The Bible


Exodus 23:14-19 : The Three Annual Festivals


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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
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

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

Other references to this text:

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

Apocalypse Revealed 623, 939

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 329, 412, 661, 725, 865

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

  Bible Study Videos:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 12:10, 15, 13:3, 4, 22:28, 34:17, 18

Leviticus 23:6, 9, 10, 17, 34, 39

Numbers 15:21, 18:12, 13, 28:26

Deuteronomy 14:21, 16:1, 26:10

1 Kings 9:25

Nehemiah 10:36

Psalms 42:3

Proverbs 3:9

Ezekiel 44:30, 46:9, 48:13, 14

Micah 6:6

Luke 2:41

Word/Phrase Explanations

The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

"Keeping" in the Bible generally has to do with controlling the actual actions of life, though in some cases it can mean holding something away...

There are two kinds of feasts mentioned in the Bible. Some were held to commemorate specific, one-time events, such as the feast Abraham held to...

feast of
'The feast of weeks' signifies the implanting of truth in good.

For something to be “unleavened” means that it's been made without yeast. Since yeast is what makes bread rise and take on its airy texture,...

Unleavened bread
'Unleavened bread' signifies the holiness of love, or the holy of holies, so, pure love. The baking of unleavened bread is purification.

The word “bread” is used two ways in the Bible. In some cases it means actual bread; in others it stands for food in general....

When we eat, our bodies break down the food and get from it both energy and materials for building and repairing the body. The process...

The number 'seven' was considered holy, as is well known, because of the six days of creation, and the seventh, which is the celestial self,...

"Day" describes a state in which we are turned toward the Lord, and are receiving light (which is truth) and heat (which is a desire...

Time is an aspect of the physical world, but according to Swedenborg is not an aspect of the spiritual world. The same is true of...

'A month' has respect to the state of truth in a person. 'A month' signifies a full state. Month,' as in Genesis 29, signifies the...

The Passover, and the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt, happened during the month Abib, in the Hebrew calendar. Abib signifies the beginning of a...

As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

In the Bible, Egypt means knowledge and the love of knowledge. In a good sense that means knowledge of truth from the Lord through the...

'No one,' or 'none' denotes the negative side of something.

In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

'A sickle,' as in Revelation 14, signifies the divine truth of the Word, because 'a harvest' signifies the state of the church regarding divine truth...

When we have a desire to be good people and to do good things, the natural first questions are "What does that mean?" "What should...

'Produce' denotes fruit derived from the good of charity, and truth of faith.

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

The Lord is love itself, expressed in the form of wisdom itself. Love, then, is His essence, His inmost. Wisdom - the loving understanding of...

The internal meaning of “blood” is a little tricky, because Swedenborg gives two meanings that seem quite different. In most cases, Swedenborg links blood with...

Fat signifies the celestial principle. Fat things, full of marrow, signify goodnesses. Fat and blood signify interior goods and truths, and hence the Israelites, prior...

Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

the first
'Resurrection' signifies salvation and eternal life. 'The first,' mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 6, does not mean a first resurrection, but the essence and primary part...

Why would it be insulting for a man to refer to his married partner as his “first wife”? Because it implies there will be a...

Land' in the Word, denotes the church, for the things which signify the church also signify the things relating to the church, for these constitute...

As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

A "house" is essentially a container - for a person, for a family, for several families or even for a large group with shared interests...

house of the
'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

'To seethe' signifies destroying truths and goods by falsities.

'A kid' signifies the truth of the church. 'A kid,' as in Isaiah 11:6, signifies the genuine truth of the church and also innocence and...

In general, mothers in the Bible represent the Lord's church on earth, or the church among those who know and follow the Lord. In some...

Water represents true ideas about day-to-day life, and other drinks and liquids in general represent different forms of truth. Milk is a drink that contains...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Feast of Ingathering
Color the pictures of the Children of Israel celebrating this feast, then attach the pictures together to display.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: Our Guardian Angels
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Quotes: The Lord's Fruitful Harvest
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Thanking the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Significance of Thanksgiving
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Three Feasts
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18



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 #725

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)      

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725. The reason why a male child signifies the doctrine of truth for the church which is called the New Jerusalem, is, that son signifies truth as we have just shown above, and a male child truth of doctrine from the Word, consequently the doctrine of genuine truth which is for the church. It means doctrine for the church which is called the New Jerusalem, because the woman who brought forth the male child, means that church, as also shown above. The doctrine of truth which is for the church, is also signified by male in the following passages.

