In the beginning of Genesis 37, the Bible tells us that Jacob loved his son, Joseph because he was born to him in his old age. Jacob demonstrated his favor toward Joseph by giving him a special robe or coat. Some translators say it was a coat of many colors but it really may have been a long sleeved robe. It is clear that Joseph’s brothers resented the fact that they were not as favored in their father’s eyes as Joseph was.
As the story unfolds we discover that there was also animosity between Joseph and his brothers because of his dreams. In his first dream, the bundles of wheat that belonged to Joseph’s brothers bowed down to his. Upon hearing Joseph’s dream, his brothers quickly understood its significance and were not pleased. Joseph soon had another dream in which the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowed down to him. If the first dream wasn’t bad enough, the second one made his brothers angrier because it confirmed the first dream.
Should we blame God for the hatred of Joseph’s brothers that was generated by Joseph’s dreams? I don’t think so. The hatred was not God’s fault but Joseph’s fault because he shared it at the wrong time with the wrong people. It seems Joseph’s unwise decision to share his dream was used by God as the catalyst to bring God’s future plan for Joseph to pass despite their evil intentions.
Are dreams relevant for us today as they were in Joseph’s day? Many assume that the dreams we have are a result of what we experience during the day or something else. That may be partly true. Actually, we have to learn to discern between various dream sources:
- God speaking directly to us in simple dream language or in symbols.
- The kingdom of darkness.
- Other sources that produce junk which is meaningless.
In the last days, the Holy Spirit will be poured out again in a way similar to that of Acts 2:17. Joel 2:28-31 prophesied that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. The Holy Spirit will cause our sons and daughters to prophesy and our old men to dream dreams. Our young men will see visions. This will happen before the second coming of the Lord. Personally, I think this is happening to some degree already. If you are already dreaming dreams and think you are alone, you are not!
I have not had many dreams and visions in the past but they have been happening with a little more frequency than before. I think this is a result of asking God to reveal His secrets to me. Normally, God reveals to me the patterns or secrets that are in His Word through careful analysis but lately I’ve been asking God to reveal other secrets to me. I believe the only way He can do this is through dreams and visions. I will have to take time to learn how to remember, record, and interpret my dreams because I’m certainly not skilled in this area of my life yet.
So far, I think I’ve already learned a valuable lesson from Joseph: not all dreams and visions are meant to be shared with other people because of the way they may respond to their interpretation. I’m convinced that some dreams and visions are meant to be shared with others but some are personal, not for others, and not for the corporate body. Joseph should have had a little more discretion and kept his dreams to himself. He should have waited until God showed him when and where to reveal them. Holding back a dream or vision won’t change its prophetic significance but it may help to avoid bruised feelings and possible retaliation. Remember, we must be careful not to throw our pearls before swine!
What else can we learn from dreams and visions? The symbols seen in Joseph’s dreams were easy for his family members to properly interpret them. Some symbols in dreams or visions are things you can personally relate to because God speaks to us through our current worldviews, family life, and skills of trade.
Daniel’s visions on the other hand were a little harder to figure out. This may have been because these visions were not only for Daniel but for all of God’s people. Fortunately, angels were able to help interpret his dreams. I think the first place we can go to in order to properly interpret dreams and visions is the Bible. We still have to be careful interpreting dreams and visions because some dream symbols can have multiple meanings. It may also be useful to occasionally consult a dictionary of Christian dream symbols that is Biblically based. Dream interpretation is obviously the weakest link in this form of communication between God and man so we must ask God to help us understand dreams and visions properly.
Even though Jacob scolded Joseph for the contents of his second dream, I think he did another wise thing – he “kept the matter in mind.” Sometimes when we receive a dream or vision:
- We may be completely clueless as to what it is all about.
- When we do have an idea of what it’s about, we might not be sure if our interpretation is correct.
- We might wonder how the prophetic significance of it could really come to pass.
That’s why we need to ponder them and record them. If a dream is really of the Lord and not of the Enemy, or if the same theme happens twice, it will take place. It’s hard for beginners to always properly interpret dreams or visions. I imagine that even pros miss the mark from time to time. If we’re not careful with our interpretation, we could end up being labeled a false prophet.
