Are dreams in the bible? What does the bible say about dreams? Includes over 70 bible references on the subject.
What does the bible say about night dreams?
Are dreams in the bible?
I have researched more than 70 direct and indirect biblical references to dreams with these questions in mind – and stored my findings here in one handy reference resource.
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.
- What does the bible say about dreams?
- Bible verses about dreams
- Bible verses suggestive of dreams
- Examples of dreams in the bible
- Poetic use of dreams in the bible
What does the bible say about dreams?
For the past 15 years I have dedicated myself to learning how God speaks through dreams – through interpreting my own dreams with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and by observing how God spoke to people in the bible.
As a seasoned church leader and bible teacher, I appreciate the importance of good biblical foundations on a subject. So, I have undertaken a bible search for references to night dreams, and have grouped my findings into the following topics:
- Bible verses about dreams: Verses that give direct insight into the subject of night dreams.
- Bible verses suggestive of dreams: Verses that are not directly about dreams but seem to relate to dreaming in some way.
- Examples of dreams: Longer passages about real dreams people had in the bible.
- Poetic use of dreams: How the nature of dreams is used metaphorically.
The bible is not meant to be simply a book that we study, but rather a springboard to inspire our own journey and relationship with God. My hope is that, as you see what the bible has to say about dreams, you will be inspired to make your own journey and believe that God can speak to you through your dreams too!
The bible quotes in this article are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise stated.
Bible verses about dreams
There are numerous bible verses which directly address the subject of dreams. I have grouped them in topics.
God spoke through dreams
The bible is very clear on the fact that God spoke to people through dreams, and that God is the ultimate authority on what any dream means.
Here are some Old Testament verses that demonstrate this:
- Genesis 40:8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”
- Genesis 41:25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.”
- Genesis 41:32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.
- Numbers 12:6 He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream.”
- Daniel 2:28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.
- Daniel 4:18 This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
This negative example of when God was silent shows how dreams were one of the ways people expected God to speak to them in those days:
- 1 Samuel 28:6 When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets.
Not all scary dreams are bad; they can be from God too:
- Genesis 15:12-13 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. Then God said to Abram…”
- Job 7:14 Then You frighten me with dreams and terrify me by visions;
- Job 33:14-18 Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it. In a dream, a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people, while they slumber in their beds, then He opens the ears of people, and horrifies them with warnings, so that He may turn a person away from bad conduct, and keep a man from pride; He keeps his soul back from the pit, and his life from perishing by the spear.
This verse in Joel (and its fulfilment in Acts) confirms that dreams can come from the Holy Spirit:
- Joel 2:28 “It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.”
- Acts 2:17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams;
Here are some New Testament references:
- Matthew 2:12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
- Matthew 2:22 Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee…
God met people in dreams:
The following scriptures show how God sometimes came to meet people in their dreams, and spoke direct messages to them:
- Genesis 20:3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.”
- Genesis 28:13 [Jacob’s dream of a ladder] Then behold, the Lord was standing above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your descendants.”
- Genesis 31:24 God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.”
- 1 Kings 3:5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”
People encountered angels in dreams
There are also many examples in the bible of people encountering angels from God in night dreams:
- Genesis 28:12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
- Genesis 31:10-11 And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’
- Matthew 1:20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”
- Matthew 2:13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
- Matthew 2:19-20 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”
People took dreams seriously
The following bible quotes do not directly state that dreams come from God. But we can see from the reactions and statements of the people involved that they took dreams very seriously, and in many cases treated them as prophecies or divine communications:
- Genesis 37:5 Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.
- Genesis 37:10 He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?”
- Genesis 37:20 Now then, come and let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A wild beast devoured him.’ Then let us see what will become of his dreams!”
- Genesis 41:15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
- Genesis 42:9 Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.”
- Judges 7:15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands.”
- Daniel 1:17 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.
- Daniel 2:3 The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.”
- Daniel 4:5 I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.
- Daniel 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.
- Matthew 27:19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”
There are many good examples of the dreams in the bible. But there are also some warnings. We need to keep our wits and discernment at the ready – because dreams can be abused and misused.
Sometimes people invent (or make up) dreams, and either deceive themselves or others to get their way:
- Jeremiah 23:16 They tell a vision of their own imagination, not from the mouth of the Lord.
- Jeremiah 23:25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’
- Jeremiah 23:32 “Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the Lord, “and reported them and led My people astray by their lies and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them nor command them, nor do they provide this people the slightest benefit,” declares the Lord.
Some dreams come from negative spiritual sources (i.e. other than God). In fact, in bible times they sometimes sought dreams from other gods such as Baal. These dreams could be persuasive, as they sometimes had supernatural phenomena attached to them:
- Deuteronomy 13:1-5 If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let’s follow other gods (whom you have not known) and let’s serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams… because he has spoken falsely;
- Jeremiah 29:8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.’
- Zechariah 10:2 And the diviners see lying visions and tell false dreams; They comfort in vain.
