The Abiding Gift of Prophecy

The Place of Prophetic Dreams

The Lord says of the prophet: “I will speak unto him in a dream.” Of this way of communication between God and man, one expositor says: AGP 30.2

“Whatever may be the difficulties attending the subject, still we know that it has formed a channel through which Jehovah was pleased in former times to reveal His character and dispensations to His people…. How God revealed Himself by dreams, and raised up persons to interpret them, the Scriptures abundantly testify. Under the three successive dispensations we find this channel of communication with man adopted.” “The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia and Scriptural Dictionary,” Vol. I, art., “Dream,” pp. 540, 541.

This carefully worded analysis is given by W. Morgan: AGP 30.3

“In early Hebrew religion the vision had its closest affinity with the dream,—by which probably the conception of its character was determined,—and the two are usually coupled as the ordinary sources of prophetic oracles…. In both dream and vision what carried religious significance was the fact that the presentation did not come through the ordinary sense channels, or as a product of the mind’s conscious activity. On this account it was accepted as a revelation from God…. At such moments an issue becomes clear, a truth breaks on the mind, a resolution is formed. The result is sometimes presented as if it had come to the prophet in a manner analogous to sense experience,—the prophet sees, hears, questions, replies,—but the broad sense in which vision is used makes it clear that the pictorial image was not the source of his knowledge or resolution, but rather that the truth, having taken possession of his mind and heart, created the vision as its imaginative clothing. Even a Verbal message, with no reference to a voice or appearance, is spoken of as a vision.” “Dictionary of the Bible,” James Hastings, art., “Vision,” p. 871. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1909.

The practical working of this plan of helping poor, faulty, misguided humanity was remarkably fulfilled on one occasion in the life of Abraham. Without being aware of it, Abimelech, king of Gerar, was about to do Abraham and Sarah his wife a great wrong. Although Abimelech was not a prophet, God came to him “in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man.” Abimelech answered, “In the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against Me…. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet.” Genesis 20:3-7. AGP 31.1

David, under divine inspiration, evidently referred to this experience when reciting the Lord’s care for His people: “When they went from nation to nation, and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm.” 1 Chronicles 16:20-22. AGP 31.2