I have discovered that many of the tools I use to study the bible can also help with dream interpretation. So read on to find out why the bible is the best dream dictionary on the market – and it’s free!
This article focuses on understanding dream symbols.
How is the bible relevant to dreams?
If you read my blog regularly, you will have gathered that I believe that many of our dreams come from God. I have tested this theory out over many years of dream interpretation.
If this is the case, it has several implications for understanding dreams. It means that:
- God is the ultimate authority on what our dream means.
- We will need to learn to listen to His Spirit as we seek out the meaning.
- It is necessary to understand how God usually speaks – and the bible can help with that!
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.
What are dream symbols?
What we are really talking about is those elements that pop up 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.
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.
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.
So how can I understand my dream symbols?
There could be a number of reasons why a symbol appears in a dream. I usually 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?
I would also consider whether it is a pun or play-on-words, as God frequently uses these in my dreams.
Top tip: The Dream Academy have a great tool – a set of questions for interpreting any dream symbol – which is available as part of their Making Sense of Your Dreams course. You need to sign up for a monthly membership, then the course is available to purchase online.
Using the bible as a dream dictionary
The bible helps us tune into God’s way of thinking about symbols. There are so many parables and illustrations to learn from. It won’t give us all the answers, but it gives us some pointers and 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.
When researching the biblical meaning of a dream symbol I will usually do one (or both) of the following things:
- Use Google 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 you 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!
Here is an example from a dream that I had a number of years ago:
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.
The 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 a confirmation that I should do the course! Considering that I had to give up my paid job to do it, I really appreciated that confirmation in my dream. 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.
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 time. As I was teaching, someone handed me a knife to cut up the stollen. As I sliced it, I realised that my dream had come a full circle. I had been taught how to understand the bible (cut up stollen), and now I was teaching other people to do the same.
I just love it when God confirms a dream meaning through a real life moment!
If God is the author of our dreams, then it makes sense to use a book that is inspired by Him – the bible – to help us interpret them!
We have discovered that the bible is a useful starting place when we are trying to understand a dream symbol, as it contains so many examples. 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!
Next in series…
More articles in the biblical tools series
Introduction: Why the bible can help us understand dreams
- Examples of dreams
(includes a list of dreams)
- Dreams as parables
- Symbolic language in dreams
- Dream symbols and the law of first mention
- Puns and wordplay in dreams
- The bible as a dream dictionary
- Considering the context of a dream
- Start with the clear parts in your dreams
- Working around a Greek mindset
- Knowing God’s heart