- Jude 1:8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
Sometimes we can want something so much that we make ourselves dream it by focusing on it:
- Ecclesiastes 5:3 For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.
How should we respond? The exhortation of scripture is not to abandon dreams out of fear of deception, but rather to test everything (1 John 4:1), and make sure we are truthful when we are speaking about dreams, and not making things up. Don’t throw out the grain along with the straw!
- Jeremiah 23:28 “The prophet who has a dream may report his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word truthfully. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the Lord.
There are some basic spiritual foundations that can easily be put into place to help protect ourselves from deception, so we can receive more of the good, healthy dreams from God. I have written about these in the following articles:
Bible verses suggestive of dreams
There are some bible passages that imply from the context that dreaming took place, although they don’t specifically mention the word ‘dream’.
Abram’s encounter with God
This prophecy given to Abram and the official establishment of the Abramic covenant in Genesis 15 (one of the most significant events in the Old Testament) both happened while Abram was asleep – so it appears he witnessed them in a dream:
- Genesis 15:12-13 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. Then God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years.”
- Genesis 15:17-18 Now it came about, when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, a smoking oven and a flaming torch appeared which passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…
The bride’s dream in Song of Solomon
This is a dream in Song of Solomon that the bride had about her lover These passages suggest that even when we are asleep, we are spiritually awake and receptive to God’s voice.
- Song of Solomon 3:1 “On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him…”
- Song of Solomon 5:2 “I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, My dove, my perfect one!”
King David’s night encounters
In the book of Psalms, King David often talks about his visions and encounters with God – so you may have wondered how he heard/saw all those things and had such a close relationship. Well, in the following verses he mentions things happening in the night – and waking up. So, it seems that many of them happened in dreams!
David’s son, Solomon, had his famous ‘wisdom’ encounter with God in a dream (1 Kings 3:5), so it makes sense that David met God in dreams too. See what David says:
- Psalm 17:3 You have put my heart to the test; You have visited me by night; You have sifted me and You find nothing;
- Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.
- Psalm 19:2 Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.
- Psalm 139:18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
Night visions in the bible
There are also accounts of God speaking to people in visions in the night. Although the word ‘dream’ is not always mentioned, night visions seem to be connected to dreams – and the different between them is not clear.
It seems that we can have visions while awake, and visions while asleep (i.e. in our dreams). The following verses highlight this crossover between the two phrases:
- Job 20:8 He flies away like a dream, and they cannot find him; Like a vision of the night he is chased away.
- Job 33:15 In a dream, a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on people, while they slumber in their beds…
- Isaiah 29:7… all who wage war against her… will be like a dream, a vision of the night.
- Daniel 7:2 Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and told the following summary of it. Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea…”
We can see in the quote from Daniel that he used the phrase vision by night to describe things he saw in his dream.
With that in mind, here are some specific mentions of God speaking through night visions – in both the Old and New Testaments:
- Genesis 46:2 And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”
- Daniel 2:19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision.
- Zechariah 1:7-8 …the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet…as follows: I saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse…
- Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
- Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul by a vision at night, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent…”
Examples of dreams in the bible
There are some very well-known dreams in the bible that you have probably heard of – and also some that may surprise you! In this section I have listed those that encompass several verses or chapters, and are longer than the previous short examples quoted..
I haven’t included the entire passages here, but I have included the links so you can read them for yourself.
For more of a dream-interpreter-style commentary on some of the dreams in the bible, do check out the following articles too:
A closer look at dreams around the birth of Jesus…
A chronological look at the dreams in the bible…
Dreams in the time of the patriarchs
Genesis 20:3-7 This is the first direct mention of a dream in the bible; in it God spoke clearly to a king called Abimelek about Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had been pretending that Sarah was his sister, so in the dream, God advised Abimelek of the deception so he would avoid touching Sarah.
Genesis 28:10-16 While he was on his way to find a wife, Jacob stopped to sleep. In his dream he saw a ladder reaching into heaven. He saw angels, and God spoke personally to him, blessing him and his descendants. Jacob seemed to actually see into heaven while he was asleep, and responded by making a commitment to God.
Genesis 31:10-13 Jacob had been living with his uncle in Haran, where Laban had taken advantage of Jacob’s help for many years. Jacob described a dream he once had, where he saw the male speckled goats mating. God then reminded Jacob that He had been blessing him, and told Jacob it was time to go back to the land of his birth. Read the previous chapter (Genesis 30:31-43) to see this God-given strategy outworked – Jacob implemented the plan and it made him extremely prosperous.
Dreams in the life of Joseph
Genesis 37:5-8 Joseph dreamed that his brothers’ sheaves in the field all came and bowed down to his own sheaf, affirming his future destiny. At the time, it just annoyed his brothers when he told them. But it was clearly fulfilled years later (See Genesis 42).
Genesis 37:9-11 Joseph dreamed that the sun, moon and eleven stars bowed down to him, which confirmed the previous dream, and added his parents into the equation.
