DREAMS, STORIES AND APOCRYPHAL LANGUAGE
The elements in a story can be quite plastic in that there is not an exact pigeon holing of the items. For example in John 10:1-18 Jesus uses a figure of explanation and then explains the figure he uses. From the figure Jesus identifies himself as the door to the sheepfold and also as the one who enters by the door, the Shepherd of the sheep, so what are treated separately in the figure are the one thing (person) in reality. Talk about quantum weirdness. Another example in the bible is at 2 Kings 14:8-10 where Jeho'ash king of Israel portrays himself as a cedar of Lebanon and a wild beast of Lebanon, all in the same allegory. In the parable of the corrupt Judge, petitioning God is likened to the continue requesting of a widow for her case to a Judge so that the corrupt Judge renders justice. In the parable God is the corrupt judge, and is not the corrupt judge. Jesus contrasts how all the more the loving Father God is eager to come through to his children. So what is similar and what is dissimilar are combined in this parable. Although there is a plasticity of elements in stories relating to their meaning this does not mean there is not definite meaning albeit staged mystical or apocalyptical. To project straight Boolean logic onto stories aborts the reason of them.
Similarly Dreams. It is not exactly sure as to the exact functions of dreaming during sleep. Usually dreams are not remembered, however, if one is woken during rapid eye movement sleep (REM) then the sleeper reports of just having been dreaming and can remember what the dreaming was. The dream does not usually make sense, at least to the usual conscious mind. Dreams do though have an important function and therefore do "make sense." However bizarre the dreams there is reason or meaning to them whether it be the mind or brain organizing, cataloguing, defragging etc. Often how the dream relates to anything is unclear, although at times meanings of dreams have been discerned. How the features of the dream relate to its meaning is not strictly in accord with what is possible in reality. Take the dream of Pharaoh in Gen. 41. Admittedly there was divine influence upon Pharaoh that he was able to dream the future, just as there was for the head butler and head baker's dreams in the previous chapter. However, what is relevant is the nature of application dreams have, like stories, to the reality they have to do. Pharaoh dreamt he was standing by the Nile whereupon seven sleek and fat cows came up from the Nile and began feeding on the reed grass. Next seven gaunt and thin cows arose from the Nile and ate up the seven fat cows but remained gaunt and thin. Also Pharaoh dreamt of seven plump and good ears of grain on one stalk then after them seven thin ears sprouted which were blighted by the east wind; these thin ears swallowed up the seven plump ears. The interpretation of these dreams, which God revealed to Pharaoh via Joseph, was that the cows were seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine where the times of plenty would be forgotten. The dream of the ears of wheat also meant the same and this doubling meant that what is to happen is bound to happen. God revealed the future from these dreams so that Pharaoh could make provision and save Egypt from starving and many peoples besides. It also worked that Joseph was released from prison and set over the land of Egypt culminating in the saving of Joseph's family. Joseph was restored to his family and he became pre-eminent; his family, (Israel), settled in Egypt to grow for a time. All these things actually foreshadow the saving ministry of Christ. What God meant the dream for was far reaching aside from what was particularly and immediately meant from the dream.
If the elements of the dreams are looked at it is seen events take place that cannot be. Cows are herbivores so do not eat meat, yet in the dream the cows ate one another. So too with the grains of wheat, aside from receiving nutrients for growth via the stem from the rest of the wheat plant, grains of wheat do not eat anything let alone swallow other grains. To look at it this way blinds the person to the meanings. This is the problem associated with some of the scriptures when some pooh-pooh them as they disagree with what that person knows as factual whilst others in blind belief take as factual aspects that are not. Also some believe the scriptures and miss the truths as their minds are not open to having the interpretation revealed. Their minds are more orientated to the concreteness of reality and the subtle alluding eludes them, although the divine spirit in the person is knowledgeable to the meanings of these things and will continually renew the spirit of the persons mind. So there is not an immediate need of brilliant surpassing insight and the understanding of all mysteries and prophecies but one of growth in love: even though a believer may not understand the full import of the scriptures they study they are edified in their inner man from the Word.
