In everyday life, dreams are often related to matters that a person has been engaged in or been thinking about, and usually have no religious significance (Eccles 5:3). But the Bible records exceptional cases, where dreams did have religious significance. In circumstances where people had no written Word of God to guide them, or where God had an urgent message to pass on, he sometimes spoke to people directly through dreams (Gen 20:3; 31:24; 46:2-4; 1 Kings 3:5; Matt 1:20-24; 2:12). Dreams may have had meaning even when God did not speak directly, though these were rare (Gen 37:5-11). Among people who did not know God, a dream with meaning usually required a person who knew God to interpret it (Gen 40:9-19; 41:1-32; Dan. 2:1-45; 4:4-27). Among God’s people, a dream with meaning usually had a fairly obvious interpretation (Gen 37:5-10; 1 Kings 3:6-9; Acts 16:9-10). Moses warned people to be careful in believing those who claimed that God had spoken to them through dreams. Such people were often false prophets, who led others astray (Deut 13:1-3; Jer 23:25,32). Moses was well aware that sometimes God may have spoken to the true prophets through dreams, but the Bible writers usually spoke of such experiences as visions rather than dreams (Num 12:6; see VISION).

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