Read through the Old Testament, and you will find people sometimes receiving messages from God via dreams. And more often than not, they had no idea what the dream (or dreams) meant. To understand it, they needed someone to do dream interpretation.
Pharaoh had two crazy dreams, and was very disturbed by them—one of them involved seven anemic cows eating seven fat cows, but still looking skinny and malnourished—and it took Joseph to come along and interpret them, telling him what they meant (seven years of plenty followed by seven years of massive famine). Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him so much he was going to kill all the wise men in Babylon if he didn’t get an answer about what the dream meant—and it took Daniel to come along and interpret it for him (see Daniel 2 for all the details).
There are other instances of this throughout the Old Testament, and when you read the dream, followed by the interpretation, it usually makes sense. You can see why the seven fat cows, eaten by the seven skinny cows, could represent seven years of plenty wiped out by seven years of massive famine. Same thing with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. So, once you get the interpretation, you can see how it fits with the dream.
But I would like to offer to you the person who just might have had the most insanely crazy-good skills of dream interpretation in the whole Bible. But first, two facts about him: (1) he wasn’t an Israelite, and (2) we don’t know his name.
In Judges7, the Midianites conquered Israel, and God tells Gideon to take them down. Gideon, however, very unsure of himself, requests multiple signs. The evening before the battle, God gives him an extra one, just to finally get him ready to go. God told Gideon to go sneak into the Midianite camp, and listen. So he does. And here’s what he hears:
…a [Midianite] man told a dream to his fellow[soldier], and said, “Look, I dreamed a dream. A loaf of barley bread rolled into the host of Midian, and hit a tent, turning it upside down, and it fell flat.”
His fellow[soldier] answered, “This is nothing else except the sword of Gideon, the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for God has delivered Midian and all its army into his hand” (Judges 7:13-14).
So… One guy says, I saw a loaf of barley bread roll down a hill, and the other guy says, That’s absolutely Gideon, who is going to kill us all. I really have no idea how you get that interpretation from the dream which was provided. Even knowing the interpretation, I can’t see how rolling bread gives you the name, the father’s name, and the ethnicity of a skittish guy with no military background, and declare he is going to defeat you.
So to you, anonymous Midianite guy, I say, “Well done!” on that interpretation job. Of course, all the Midianite army was killed, so it didn’t really end happily for that guy. Oh well.
Bradley S. Cobb