Whilst dealing with dreams it is interesting to view the dreams of the head baker and head butler in Gen 40 and note the manifold wisdom of God concerning the interpretation of these dreams. Both the Baker and the butler had offended the king of Egypt and were put in prison where Joseph was. One night each had a dream. The chief butler dreamt there was a vine before him with three branches. These branches budded and bloomed, and the blooms then ripened into bunches of grapes. The butler took Pharaohs cup that was in his hand and pressed the grapes and placed the cup into the Pharaoh's hand.
The dream of the chief baker was of having three cake baskets on his head and in the uppermost basket was all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh but the birds were eating it out of the basket on his head.
Joseph told the two the interpretation of each his dream. In the first the three branches were three days within which pharaoh would lift up the head of the butler and restore him to his former position. In the second dream the three baskets were three days within which Pharaoh would lift up the head of the baker from him, hanging him on a tree and the birds would eat his flesh.
Joseph gave the meanings of these two dreams, each pertained to the same matter of the dreamer and had elements in common and each had opposite consequences. Yet the meanings of these dreams go deeper; there is what God caused to happen in causing these dreams. That is of Joseph later coming to the Pharaoh's attention because of the need for the interpretation of Pharaoh's dream; the head butler remembered how Joseph had correctly interpreted the head baker's and his own dreams and told Pharaoh. From this, as mentioned, the provisions made for Joseph, his family, Egypt and the others as well as ensuring the future for the nation Israel as the patriarchs were not wiped out in the famine. So too God later through the nation Israel brought the savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and spiritually the mantle of the Church rested on Joseph at this time. (Compare the long sleeved cloak of Gen.37 and the attire of the bride inPs.45:14, it has to do with the bride of Christ being of many different peoples woven seamlessly together).
However, the meaning of these two dreams and the butler's and baker's happenstance are prophetic of Jesus Christ. Jesus was nailed on the cross and his blood poured out. At the death of his body he became a life giving spirit. The baskets symbolize the cross, the bread the flesh, the baker the death that living to the flesh brings. The wine symbolizes the blood, the butler living to the Spirit leads to life and of course the three days in these dreams are the three days Jesus was interred. The life and crucifixion of Jesus and so much of the theology and Christology surrounding it is in these two dreams; this is what God meant in including them in the bible. These things are types and shadows pointing to the ultimate reality and purpose. Indeed the whole Joseph saga is full of these types and shadows.
Apocryphal language; the word apocrypha means hidden, the use of the term in this book is referring to this quality that passages in the bible often have. In no way are the terms apocryphal or apocrypha referring to the Apocrypha, a collection of books from various authors from around biblical times imitating the themes, styles and contents of the scriptures often claiming authorship of some leading biblical character, a bit like the Hitler diaries. These books are not canonical.
The last book of the bible is full of apocryphal language, but the title Revelation or Apocalypse is of an opposite nature to the meaning of the word apocrypha. Apocryphal language is for a revelatory purpose. These dark sayings are meant to convey items of knowledge and understanding. The bible is its own lock and key. The key to unlocking the hidden meanings is in the bible itself. Most of the four hundred and three verses in the book of Revelation are references and allusions, or of the same theme, to other verses and places in the bible. Items in the bible can be hard to understand, however this does not mean understanding is lost. The more familiar to the bible and open to the Spirit, the more is disclosed. Also God gifts people strengths in various fields so some are given greater insight in some matters. This does not mean they are holier or better than someone else, just God given talent in that area.
Look at Rev.8:7 and compare to Rev.9:4. When the first angel blows his trumpet in Rev.8:7 it says "...and all green grass was burnt up." In chapter nine of Revelation the fifth angel blows his trumpet where upon demonic locusts are released from the abyss to torment evil mankind. In verse four they are instructed not to harm the grass of the earth. The instruction not to harm the grass of the earth is after all the green grass had been burnt up in verse seven of the previous chapter, so accordingly there should be no grass to leave unharmed, no leaves to leave. In other places of the bible the usage for the term grass should be borne in mind.
In Deuteronomy, chapter 32 Moses uses similes for his words of teaching and the recipients of the words. "May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as the gentle rain upon the tender grass, and the showers upon the herb." The affect of the teaching of Moses is as the process of optimum rainfall on otherwise delicate flora. Yet the assembly of Israel as green grass is only at a certain stage of those people's development. Was Moses like a blade of grass? The stature of Moses was greater than a mere blade of grass, Moses had been taught by God for a long time and gone on to growth, Moses was a tree- although the transient nature of Moses' flesh was like grass, (Ps.90:5-6). The tender grass in Deuteronomy is the immature members of God's people. Hence, this biblical metaphor should be remembered in one of the places grass is mentioned in Revelation. The time of the Apocalypse is going to be so traumatic that any immaturity is going to be burnt off and there will only be the fully mature of God's people or not at all. There will be a clear division of God's people and those of the world.
