Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dreams in the Bible

Last week, I wrote about trees in the Bible. Trees are necessary for the preservation of life and they are important parts of our ecosystem. At some point in the future, I intend to revisit that topic.
Today, I will talk about dreams.
We all dream. Sometimes, people will think that they don't dream because they don't remember their dreams. But they are dreaming, nevertheless. Often though, we remember our dreams. They may be funny, scary, or sad. We may wake up happy, disappointed, terrified, or energized. Dreams can tell us things about ourselves. For example, my sister had a dream that told her that she was watching too much television. Her dream was interrupted by four commercials. If your dreams include advertisements, you are watching way too much television. Plus, since it is unlikely that the advertisers are paying for their spots in your dreams, you are giving businesses free ad space in your head!
I've had a variety of interesting and bizarre dreams. In one dream, I was sky diving. This was quite a unique dream for me because I am afraid of heights. And not just a little afraid. Panic stricken terrified kind of afraid. Well, in this dream, I was free falling in a relaxed sort of way. I was floating through the clouds. The air smelled good and I felt so happy. When I finally pulled the cord to open the parachute, I woke up.
In another dream, I was in a privately owned prison that had been turned into a reality TV show. Some of my protester friends were in the Reality TV show prison with me. The odd thing about this prison was that it was co-ed. So, in the dream, I was standing around, waiting for my opportunity to do some sort of stunt and win a million dollars and a Get Out of Jail Free Card. While I was watching, a man was shown to a motorcycle and instructions were whispered to him. We were told that he was challenged to do stunts on the motorcycle and that, if he did the stunts, he would win a million dollars and a Get Out of Jail Free Card. The man got on the motorcycle and departed. It was announced that the man escaped and that he would not get the money and that the show's goon squad would chase him down and he would undergo Trial by Ordeal! I never knew what the ordeal was because, fortunately, I woke up.
The dream that made me disappointed to wake up was the one in which I went to a conference. Dinner was served and eaten and then, dessert was served. It was chocolate mousse with whipped cream. Just as soon as I got a spoonful of the creamy chocolate to my lips, I woke up! Darn! Not even a little chocolate!
Well, I have to admit that, in my Bible readings this week, there was not even one reference to chocolate. I have been reading about loaves and fishes and milk and honey and even about honey and locusts but no chocolate.
I'll talk about food at some other point.
This time, it's dreams.
Dreams seem to be a way in which God communicates with people. In the book of Matthew, which I have been reading for the past few weeks, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him to take Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt because little Jesus was in terrible peril. Herod intended to destroy the child, whom he saw as a threat to his power.
In the book of Genesis, which I finished yesterday, dreams are extremely significant. Abram had a dream that he would have a son and become the father of nations. He, of course, doubted the veracity of that dream because he was getting old and he and his wife Sarai were still childless.
But God provided. Abram and Sarai did have a son, despite their advanced age. Their names were changed to Abraham and Sarah, and Abraham did become the father of many nations.
The dreamer that I would like to focus on is Joseph. His is a dramatic story that was made into a musical, titled Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in the 1970s. I have seen this show several times and always find it entertaining, as it is mostly music in a wide variety of styles. It is a good show to present at a boys' school because there are loads of roles for boys!
Joseph was one of twelve brothers and he was his father Jacob's favorite, mainly because he was the first son of Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. Jacob was not shy about showing that Jacob was his favorite son. He even gave Joseph a tunic of many colors, or an "amazing technicolor dreamcoat."
Joseph had a dream that he shared with his brothers. He said (Genesis 37: 6): "Hear this dream I dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."
Later, he told his brothers of another dream. Genesis 37:9: "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me."
These dreams caused the brothers to go into a collective fit of jealous rage. They plotted Joseph's murder. Then they decided to sell Joseph to a group of Ishmaelites. Well, I am guessing that it was ten of the brothers who plotted these deeds, as Joseph's younger brother Benjamin must have been just a little kid at the time.
Joseph ended up by being a slave in Egypt. Apparently, he was a very good slave and he performed his work admirably, which, unfortunately, attracted the attention of the wife of his master, Potiphar. She tried and failed to make Joseph into her lover. After she realized that she could not entice Joseph into her bed, she lied about Joseph and claimed that he tried to take advantage of her. Joseph was then unceremoniously thrown into prison!
But God was always with Joseph, even in that most unpleasant of places. I am guessing that jails at that time were rather gruesome places to be and that the food was inedible and... I'll spare you the details! Anyway, Joseph was in contact with other prisoners because, at least, the unpleasant ancient prisons didn't use the current barbaric technique of long term solitary confinement.
So Joseph was not only a dreamer, he was also an interpreter of dreams. He told a baker and a cup bearer what their dreams meant, which was good news for the cup bearer and bad news for the baker. The cup bearer was freed and the baker was executed. He asked the cup bearer to remember the interpreter of dreams when back at work for the Pharaoh. The cup bearer was so excited about being turned loose that he forgot all about Joseph and Joseph continued to languish in jail, eating yucky food.
Eventually, the Pharaoh had a dream that made no sense to him, having to do with a group of seven fat and good looking cows coming out of the river. After that, ugly and gaunt cows emerged from the river. They then gobbled up healthy cows. Then Pharaoh had a dream about seven stalks of healthy corn being devoured by seven stalks of blighted corn.
The Pharaoh assembled all of his wise men but no one understood his dream. And then, the cup bearer, who had conveniently forgotten Joseph after he got turned loose from the dungeon, suddenly remembered that he met a guy in prison who could interpret dreams.
And so, Joseph was brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh's dream. It was a prediction of agriculture in the land. The healthy cows and the healthy corn stalks were symbolic of seven years of good times. Things would grow and animals would thrive and all would eat, drink, and be merry. But then, seven bad years lay ahead, after the happy good times. There would be drought and famine and Death would stalk the land. Joseph figured out a technique for storing surplus food during the times of plenty so that no one would starve during the times of famine. Joseph was freed and was then put in charge of food distribution. That was a huge upgrade in status for Joseph, as the only person he had to report to was the Pharaoh.
When the years of famine started, Joseph's brothers were living with their father in Canaan, unaware that Joseph still lived. They were hungry because the land yielded nothing. All of the brothers, except for Benjamin, went to Egypt because they heard that they could buy food there. Their story is beautiful because the brothers were able to acknowledge that they had committed a great wrong against Joseph.
Joseph understood that his dreams came from God and, indeed, everything that he was and did came from God. He told his brothers about his experiences: (Genesis 50:19-21) "So Joseph said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for I belong to God. But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your households.' Thus he comforted them and spoke to their hearts."
I did not relate all of the details of the story of Joseph here. That would take too much space. Feel free to read it. Genesis 37-Genesis 50. It tells you about the power of dreams and the joy of forgiveness.

I anticipate having more dream stories in future entries.

Have a great weekend and thank you for coming on my Biblical journey with me.

1 comment:

  1. Joseph and his Technicolor Dream Coat is one of my favorite plays. Despite the terrible things his brothers did to him, Joseph found it in his heart to forgive.