Joseph had no idea how his original dreams would come to pass. Surely Jacob gave up hope of seeing Joseph’s dreams being fulfilled when he thought his son had been killed by a wild animal.
It’s a good thing Joseph didn’t know what would take place in his future before his dreams were fulfilled. He would have been discouraged long before his trials began. Joseph’s troubles began when he was put in a pit where he could’ve died by being bitten by snakes or scorpions but fortunately he was grateful to be pulled out of a death trap and set on solid ground. It didn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse…
Jasher 42 – 45 describes how:
- The Midianites originally bought Joseph first for 20 pieces of silver.
- They sold him to the Ishmaelites for the same price. This must be why Genesis 37:28 mentions both Midianites and Ishmaelites.
- Then the Ishmaelites later sold him to the Medanim for 20 shekels when they came near Egypt.
- The Medanim finally sold him to Potiphar for 400 pieces of silver.
Things were looking up for Joseph while he was working in Potiphar’s house except when he was tempted to sin day after day with Potiphar’s wife. He remained faithful to the Lord but eventually, he was falsely accused and sent to prison. It was there God gave Joseph the interpretation of the personal dreams of the cup bearer (butler) and the baker. Here is another lesson for dream interpretation. To be accurate, the interpretation should come from God and not from our human understanding because this can lead to a wrong interpretation. Sometimes our dreams are prophetic warnings or delightful revelations. The cup bearer was thrilled to hear he would be restored to his former position but the baker was devastated when he was forewarned of his impending death.
These two dreams also seem to foreshadow the Vine (Cup Bearer) – Jesus Christ. As a result of being falsely accused of blasphemy, He shed his blood to atone our sins so we could have eternal life. This was accomplished when Jesus (Bread of Life) died on a cross while wearing a crown of thorns on His head (Bread-baker’s basket). After 3 days of being buried in the grave, Jesus was given a new life. Just as there was a great feast on Pharaoh’s birthday, there will be a celebration on the Feast on Tabernacles which is thought to be the time of Jesus’ birthday and also the time of the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Two years after the dreams of the cup bearer and the baker, Joseph was brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams of fat and skinny cows. This time, dreams were the method of warning Pharaoh to prepare for a famine that would affect the corporate body of Egypt and the surrounding nations, including Joseph’s family. It’s important to note that sometimes God also gives dreams to those outside the family of faith. Pharaoh and King Nebuchadnezzar are two examples of this. It also seems that we may not be able to change what’s going to happen but we may be able to change the extent of its effects on us based on our response. For example, by stockpiling grain, Joseph was able to save many lives as the famine worsened and Nebuchadnezzar may have avoided 7 years of insanity if he had repented of his pride quicker (Dan. 4:27).
Much of the Old Testament’s historical accounts such as Joseph’s and prophecies such as Daniel’s are similar to dreams and visions because they are/were also shadows or patterns of what would/will take place in the future. Even many of the Scriptures that pointed to Christ could not be seen clearly until after Christ returned to heaven. That is how it can be with dreams and visions…sometimes we don’t know what they are really all about until after they have been fulfilled and we have the hindsight to see their clear meaning in our lives.
As a result of the 7-year famine and being elevated to a position of power, Joseph’s original dream was finally fulfilled when his brothers came to Egypt. Actually, Joseph’s mother, Rachel had already died prior to Joseph’s dream. As we ponder the reason for this, we should remember that this dream shares a prophetic pattern of the coming 7 year peace treaty between Israel and the Beast of Revelation, the final 3 ½ years of tribulation, and the 12 nations of Israel including Jesus’ mother, earthly adopted father, and siblings who will bow down to Jesus in the future.
What else can we say about our personal futures or that of our friends and churches? Only God knows these secrets and only He can reveal them to us in dreams and visions.
Do you have or want to have dreams and visions? Declare a fast and petition the Lord. Explore this topic as the Lord leads. Maybe the prophetic ministry or one involving the interpretation of dreams and visions is in your future. Let me know how the Lord is working in this area of your spiritual life. That’s one way for the glory to go to the Lord.