Importance Attached to Dreams
Genesis 41:1-8
And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.…

It cannot be surprising that men in all ages and countries should have attached a great importance to dreams. When the functions of the soul seem fettered, and the images of the mind appear dissolved in floating phantoms, it was thought that the direct interference of the Deity alone could give strength and direction to the relaxed faculties; that if in such a state distinct and clearly circumscribed forms were perceived, they must have a higher tendency; and that their meaning is as mysterious as their origin is supernatural. Eastern nations especially, endowed as they are with a luxurious imagination, and carried away by a love of symbolism, searched the import of dreams with eager and serious anxiety. The Egyptians and Chaldeans were foremost in the cultivation of this branch of knowledge; they developed the explanation of dreams into a complete science; the interpreters of dreams were held in the most distinguished honour; they were regarded as being favoured with the highest order of wisdom, and even with divine inspiration; they surrounded the throne of the king, accompanied the expedition of the general, and often exercised a decisive influence in the most important deliberations. But the Greeks and Romans were not less scrupulous in this respect. That dreams come from Jupiter, is a maxim already pronounced by Homer; but they were considered significant only if occurring in the last third of the night, when dawn is near; persons in distress or difficulties slept in temples, in the hope of obtaining prophetic dreams which might indicate the means of rescue; men afflicted with illness especially resorted to this expedient, in the belief that AEsculapius would reveal to them the proper remedies; and Alexander the Great actually fancied he saw, in a dream, the herb which cured the wound of Ptolemy, his friend and relation. But how deeply the faith in the reality of dreams were rooted among the ancient nations is manifest from She views entertained by the Hebrews on this subject. Dreams grew in importance among the Hebrews in the course of centuries, and after the Babylonian captivity they were classified in a complete system; they were regarded either as auspicious or ominous; harassing or frightful visions were expiated by fasts and prayer; and Philo wrote an elaborate treatise, in two books, to prove that dreams are sent by God. It could not fail, that these decided notions, on a subject so vague and uncertain, caused serious abuses, chiefly from two sides; from weak-minded dreamers, who were often tortured by visionary misfortunes, and from cunning interpreters, who knew how to take advantages of such imbecility; but sometimes, also, from wicked schemers, who made real or pretended dreams the pretext of base and selfish plans; as Flavius Josephus did, when, by treachery and cowardice, he saved his life by passing over into the camp of the enemies. Jesus Sirach, therefore, though acknowledging that some dreams are sent by God, censured severely the folly of attributing weight to all; he impressed upon his readers that many dreams are idle and empty, like the wind and the shadow, a delusion to the fool, and a phantom of deceitful hope; just as Artabanus had, long before, said to king Xerxes: " The visions of dreams are not Divine; they most commonly hover around men respecting things which engaged their thoughts during the day"; although the superstition of his time is reflected in the legend which he narrated, how he yet was forced to acknowledge the awful sanctity of dreams. Nor has the interest in dreams ceased since that time; they have occupied the pen of many a modern psychologist; they have given rise to some of the most beautiful works, replete with profound thought and shrewd observation; and the peculiar mystery which surrounds those remarkable phenomena, too aerial to permit of the rigid analysis of the philosopher or the man of science, will always exercise an excusable charm over the human mind.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

WEB: It happened at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and behold, he stood by the river.

An Episode in a Nation's History
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