In Moses:

"God created man into his image; into the image of God created he him, male and female created he them" (Gen. i. 27):

"Male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name man (homo), in the day in which they were created" (Gen. v. 2).

What is involved in the things that are related in the first chapter of Genesis concerning the creation of heaven and earth, paradise, and the eating of the tree of knowledge (scientia), no one can know except from the spiritual sense, for these particulars are in the form of history; still they are holy, because all the particulars contained in them are interiorly, and in their bosom, spiritual.

(References: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 5:2; Revelation 12:5, Revelation 18:16-17)

[2] The subject there described is the establishment of the Most Ancient Church, which was the most excellent of all the churches on this earth; its establishment is meant by the creation of heaven and earth, its intelligence and wisdom are meant by the garden of Eden, and its decline and fall by eating of the tree of knowledge. It is therefore evident that man, who is called Adam and Eve, means that church, for it is said, Male and female created He them, and called their name Man; and as that church is meant by both, it follows that male means its truth, and female its good. So also male means doctrine, and female life, since the doctrine of truth is also the doctrine of love and of charity, thus the doctrine of life; and the life of good is also the life of love and of charity, thus a life of doctrine, that is, a life according to doctrine. These two are meant by male [and female], and, taken together and conjoined in marriage, they are called Man, and they also make the church, which, as said above, is meant by man. Again, Adam was so called from a word that means ground, and ground, from its reception of seeds, signifies the church as to truths of doctrine, for in the Word seeds signify truths; while Eve is from a word that means life, "Because she was to be the mother of all living" (Gen. iii. 20). These two, doctrine and life, taken together and conjoined as it were in marriage, are called Man (homo), and also make the church, because man is man from the understanding of truth and from the will of good, consequently from the doctrine of life, since this is of the understanding and from the life of doctrine, because this is of the will. The case is similar with the church, for the church is in man, and is the man himself.

(References: Genesis 3:20)

[3] That these two, which are signified by male and female, are not to be two but one, the Lord teaches in the Evangelists;

"Jesus said, Have ye not read, that He who made them from the beginning of creation made them male and female, and they two shall be one flesh? Therefore, they are no more two but one flesh" (Matt. xix. 4-6; Mark. x. 6-8).

This also, as is the case with every part of the Word, is to be understood not only naturally, but also spiritually; and unless it is understood spiritually no one can know what is signified by male and female, or husband and wife, being no more two but one flesh, as is also said in Gen. ii. 24. Here, as above, male and female signify, in the spiritual sense, truth and good, consequently also the doctrine of truth, which is the doctrine of life, and the life of truth, which is the life of doctrine. These must not be two but one, since truth does not become truth in man without the good of life, nor does good become good with any one without the truth of doctrine; for good becomes spiritual good only by means of truths, and spiritual good is good, but not natural good, without it. When these are one, then truth is of good and good is of truth, and this oneness is meant by one flesh. The case is similar with doctrine and life; these also make a man of the church one, when the doctrine of life and the life of doctrine are conjoined in him, for doctrine teaches how he must live and act, and the life lives it and does it. From these things also it is evident, that a male child signifies the doctrine of love and of charity, consequently, the doctrine of life.

(References: Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:6, 10:8; Matthew 19:4-6)

[4] Since the truth of doctrine, or the doctrine of truth, is signified by a male, therefore a law was made that every male opening the womb should be holy to Jehovah (Exod. xiii. 12, 15; Deut. xv. 19; Luke ii. 23). For from the marriage of truth and good, meant in the spiritual sense by the marriage of man and woman, as said above, truths and goods are born, and these are consequently signified in that sense by sons and daughters, truths by sons, and goods by daughters. And as every man is reformed and regenerated by means of truths - for without truths man does not know what good is, and what its nature is, nor, consequently, the way to heaven - this is the reason why the truth which is born first from the marriage of truth and good was sanctified to Jehovah. This truth which is first born is also the doctrine of truth, for that which is first is the all in what follows, thus it is all truth, and all truth is doctrine. But it must be carefully observed that the first-born signifies truth that belongs to the good of charity, it therefore signifies the good of charity in its own form and in its own quality, therefore truth; for the form of good and the quality of good are truth. The reason why this is signified by the first-born, is, that from the good of love, which is signified by the womb and the child therein, nothing else can be born but the good of charity; and this good does not become good until it is formed and qualified, that is until it is in the form in which its quality resides, and its form is called truth, but still is good in form.

