10 biblical tools for understanding dreams

How the bible is the best resource for learning to interpret dreams, including 10 biblical principles that can be applied to dreams.

Do you have a vague sense that your dreams mean something?

Do you feel that God has spoken to you in a dream, or feel as though you have touched the spiritual realm in your sleep?

But as a Christian you are wondering whether dream interpretation is biblical? This article explains how the bible is actually the best tool for interpreting dreams.

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 Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.

The bible and dream interpretation

As a lifelong bible-student and bible-teacher, I have discovered that the bible is actually the best place to learn how to understand dreams.

By taking our inspiration from the bible, we can proceed with confidence that we are in line with what God says. Don’t let your fears hold you back from the amazing joy of knowing God in a deeper way! You may be pleasantly surprised at what you discover!

You can also read my story of how I got started in this journey of knowing God through dreams, and the positive impact it has had on my relationship with Him.

A remarkable similarity!

Understanding our night dreams is remarkably similar to studying the bible! There are certain tools that we often use to help us.

For example, when studying the bible we can use underlining and highlighting words to help us look more closely at what it says. We try to understand the historical and cultural context of what it would have meant to the readers at the time. Then we ask for God’s wisdom to apply it to our own lives.

This process helps with dream interpretation too. We observe words and symbols in the dream. We seek to understand the storyline and the meanings of the symbols. Then we listen carefully to the Holy Spirit to seek His interpretation and the application to our life

This similarity is not surprising if we assume that both are coming from the same source. I believe that the same God we read about in the bible is behind many of our dreams.


THE 10 BIBLICAL TOOLS


1. Examples of dreams in the bible

picture of camels walking alomg a hillside, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 1: Examples of dreams

HOW TO BUILD CONFIDENCE FROM DREAMS IN THE BIBLE

The most obvious way that the bible can help is by providing us with a wealth of examples of dreams and their interpretations. This is an invaluable reference source for those who want learn how God speaks through dreams.

There are some famous dreams such as Pharaoh’s dreams which Joseph interpreted in Genesis 41, and the dreams surrounding Jesus’ birth, but there are also some lesser known ones such as Abimelek’s dream in Genesis 20.

There are actually more than twenty dreams recorded in the bible. These examples give us confidence that God does indeed speak through dreams, and they provide clues about how to interpret them. Most of all they should inspire us to expect God to speak to us in similar ways.


2. Dreams as night parables

Picture of a sheep, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 2: dreams as parables

HOW TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE OF DREAMS

Jesus told plenty of parables, many of which are familiar such as the lost sheep (pictured above!). I enjoy reading them because they give me a visual aid that captures my imagination and goes far beyond the words themselves.

I have found that in a similar way, dreams can be seen as helpful illustrations which God uses to speak to us about our lives. Thinking of them as night parables often enables us to interpret them in the way God intended.

Meditating on the parables in the bible can help us tune into metaphorical language, and consequently can help us understand our dreams better.


3. Symbolic language in dreams

picture of wave in the seas, witb text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 3: symbolic language

HOW TO GET INTO A METAPHORICAL WAY OF THINKING

Have you ever wondered why dreams often feel crazy and seem to make no sense? The reason for this is that the language is symbolic and needs to be understood that way.

The bible is actually full of language such as similes and metaphors. For example Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.’ Obviously this was not literal, but rather a helpful illustration. We find many more examples in books such as the psalms, the wisdom literature and the prophets.

Understanding the symbolic language of the bible can help us become more familiar with God’s pictorial language, and also help us interpret some of the symbols in our dreams.


4: The Law of First Mention

Picture of a microphone on abible, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 4: the law of first mention

HOW TO START A PERSONAL DREAM DICTIONARY

This principle says that the first mention of a word in the bible gives us a foundation for the use of that word later on. The same can be said of dream symbols: the first appearance of a symbol often gives us a key to its meaning in subsequent dreams.

If we interpret our dreams regularly, we can build up a personal dream dictionary: a record of people, places and themes that appear regularly in our dreams, and their meanings. This makes the process of understanding new dreams much quicker.

So if a symbol appears regularly in your dreams, you could think back to the first time you can remember it clearly, to see if that helps you establish the meaning!


5. Puns and wordplay in dreams

Picture of a basket of fruit, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 5: puns and wordplay

WHY TO EXPECT PUNS AND JOKES IN YOUR DREAMS

Did you know that God has a sense of humour? The very suggestion can get our religious mindsets protesting, but in actual fact there are numerous examples in the bible.

