How can we understand dream symbols? Find out why the bible is the best dream dictionary – and it’s free!
I have discovered that many of the tools I use to study the bible can also help with dream interpretation.
This article focuses on understanding the meaning of dream symbols – and how the bible can help with that.
I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.
If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read the following articles: Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and Beginner’s guide to biblical dream interpretation .
Is the bible relevant to dreams?
You may be wondering why the bible is relevant to dream interpretation. That is a good question, and the answer depends mainly on where you believe dreams come from!
The answer depends on where you believe dreams come from.
If you read my blog regularly, you will have gathered that I believe that dreams come from the same God who inspired the bible. I have tested this theory out over many years of dream interpretation, and wrote about it in Could our dreams contain messages from heaven?
If dreams do come from God, it has several implications for understanding them. It would mean that:
- God is the ultimate authority on what our dream means.
- We need to learn to listen to Him as we seek out the meaning.
- It is necessary to understand how God usually speaks.
The bible is an incredible library containing messages from God, and includes records of how He has interacted with mankind through history. Therefore, it is a valuable resource for understanding how God usually speaks.
The bible is an invaluable resource for understanding how God usually speaks.
Let’s be honest – if our dreams are only coming from our own subconscious mind, then there is absolutely no reason why the bible would be relevant, or that any of our dreams should include biblical elements, particularly if we don’t come from a church background.
And yet I have found that they often do! My experience is that the God who I have met through reading the bible, is the same God I meet in my dreams. And when I think about the meaning of symbols in the bible, they are often consistent with the meaning of those things in my dreams.
So, if dreams are coming from the God we meet in the bible, then the bible has to be an essential place to start our dream symbol research!
If dreams are coming from God, then the bible is a great place to start!
If you are interested in exploring more about the bible and dream interpretation, check out the article below:
What are dream symbols?
By dream symbols, what we are really talking about is those elements that appear in our dreams. They could be people, places, buildings, objects, colours, numbers, etc. What does a red car mean, or a horse, for example?
In any given dream there will be symbols that feature prominently, and we will need to understand them in order to make sense of the dream.
I have previously written about how dreams are usually symbolic, and how the bible can help us with understanding the metaphorical language that they contain. I recommend going back to read that article if you haven’t yet.
Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language
Taking inspiration from the bible to understand the symbolic language of dreams, plus real dream examples.
Do I need a dream dictionary?
If you are into dreams, the chances are that you have seen the dream dictionaries that are widely available. These are lists of symbols that could potentially occur in dreams, together with their supposed meanings.
There are numerous books, and even more online lists! There are ones written specifically for Christians, and ones covering many other approaches to dream interpretation. You can find some of my favourites at Best bible-based dream interpretation resources.
But do you really need a dream dictionary? Let us consider some of the pros and cons:
- A dream dictionary can kick-start our metaphorical thinking by giving us examples when we are stuck for ideas, or new to dream interpretation.
- Some dream symbols are fairly universal in meaning, so a dream dictionary can help with these.
- Sometimes God’s Spirit can speak to us through a suggested symbol meaning, and we immediately know it is the right meaning for our dream.
- Some Christian dream dictionaries contain biblical meanings, which can be useful.
- Dream dictionaries can be expensive
- There are so many dream dictionaries available, with different suggested meanings to choose from, that it can be confusing.
- Dreams are personal, so the suggested meanings might not apply to our particular dream anyway.
- Relying on a dream dictionary can hinder our personal growth as a dream interpreter, if it stops us thinking more deeply about the symbol or listening to God for ourselves.
It is certainly possible to understand our dreams without using a dream dictionary, although they can be helpful at times.
How can I understand my dream symbols?
There could be a number of reasons why a symbol appears in a dream. Broadly speaking, we can consider three potential areas when trying to interpret a symbol:
- Personal – what does this symbol mean to me personally?
- Cultural – does this symbol have a cultural connotation?
- Biblical – does this symbol appear in the bible?
Dreams are very personal, and the first two areas above relate to our own life – and what the symbol might mean to us personally and culturally. Most dream interpretation systems include those areas.
However, the third area links to the assumption that dreams may come from God – i.e. outside our own minds – and therefore could contain information that needs to be researched. That’s where the bible comes in.
In addition to the above, I have compiled a list of ten questions which can be used with any dream symbol to help you discover its meaning:
10 simple clues for understanding dream symbols
How to understand dream symbols: 10 questions to help identify their meaning, with real dream examples – plus infographic.
Using the bible as a dream dictionary
The bible helps us tune into God’s way of thinking about symbols, because there are so many parables and illustrations to learn from. It contains an abundance of metaphorical language and symbolism.
It won’t give us all the answers, but it is a great place to start – and familiarising ourselves with the language also helps us learn to hear God for ourselves.
These days we have easy access to online bibles such as BibleGateway.com which are totally free! In fact I mostly use online bibles now, because of the fantastic search facility.