Often people concentrate on the apocalyptical, in the sense of end times, the battle of Armageddon and the reign of the Beast, mainly looking to the book of Daniel and Revelation. This quest seems to have a similar fascination like ESP or UFO's have. Even heavy metal rock bands sing about the Beast and the Anti-Christ. These topics get the "juices flowing" in otherwise disinterested people. Many books have been written about these items yet it can actually detract from the greater importance, people become enamored with the subject. The very nature they operate from hides revelation from them even though the apocalyptical books were written for revelatory purposes. Some weird theories and claims are often made as the end result of their research. Before learning the specialist field that is legal jargon it is best to become conversant with the English language, concentrating on a small slice of the biblical pie is detrimental to understanding that slice when the slice is throughout the whole pie. In explaining biblical points there are whole minefields and avenues of misdirection that need to be cordoned off.
Another group of symbols used in the bible is that of water. The ocean, the waves, the deep, the streams are used often in the scriptures. The interpretation is present in several places in the scriptures. For example Ps.65:7 "who does still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples;" so the tumult of the peoples is the roaring waves and the roaring sea is peoples in agitation. In Isaiah 17:12-13 "Ah, the thunder of many peoples, they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations, they roar like the roaring of mighty waters! The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm." In other places also this meaning of the term waters is made plain, e.g. Rev.17:15. To complicate matters water is a multiple emblem and has differing meanings in other places in the bible just like grass can mean the young people of God or the temporal nature of the flesh. Water or a compound of water can mean speech or mean baptism etc., a major meaning of water to know is instability (Gen.49:4), the sea is the representation of chaos. In the bible the metaphors are compounded into a complex system, the effect of this is to be dark speak.
Before coming ashore from this put some time and energy to the space in chapter six of John's gospel and bring the gravity of the matter to light. In this Jesus walks in the dark on the sea of Tiberi-as to the apostles who were in a boat trying to make headway in a storm. When Jesus enters the boat immediately they reach the shore. Obviously from this is shown that Jesus is lord and master of the physical elements and forces of nature which were alluded to in the opening sentence of this paragraph- time, energy, space, gravity, matter and light. But dive deeper. Remember the meanings of the elements. This passage shows Jesus trampling on the Roman Empire, that the name of Jesus is above that of Tiberi-as the Caesar. This passage shows Jesus to be the true light, greater than the forces of darkness; that Jesus is over Satan and the realm of the Beast. The rule of Jesus is above all the kingdoms of the earth and above all the powers and principalities of the spirit world.
By using apocryphal language the supernatural is dipped into from the natural. Elements of the supernatural are expressed in the natural, the natural is used to describe the supernatural, sometimes breaking off from the natural reality and continuing with the supernatural.
The book of Job has a good example of this. Elihu uses the wonders of nature to teach Job the mysterious ways of God which paves the way for God to address Job in chapter thirty-eight. God also speaks of the natural wonders. In chapter forty-one God's description of the crocodile then merges to that of the Dragon, the Leviathan, on earth there is not his like. The Leviathan is king of all the sons of pride, so fierce, strong and merciless even gods are panicked by him.
The points to derive from the chapter are the plasticity that some aspects have to them along with the impossibility in the natural of some occurrences in the field of stories, dreams and apocryphal language. Nevertheless dreams, stories and apocryphal language are vehicles to a set destination, vehicles of specific purposes and meanings, and all these are truthful. The greater meaning is set in the, factually speaking, impossible by way of apocryphal and mystical language. On one hand the truths should not be denied because the facts appear to be gone against and on the other hand some items should not be taken to be factual because it is in the bible and the bible is true. Gen. 1:1 -2:4a is apocryphal in a poetic and hymn-like vehicle whilst Gen.2:4b-24 is apocryphal encroached in a story vehicle as indeed is the next chapter. Later chapters will divulge what these meanings are as exposed by the rest of the bible.