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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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vizh´un ( חזון , ḥāzōn , חזּיון , ḥizzāyōn , מראה , mar'āh ; ὅραμα , hórama , ὀπτασία , optası́a ): Psychologists find that man is prevailingly and persistently "eye-minded." That is, in his waking life he is likely to think, imagine and remember in terms of vision. Naturally then, his dreaming is predominantly visual; so strongly visual, we are told, that it is not rare to find dreams defined as "trains of fantastic images." Whether man was made this way in order that God might communicate with him through dreams and visions is hardly worth debating; if the records of human life, in the Bible and out of it, are to be trusted at all, there is nothing better certified than that God has communicated with man in this way ( Psalm 89:19; Proverbs 29:18; compare Amos 8:11 , Amos 8:12; Hosea 12:10 ). If one is disposed to regard the method as suited only to primitive peoples and superstitious natures, it still remains true that the experience is one associated with lives and characters of the most saintly and exalted kind (1 Samuel 3:1; Jeremiah 1:11; Ezekiel 1:1; Daniel 2:19; Acts 9:10; Acts 10:3; Acts 16:9 ).

The vision may come in one's waking moments (Daniel 10:7; Acts 9:7 ); by day (Cornelius, Acts 10:3; Peter, Acts 10:9 ff; compare Numbers 24:4 , Numbers 24:16 ) or night (Jacob, Genesis 46:2 ); but commonly under conditions of dreaming (Numbers 12:6; Job 4:13; Daniel 4:9 ). The objects of vision, diverse and in some instances strange as they are, have usually their points of contact with experiences of the daily life. Thus Isaiah's vision of the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2 ) was doubtless suggested by familiar figures used in the decoration of the temple at Jerusalem; Paul's "man of Macedonia" (Acts 16:9 ) had its origin in some poor helot whom Paul had seen on the streets of Troas and who embodied for him the pitiful misery of the regions across the sea; and "Jacob's ladder" (Genesis 28:12 ) was but a fanciful development of the terraced land which he saw sun-glorified before him as he went to sleep. Among the recurring objects of vision are natural objects - rivers, mountains, trees, animals - with which man has daily and hourly association.

The character of the revelation through vision has a double aspect in the Biblical narrative. In one aspect it proposes a revelation for immediate direction, as in the ease of Abram (Genesis 15:2 and frequently); Lot ( Genesis 19:15 ); Balaam (Numbers 22:22 ), and Peter (Acts 12:7 ). In another aspect it deals with the development of the Kingdom of God as conditioned by the moral ideals of the people; such are the prophetic visions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah, and the apoealypses of Daniel and John. The revelation for immediate direction has many correspondences in the life of the devout in all ages; the prophetic vision, dealing in a penetrating way with the sources of national growth and decay, has its nearest approach in the deliverances of publicists and statesmen who are persuaded that the laws of God, as expressed in self-control, truth, justice, and brotherly love, are supreme, and that the nations which disregard them are marked for ultimate and speedy extinction.

From the nature of the vision as an instrument of divine communication, the seeing of visions is naturally associated with revivals of religion (Ezekiel 12:21-25; Joel 2:28; compare Acts 2:17 ), and the absence of visions with spiritual decline (Isaiah 29:11 , Isaiah 29:12; Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:26; Micah 3:6 ).

One may see visions without being visionary in the bad sense of that word. The outstanding characters to whom visions were vouchsafed in the history of Israel - A braham, Moses, Jacob, David, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul - were all men of action as well as sentiment, and it is manifest from any fair reading of their lives that their work was helped and not hindered by this aspect of their fellowship with God. For always the vision emphasizes the play of a spiritual world; the response of a man's spirit to the appeal of that world; and the ordering of both worlds by an "intelligent and compelling Power able to communicate Himself to man and apparently supremely interested in the welfare of man.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Vision'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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