof: The three baskets [are] three days: 19. Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.

The Chief Baker shared his dream with Joseph who eventually interpreted it and told him that the three baskets in his dreams represent three days and within these three days, Pharaoh will cut off his head and will nail his body on the pole, and then the birds will feed on your flesh.


Apart from Joseph, another important person who received information from God was king Pharaoh. He received messages from God, but he did not have the knowledge to interpret those dreams. So he beckoned Joseph to seek his help and interpret for him the meaning of his dreams

1.And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. 2. And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 3. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. 4. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke. 5. . And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. 6. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. 7. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.

On hearing Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph told him the true meaning of God’s messages to him. He said that the seven cows and seven grains of sand indicate seven years. The seven lean, ugly cows that turned up after the seven cows show the years of famine.

He told Pharaoh that God has told him about the coming future that the land will see seven years of great abundance and joy in Egypt’s land. But soon after seeing Egypt flourish, all havoc will lose, and famine will follow, which will devour humankind and every living being.

This famine will be remembered for eons to come as it will create an extravagant amount of damage. This dream was a warning message to Pharaoh to take precautionary measures to protect his people from the famine.

Joseph Telling His Dream to Jacob

13. And when Gideon was come, behold, [there was] a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. 14. And his fellow answered and said, This [is] nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: [for] into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. 15. And it was [so], when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian.

In this verse, Gideon heard a man telling about his dream to a friend, where the man saw a loaf of bread falling into the camp of Midian, which indicates that God has bestowed his blessings on Gideon and the camp of Midian. God gave the camp of Midian into the hands of Gideon, son of Joash.

Rules related to dreams

In the Bible, God has used dreams to convey warnings, future prophecies, and fruitful events. The rules related to dreams in the Jewish holy book has been laid down by Hisda, a Babylonian of the 3rd Century. The rules are listed as follows:

  • Every dream has some important meaning unless the dream has occurred during fasting.
  • There is no guarantee of every dream, whether good or bad coming to fruition in reality.
  • An evil dream in the Bible is far better than the good one as the latter only causes pain, and the former leads to repentance. 
  • A dream which is not interpreted; it is like a letter left without reading. It clearly states that dreams contain useful messages that, if not translated, can keep us devoid of the deeper meanings and thoughts that have been sent our way by God. 

Dream Verses in the Bible

God establishes a conversation with people, kings, and prophets. Here is the example of a few verses in the Bible with their interpretations, which tell us about all the important messages and events that have been communicated by God.

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”

Dreams have always been a matter of mystique and confusion for humankind. They are usually related to our subconscious thoughts running through our minds all day throughout. Many people believe that dreams have a more in-depth and profound meaning, and that is why they are supposed as encrypted communications from some supreme power. The verse here also states that God’s plan is always revealed through his helpers and interpreters.

“For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.”

Whenever you are filled with anxiety, insecurities and are restless in your thoughts, you can never have a sound sleep. Sleep or tranquility in your thoughts comes when you are at peace with yourself. The verse above states something similar: if you are having a troubled sleep and negative ideas, you should calm your mind.

Many scientific studies show that people with anxiety have nightmares and are often subjected to insomnia, depression, and other related disorders. A dream should never increase your stress level but should keep your mind calm and give you contentment and happiness.

2. And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make [it] plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3. For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

It is not an unknown fact that some of our best ideas come to us in our dreams. These ideas can be a foundation of something great and help us reach our goal one step closer.

Dreams are a collection of our thoughts that have been wrapping in our subconscious minds. The verse above states that if you have something positive that occurred in your dream, you share it, work on it, and believe in it. You should never take any decision in haste, calm yourself down, take a deep breath and analyze your options, and focus on your goal.

“And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.”

Dreams are an amalgamation of ideas, thoughts, emotions, and simulations from our subconscious mind. Some dreams make us think about our future and help us reach our set goals a step closer. We should focus on making these dreams turn into reality.

Any positive flicker of hope should be shared and forwarded to everyone seeking optimism. The verse states that the evenings and mornings’ visions are of the future, but they should be remembered and sealed in the dreamers’ eyes.

“I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.”

As mentioned above in the article, troubled minds are at never at peace with themselves. The insecurities, dilemmas, and fears overpower the logic and intellect in their mind.

These anxiety issues often lead to nightmares, which makes you panic all the more in exasperation. The vicious cycle of self-depreciation starts by blaming oneself and focusing on the wrongdoings of the past. The verse here states that Daniel saw dreams that made him afraid, and they sent him into a state of shock.

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