For the week of November 20, 1999 / 11 Kislev 5760
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 28:10 - 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 - 14:10


He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it (Bereshit / Genesis 28:12)

When Jacob began his journey back to his grandfather's homeland, God spoke to him in a dream. That dream had a great effect on him and, in some way, set the tone for his next twenty years. The Scriptures contain many accounts of God speaking to people in dreams.

Before getting into this topic, I want to make clear that the Bible was written so that we could know God, not just know about him. The Bible shows us how God communicated with all sorts of people in a great variety of ways. There is no indication in Scripture that God had intended to cease speaking to us in this way in our own day. This is not to say that every so-called experience of God that people claim to have is authentic. But rather we have a precedent that experiencing God through these ways is most definitely possible.

It is too bad that our secularized society has influenced people to think that all such experiences are suspect.

While some people reject the notion that God communicates with us directly, there are others who think that all dreams are from God. But the Bible makes no such claim. In fact it acknowledges that dreams have other sources apart from God. For example, dreams may arise out of our worries:

As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words (Kohelet / Ecclesiastes 5:3).

But God does sometimes speak through dreams.

The Torah gives two kinds of examples where God speaks through a dream.

The first is where God himself speaks directly to people in the dream. This is what happened to Jacob. Jacob clearly knew that God was speaking to him.

The other kind of dream is not so clear. In the case of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, later on in Genesis chapter 40. Here Pharaoh dreamed something that he knew had special meaning, but he could not figure out. There was a message for him in it, but it needed interpretation.

When it was learned that Joseph, who was still imprisoned, had some time before correctly explained the meaning of two other prisoners' dreams, he was brought to Pharaoh. When asked to interpret Pharaoh's dream, he said,

I cannot do it, … but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires (40:16).

Even though Joseph had experience in dream interpretation, he didn't presume that he had a handle on some technique. He knew he needed to rely on God for the interpretation.

There is no indication in the Bible, that there is a way to learn how to interpret dreams. The examples we have rather demonstrate that in each case the dream is to be interpreted by God, if that dream is from God at all.

How do know which dreams are from God, and which are not? There are no techniques. We need to learn to rely on God for these things. He will show us what's what.

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