In the ancient Near East dreams were one of several ways people sought to see the future and to make decisions that would be beneficial to them. In some societies, people went to temples or holy places to sleep in order to have a dream that would show them the best decision to make.
The dreams of common people were important to them, but the dreams of kings and of holy men or women were important on a national or international scale. One of the results was that many of the nations surrounding Israel had religious figures skilled in the interpretation of dreams. These figures could be consulted at the highest level of government for important decisions. In such nations as Egypt and Assyria, these interpreters even developed “dream books” by which they could give interpretations according to the symbols of a dreams. Dreams were important in the OT, too. Israel was forbidden to use many of the divining practices of her neighbors, but over a dozen times God revealed something through a dream. When we recognize that night visions and dreams were not strictly distinguished, we can find many more times in the OT and NT that God used this method to communicate. In fact, prophecy and the dreaming of dreams were to be tested in the same way according to Deut 13.
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