Researching a dream symbol
When researching the biblical meaning of a dream symbol I will usually do one (or both) of the following things:
- Use Google (or other search engine) to search for ‘[symbol] in the bible’. Look at the results and see if there are any good articles written on the subject; someone may have already done the hard work for us! It is still wise to check out the references afterwards.
- Go to BibleGateway, search for the word/symbol, and then review the results. Look for any trends or verses that stand out or seem relevant to our dream.
Of course, you can still use a good old-fashioned concordance if you happen to have one and prefer that way!
Not every dream symbol is in the bible, but there will be similar concepts. For example, they didn’t have cars in those days, but they did have horses and chariots and other methods of transport.
Because I know the bible well already, I have found that I often know what a dream symbol means from a biblical perspective without having to look it up. This is something that you too can develop over time if you read the bible regularly – but until then, the internet is a great tool!
Real dream example
Here is an example from a dream that I had a number of years ago:
The dream: Cutting up stollen
I dreamed I went to a place where there was a lady doing a cookery-type demonstration. I decided to join the group to listen. She was showing us how to correctly cut up some stollen. I noticed that the stollen had an expiry date of one year.
Dream symbol: Stollen
This was my thought process, thinking about the stollen, which was the main element in this dream:
- Personal meaning: I enjoy eating stollen, so it has a positive connotation for me. Food in dreams is often symbolic of spiritual food.
- Cultural meaning: Stollen is a special type of bread with spices and dried fruit. Culturally it is not an everyday food, but saved for special occasions such as Christmas.
- Biblical meaning: Does stollen appear in the bible? No – but bread does. I decided to think of the stollen as a special type of bread.
- Bible search: I then did a search for bread at BibleGateway.com. You can see the results here. There were many references.
- Google search: On doing a Google search for ‘bread in the bible’, I found an excellent summary article: ‘The Amazing Significance of Bread in the Bible’ by Steppes of Faith at medium.com.
The following verse in that article spoke to me, which is an Old Testament Scripture that Jesus quoted:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4
So I felt that the stollen represented God’s word, and moreover, a special time of being in God’s word.
Soon after having this dream, an opportunity arose for me to do a course called ‘School of the Word’, which was a year of studying the whole bible, and learning some tools to help with this.
The symbol of stollen in my dream told me that this course would help me correctly interpret (cut up) the bible; that I would thoroughly enjoy what I learnt (the delicious stollen); and that the experience would last for one year (the one year expiry date).
This simple dream was telling me I should do the course! Considering that I had to give up my paid job to do it, I really appreciated that confirmation. The fact that I am able to write this blog about biblical tools today stems from that dream and the decision it helped me make.
The dream was confirming that I should sign up for the year-long bible study course that I had been thinking about, called School of the Word – which I did!
A real-life confirmation
The most wonderful thing about this dream, was that two years later I was back in that same School for a few days – but as a teacher rather than a student!
While I was there, someone brought in some stollen for the students to enjoy during the break. As I was teaching, someone handed me a knife to cut up the stollen. As I sliced it, I realised that this was a real life confimation of the dream!
As I sliced the stollen, I realised it was a real-life confirmation!
And I also realised that my dream had come full circle: On the course I had been taught how to understand the bible (cut up stollen), and now I was teaching other people to do the same (cutting it up for them).
I just love it when God confirms a dream meaning through a real life moment! He often confirms the things He says to us in more than one way – particularly if it is significant.
If God is the author of our dreams, then it makes sense to use a book that is inspired by Him – i.e. the bible – to help us interpret them!
We have discovered that the bible is a useful tool when we are trying to understand a dream symbol, as it contains so many examples of metaphorical language and symbolism.
Moreover, the key to understanding our dream symbols is learning to tune into God’s way of thinking – and ultimately being able to hear His voice for ourselves. Reading the bible can help us get started with that process.
But do remember that nothing is ever set in stone when it comes to dream symbols. Every dream is unique and personal – and always carries an invitation to a conversation with our Maker!
The bible is a great dream dictionary: it contains a wealth of examples, it is inspired by the same God who gives us dreams, and it’s free!
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I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to emails to receive regular dream interpretation tips.
The purpose of this blog is to provide biblical foundations for interpreting dreams and encourage others to make their own dream journey. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.
It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.
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If you have benefited from my articles and/or my help with dream interpretation and would like to show your appreciation, please consider paying it forward to help me continue the work and bless others.
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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Jennifer Needham disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.
3-step biblical dream interpretation method
A simple introduction to the dream interpretation process in 3 easy-to-remember steps.
Hearing God’s voice through dream symbolism in everyday life
How understanding the language of dreams helps you hear God through similar symbols in everyday life.
How to develop your own personal dream dictionary
Practical tips for developing your own personal dream dictionary and potential hazards to avoid.
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