Genesis 40 While he was in prison, Joseph interpreted two dreams: One was for Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer (about a vine and grapes). The other was for Pharaoh’s chief baker (about bread and birds). Both of the dream interpretations that Joseph gave came to pass – exactly as he said.
Genesis 41:1-37 Pharaoh had two dreams: One was about seven fat and seven thin cows, and the other was about seven plump and seven thin ears of grain. Joseph was called upon to interpret these dreams: In seven years’ time a severe famine was coming, and Pharaoh should prepare accordingly. This was fulfilled exactly as per Joseph’s interpretation. Due to this dream the whole of Egypt and surrounding lands were saved from starvation during this famine, and Joseph was promoted to a position of authority.
Dreams in Judges and Kings
Judges 7:9-15 Gideon and the Israelites were preparing for battle. God told Gideon to go into the enemy camp, where he overheard a man telling a dream where loaf of barley (symbolising Gideon) tumbled into the camp of Midian and flattened the tent. This gave Gideon courage and caused fear among the Midianites – and led to victory for the Israelites.
1 Kings 3:5-15 God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him whatever he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom and discernment so he could rule Israel justly. God was pleased and said he would grant his request, but also give him riches and honour. Solomon was given everything that was promised in this dream (as evidenced in the rest of 1 Kings 3).
Dreams in the life of Daniel
Daniel 2 During Israel’s exile period, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon dreamed of a great statue. This was a prophetic dream relating to world history, and foretold the kingdoms that would rule over the earth from that time until the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God. Daniel was able to interpret it, and was immediately promoted to ruler of the province.
Daniel 4 This chapter is Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony! He dreamed of a great and beautiful tree that gave shelter to many creatures, which was then cut down to a stump. This was a warning that if he did not change he would go through a period of humbling until he acknowledged God as Lord of all. This came to pass exactly as per Daniel’s interpretation.
Daniel 7 Daniel dreamed of four beasts which arose from the sea in succession, followed by various horns. In the midst of this he saw a throne, the Ancient of Days, books being opened, and ‘One like a Son of Man’. This dream gave a prophetic timeline between that time period and the coming of Jesus. The dream and its interpretation were fulfilled in history so accurately that some people suggest it must have been written afterwards.
Dreams around the birth of Jesus
Matthew 1:18-21 This is a familiar part of the nativity story. Mary had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, so Joseph wanted to call off their forthcoming marriage. An angel visited him in a dream to let him know that Mary was telling the truth and he should marry her. There are also four more dreams recorded in Matthew 2 relating to the birth of Jesus!
Poetic use of dreams in the bible
The following bible passages are not about dreams themselves, but use the nature of dreams as a way of describing other things.
Dreams are not usually literal
Dreams are normally symbolic in nature. This fact is sometimes used poetically to describe things that seem too good to be true (they thought they were dreaming), or conversely, things that turned out to be a vain hope!
- Psalm 126:1, Amplified Bible When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion (Jerusalem), we were like those who dream [it seemed so unreal].
- Isaiah 29:8 It will be as when a hungry man dreams— And behold, he is eating; But when he awakens, his hunger is not satisfied, Or as when a thirsty man dreams— And behold, he is drinking, But when he awakens, behold, he is faint And his thirst is not quenched.
Dreams quickly disappear from memory
In these verses, the fleeting nature of dreams is compared to other things that disappear quickly: The threat of an invading army will suddenly seem to fade away; the human lifespan is relatively short.
- Job 20:8 He flies away like a dream, and they cannot find him; Like a vision of the night he is chased away.
- Psalm 73:19-20 …they are destroyed in a moment…like a dream when one awakes…
- Isaiah 29:5,7 But the multitude of your enemies will become like fine dust… like the chaff which blows away; And… the nations who wage war… will be like a dream, a vision of the night.
- Psalm 90:5-6, The Passion Translation We glide along through the tides of time— so quickly gone, like a dream that fades at dawn…
It is true that dreams fade from our memories very quickly, which is why it is so important to write them down as soon as we wake up – if we want to remember them!
We have seen that dreams feature throughout the bible and were an accepted – and expected – way for God to speak (and even meet with people personally) throughout those times. The bible clearly states that God will speak through dreams.
There are a few cautions relating to dreams:
- Have integrity and do not make up dreams to get your own way
- Have discernment and watch out for dreams from negative spiritual sources or idols
- Be wary of making your dreams say what you want to hear.
But there are many more positive examples of God using dreams at significant moments throughout biblical history:
- Dreams are mentioned in Job, one of the earliest books of the bible
- There were significant dreams around the times of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
- Dreams featured in Judges, and in the time of King David and Solomon
- Around the exile period more dreams are recorded by Daniel and the prophets
- There were dreams surrounding the birth of Jesus
- Dreams continued in the book of Acts after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Have you ever wondered whether your own dreams are coming from God? There is a huge amount of biblical evidence in this article to suggest they could be!
Check out some of the articles below.
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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- Beginner’s guide to biblical dream interpretation
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