The Bible

Exodus 23:14-19 : The Three Annual Festivals

Study the Inner Meaning

14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year.

15 Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:)

16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.

17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.

19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

Study the Inner Meaning

Main explanation(s) from Swedenborg's works:

Arcana Coelestia 9285, 9286, 9287, 9288, 9289, 9290, 9291 ...

Commentary on this text:


Other references by Swedenborg to this text:

Arcana Coelestia 1001, 2342, 2405, 2788, 3519, 4262, 7906 ...

Apocalypse Revealed 623, 939

Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works


Three Feasts

A loaf of homemade bread.

The Children of Israel were told to keep three feasts each year - the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of first fruits, and the feast of ingathering. Should we still do that?

In Exodus 23:14-16, Moses receives the instructions about these feasts. Those three verses in Exodus comprise our brief story. Their inner meaning is explained in Arcana Coelestia 9286-9296.

There are three feasts. In the Word, the number three represents a completeness, a sense of things being covered from beginning to end. Our thankfulness to the Lord is supposed to keep going - to endure.

The first feast, of unleavened bread, stands for worship, for our thankfulness for the Lord's action in our minds to get rid of false ideas. That enables us to start to receive good loves.

The second feast, of first fruits, relates to the planting of true ideas in that "soil" of initial loves for doing good.

The third feast, of harvest, or ingathering, stands for the time when, by applying our true ideas, we receive real good - loves of the neighbor and of the Lord - that become the middle of our lives. This is the state of rebirth, where we have - by working through the year (our lives), and enduring in thankfulness, allowed the Lord to get rid of our false ideas, and push our evil loves to the periphery, so that good can work, and be fruitful.

These feasts, then, represent the progress of our spiritual lives. In some manner, we need to keep them.

From Swedenborg's Works

Apocalypse Explained #661

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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661. And shall send gifts one to another.- That this signifies their consociation, is evident from the signification of sending gifts, as denoting to be consociated from love and friendship; for gifts from such an affection and disposition bring together both the well-disposed and the ill-disposed; in this case, those who are opposed to the goods of love and truths of doctrine, signified by the two witnesses who were slain and cast out into the street of the great city, which is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. It is to be observed that nothing is more delightful to the ill-disposed and the wicked than to destroy the goods of love and the truths of doctrine wherever these are, and to do evil to those in whom they are; for they burn with hatred against such things, and for this reason there continually exhales from the hell, where such persons are, a deadly hatred against celestial love and spiritual faith, consequently against heaven, and especially against the Lord Himself; and they are in the delight of their heart as often as they are permitted to do evil. Such is the wild-beast nature of those who are in hell. This therefore is what is meant by, they shall rejoice and shall be glad over them. The ill-disposed also enter into friendships and band together for the purpose of doing injury to the well-disposed; the delight of hatred, which is the delight of their love, unites them together, and then they appear to be friends in heart, although they are enemies. This, therefore, is the signification of sending gifts one to another.

(References: Revelation 11:10; Zephaniah 3:10)

[2] Since gifts captivate the mind and bring about consociation, therefore in ancient times it was customary to give gifts to priests and prophets, also to princes and kings, when they were approached (1 Sam. ix. 7, 8). And it was also a statute that they should not appear empty, that is, without gifts, before Jehovah, but that in their feasts every one should bring a gift according to his blessing (Exod. xxiii. 15; xxxiv. 20; Deut. xvi. 16, 17); and therefore the wise men from the east brought gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to the Lord as soon as He was born (Matt. ii. 11), according to the prediction in David (Psalm lxxii. 10); and for the same reason, the oblations upon the altar, which were sacrifices, and also the meat-offerings and drink-offerings, were called gifts (Isaiah xviii. 71; lvii. 6; lxvi. 20; Zeph. iii. 10; Matt. v. 23, 24; and elsewhere), and this because external gifts signified internal or spiritual gifts, namely, such as proceed from the heart, and thus belong consequently to affection and faith; and because conjunction is effected by means of these, therefore gifts, in the spiritual sense, signify conjunction when used in reference to God, and consociation when used in reference to men.

(References: 1 Samuel 9:7-8; Deuteronomy 16:16-17; Exodus 23:15, 34:20; Isaiah 18:7, 57:6, 66:20; Matthew 2:11, 5:23-24; Psalms 72:10; Revelation 11:10; Zephaniah 3:10)

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