Were Biblical Dreams Always From God?
“Job Speaks with His Friends”, Doré’s English Bible
And Job died, an old man, and full of days.
And it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up.
This man is described in the Syriac book as dwelling in the land of Ausis, on the borders of Idumea and Arabia; and his name before was Jobab; and having taken an Arabian wife, he begat a son whose name was Ennon. He himself was the son of his father Zara, a son of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraham. And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he also ruled over. First Balak the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dennaba. After Balak, Jobab, who is called Job: and after him, Asom, who was governor out of the country of Thaeman; and after him Adad, son of Barad, that destroyed Madiam in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim. And the friends that came to him were Eliphaz of the sons of Esau, king of the Thaemanites, Baldad sovereign of the Sauchaeans, Sophar, king of the Minaeans.
~ Job 42:17 + Septuagint subscription, as reported in Appendix 62 of the Companion Bible
Genealogies are a bit dull, and it is easy to get into the habit of skimming over them very quickly. However, today I decided to dawdle a bit over one, and I noticed that Amalek was the son of a concubine to Eliphaz, son of Esau. Amalek, of course, was one of Israel’s most vicious enemies, and God pronounced a curse upon them as a result. King Saul was rejected by God after he did not completely wipe out the Amalekites, even sparing King Agag.
The above Septuagint addition is interesting, as it identifies Eliphaz the Temanite as the same Eliphaz born to Esau. What is interesting is that EW Bullinger seems to believe that portion of it, but then he turns around and claims that Job was the son of Isaachar? I’m not sure why, even. Most likely, a son of Isaachar would have gone into Egypt and stayed there, especially given that they went there due to a famine initially.
Bildad the Shuhite was likely a descendant of Shuah, son of Abraham and Keturah, and he likely lived the farthest away (Wikipedia believes Bildad lived in or around Arabia), given that Abraham sent all of the sons of Keturah away before his death. Zophar might have come from the city of Naahmah in Canaan, which was given to the tribe of Judah by lot after the Exodus. These are speculations based upon the scant evidence available.
A little less speculative was that Eliphaz had a son named Teman (Ge 36:15), who was specifically called a “chief”, which means he was likely a prince over some territory, and it would not have been unusual for that territory to carry his name. Obviously, if it is the same Eliphaz, that means he would have lived there, much as Terah lived and died in Haran, named after his son Haran whose death preceded him (Ge 11:31-32).
Bela was the first king, it would appear, and Jobab, son of Zerah, was the second (Ge 36:33-34). Zerah was grandson of Esau through Reuel. So, the genealogy in the Septuagint addition to Job does fit.
Furthermore, Uz, son of Dishan, son of Seir the Horite, is mentioned in this same chapter. Job came from the land of Uz. Edom lived in Seir, so again, it makes sense that most of these people lived either in Canaan or Seir.
“My Elohim Is Strength”
Eliphaz means “My Elohim is strength”, Elohim being the main word that is translated “God” in the OT.
In a pretty insightful Wikipedia article on “Eliphaz (Job)“, we see that Eliphaz “argues that those who are truly good are never entirely forsaken by Providence, but that punishment may justly be inflicted for secret sins.” As I have stated many times before, Job and his three friends had a pretty black-and-white interpretation of God’s justice. The difference throughout, however, is that Job never falsely accuses his three friends of the nasty, terrible and false things that they level at him.
Apparently, the wisdom of the Edomites was famous, and especially in Teman.
8 Shall I not in that day, saith Jehovah, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?
7 Of Edom. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?
So, while I believe that the story of Job is real and based upon a real person, it is possible that Eliphaz the Temanite was name chosen as a symbol of the sum of wisdom of Edom rather than an actual name. Or, it could actually have been Eliphaz, son of Edom and father of the wisest tribe to come from the Edomites. Either way, it’s hard to escape that the name represents the sum total of wisdom of Edom.
That’s what makes part of his speech stand out like a sore thumb.
Visions of the Night
12 Now a thing was secretly brought to me, And mine ear received a whisper thereof.
13 In thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falleth on men,
14 Fear came upon me, and trembling, Which made all my bones to shake.
15 Then a spirit passed before my face; The hair of my flesh stood up.
16 It stood still, but I could not discern the appearance thereof; A form was before mine eyes: There was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,
17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?
We need to remember that Job is a poetic book, so a dream is being described as “in the thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falleth on men”. Eliphaz has a dream that includes a message from a spirit. The question we should be asking is, “Is the dream from God?”
There are many instances of dreams in the Bible, even from people we don’t normally call “prophets”: Joseph (both of them, son of Jacob and stepfather of Jesus), Pharaoh’s butler and baker in prison, Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Jacob, a Midianite soldier (who retold the dream to another while Gideon listened outside the tent), the Magi who sought the Jewish king, etc. Does this mean all dreams are from God?
No, it does not. We are never told that all dreams are from God. In fact, dreams are often silly, confused and can jump tracks with little or no transition in such a way that no story book ever would. Some dreams work on problems and issues and can give a different viewpoint on an issue. However, other dreams are simply expressions of desires that are not even necessarily good to pursue.
Did Eliphaz’ dream contain anything false? It’s hard to say. He states that God “putteth no trust in his servants”, which can be read one of two ways, I believe. Does that really mean that God cannot give Michael or Gabriel a charge and yet not trust them to follow through? Maybe that’s not what Eliphaz meant, but it seems to be implied here.
7 For in the multitude of dreams there are vanities, and in many words: but fear thou God.
Even if the dream itself didn’t contain anything false, what was the result? Was it a revelation Job could use?
13 When I say, My bed shall comfort me, My couch shall ease my complaint;
14 Then thou scarest me with dreams, And terrifiest me through visions:
15 So that my soul chooseth strangling, And death rather than these my bones.
This does not sound like it had the intended effect. Just because something is true, that doesn’t mean it is from God.
Perhaps I should repeat that: Just because something is true, that doesn’t mean it is from God.
The first lie recorded in the Bible was the serpent talking to Eve. However, he did not start with a lie, did he? No, he started with, “Hath God said …?” Not only did he not lie, but he simply asked a question.
Most people can recognize a lie if it is 100% a lie. A convincing lie might actually be 90% truth! Even the tree that the serpent asked about was called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil! It didn’t have thistles and thorns all over it. It didn’t burn the skin on contact. No, it looked good, and it probably smelled and tasted good as well!
Of course, the ultimate judgment is God’s. What did God think overall of Eliphaz’ discourses?
7 And it was so, that, after Jehovah had spoken these words unto Job, Jehovah said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.
Seems pretty clear to me! Zophar may have spoken some true things, and even his dream might not have had anything grossly false in it, but God did not inspire either!
Not every dream is inspired by God. Not every prophet is approved by God. Not every teacher, preacher or minister is called by God.
This is why we need discernment.