Jokes and wordplay in the bible often get lost in translation, for example the picture of the basket of ripe fruit in Amos 8 relies on a play-on-words with ‘summer fruit’ and ‘end’.

Fortunately God speaks English to me in dreams, so I can appreciate the puns that He uses. In the UK, our humour is heavily reliant on wordplay, so this is something I can easily relate to.

Understanding that God has always used jokes to get His messages across in the bible has given me the confidence to appreciate the ones He uses to speak to me!

More on this theme…


6. The bible as a dream dictionary

Picture of an open bible, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 6: the bible as a dream dictionary

HOW TO UNDERSTAND DREAM SYMBOLS

I believe that many of our dreams come from God, and that we need to understand God’s way of thinking in order to understand our dreams. We need to learn to hear God’s voice for ourselves, and reading the bible can help us get started with that process.

Many of the images we find in the bible are similar to the ones that appear in our dreams. Therefore, the bible is a useful starting place when we are trying to understand a symbol. We can use online bibles and search engines to research a dream element in the bible, and of course we can pray about the meaning!

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!


7. Consider the context of the dream

Picture of a lady taking a photo, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 7: consider the context

WHY THE SETTING OF A DREAM IS IMPORTANT

One of the biggest challenges of interpreting dreams is finding the right application. We can understand the illustrations in our dreams, but so often they don’t seem to relate to anything in real life that we can identify!

In the bible, understanding the context of a passage is key – otherwise we can read things into it that were never there. God can seem angry or distant until we see the big picture. Some parts are just plain confusing unless we understand what was happening at the time.

In the same way, a dream can seem random until we realise which area of our life it applies to. We can usually pick up some clues in the dream setting which help determine this. 

Once we know the context then the application usually falls into place!


8. Start with the clear dreams

Picture od a lamp against a white brick wall, with text; 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 8: start with the clear parts

HOW TO GET STARTED WHEN YOUR DREAMS ARE CONFUSING

I have so many dreams written down – some of them are easy to understand, and some seem incomprehensible!

When reading the bible, I was taught to start with the plain parts that are easy to understand. In other words, we wouldn’t take an obscure bible verse and make a whole doctrine out of it. We would look to see if there was a more clear passage on the same subject, that we could use to help us interpret it correctly.

In the same way, dreams usually come in batches: i.e. we have a number of dreams on the same subject, looking at it from different angles. I usually look within those dreams for something that I CAN understand easily, and use that as a reference point to help me interpret the rest.


9. Hebrew thinking and dreams

Picture of man floating in the dead sea, with text: 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 9: Hebrew thinking

WHY WE NEED TO DITCH OUR GREEK MINDSETS WITH DREAMS

One thing that I quickly learnt when studying the bible is that the authors did not think like me. In order to understand it correctly I had to ditch my Greek-based thinking and learn how the Hebrew writers structured their literature.

For example it was frequently not chronological! They tended to place the important events in the middle of the passage rather than in time order. This is confusing to our western mindsets unless we understand it!

In the same way, dreams are not always laid out in a Greek way. The themes jump around. They may not be chronological. Elements match up from all different parts of the dream (and with other dreams).

To interpret dreams we need to hold onto those Greek mindsets loosely, and learn to embrace our intuitive side!


10. Knowing God’s ways

Picture of a path of purple flowers, with textL 10 biblical tools for understanding dreams, 10: knowing God's ways

HOW TO STAY ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW

A good dream interpretation is more than just an explanation of symbols; it should carry a practical message of hope that helps us in our life journey.

If our dreams are coming from God, then we need to know His heart in order to correctly understand them. For example, if we believe that God is a harsh taskmaster, we will always interpret corrective dreams as rebukes or criticism, rather than the loving guidance and help that they really are.

The bible recounts God’s interactions with mankind over thousands of years – and this, I believe, is its greatest value to us as dream interpreters. If, through the bible, we can get to know God, His character, and His ways a little better, then we are more likely to correctly discern what He is saying today.

Read more, and learn from a real dream example at: Biblical tools: Knowing God’s heart, and the meaning of dreams


Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this mini-introduction to the bible and dream interpretation! I’d love to receive comments with any examples you find in your own dreams – so we can all share the learning together!

Watch out for the remaining articles in this series – you can subscribe below so you don’t miss them.

See other articles in this series below, or check out my resources article for lots more learning ideas.

If you have enjoyed this article please share it so others can benefit too!

I hope you have found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to my emails below to receive regular dream interpretation tips.

The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, 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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