(References: Deuteronomy 15:19; Exodus 13:12, 13:15; Luke 2:23)

[5] From what has been said above, it is evident why it was that every male should appear three times in the year before the face of the Lord Jehovah (Exod. xxiii. 17; xxxiv. 23; Deut. xvi. 16), namely, at the three feasts, which signified everything of regeneration from first to last. And as everything of regeneration is effected by means of truths of doctrine that become those of life from the Lord, therefore all the males, by whom truths were signified, had to present themselves before the Lord, that they might be cleansed by Him and afterwards led by Him. By three times in the year, is also signified continually, and by the face of Jehovah, the Divine Love by which man is led. And this was done because Jerusalem signified the church as to doctrine, and thus also the doctrine of the church.

(References: Deuteronomy 16:16; Exodus 23:17, 34:23)

[6] Since burnt-offerings and sacrifices signified celestial and spiritual things, burnt-offerings celestial things, and sacrifices spiritual things; therefore the law was given, that burnt-offerings should be of males that were without blemish, either from the flock or from the herd; but sacrifices might be either of males or females (Levit. i. 2, 3; iii. 1, 6). The reasons were, that celestial things are those that pertain to love to the Lord, thus to the marriage of good and truth, but spiritual things are those that pertain to charity towards the neighbour, thus not to the marriage but to the consanguinity of truth with good; and truths and goods in consanguinity are like sisters and brothers, but in marriage truths and goods are like husband and wife. This is why burnt-offerings were of males that were without blemish, which signify genuine truths from the Word, or from doctrine from the Word, which have been conjoined to the good of love to the Lord, this good being signified by the altar and its fire. The sacrifices were either of males or females, because males signify truths, and females goods, not conjoined by marriage but by consanguinity; and as both of these, like brothers and sisters, are from one parent, worship from truths was accepted equally as from goods, that is, from males equally as from females.

(References: Leviticus 1:2-3, 3:1, 3:6)

[7] Since all spiritual nourishment is from truths that are from good, therefore there was a law that a male among the priests should eat the holy things (Levit. vi. 18, 29; vii. 6). The reason of this statute was, that males signify truths of doctrine, which are doctrinals (as above) and priests the goods of love, which are goods of the life; and their eating of the holy things that belonged to Aaron and his sons, signified spiritual nourishment.

(References: Leviticus 6:18, 6:29, 7:6)

[8] In Moses:

When they draw near "unto a city to fight against it, thou shalt invite it to peace"; if it accept not, "thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword, but the women, the little ones, the beasts, and the booty, thou shalt take" (Deut. xx. 10-14).

Every male in a city that did not accept, peace was to be smitten with the edge of the sword, but not the women, the little ones, and beasts, because a city signifies doctrine, and a city of the Gentiles in the land of Canaan, doctrine of falsity, similarly the males of that city; and not to accept peace signifies not to agree with the truths and goods of the church, which were signified by the sons of Israel. The edge of the sword, with which the males were to be smitten, signifies truth destroying falsity. And because falsities alone fight against truths and goods, and destroy them, but not evils without falsities; therefore the women, the little ones, and the beasts, which as belonging to the Gentiles signified evils, were not smitten, since evils can be subdued, amended, and reformed by means of truths.

(References: Deuteronomy 20:10-14)

[9] In Jeremiah:

"Cursed be the man who brought glad tidings to his father, saying, A male child is born to thee, in gladdening he hath made him glad; let that man be as the cities that Jehovah overthrew" (xx. 15, 16).

This is said of those who are in a devastated church, in which nothing but falsities are accepted and rule; therefore Cursed be the man who brought glad tidings to his father, saying, A male child is born to thee, signifies he who acknowledges falsity and proclaims it as truth, thus the doctrine of falsity in place of the doctrine of truth; in gladdening he made him glad, signifies acceptance from affection for falsity. Let that man be as the cities that Jehovah overthrew, signifies that it shall be with the doctrines that are from mere falsities, which the Lord exterminated from the church, and destroyed as it was with the cities of the Canaanitish race which He destroyed; comparison is made with cities, because cities also signify doctrines.

(References: Jeremiah 20:15-16)

[10] In Ezekiel:

"Thou didst take the vessels of thine adorning, of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest thee images of a male with which thou hast committed whoredom" (xvi. 17).

This treats of the abominations of Jerusalem, which signify falsifications and adulterations of the Word, resulting from the application of it to the desires of corporeal and worldly loves. Vessels of adorning from the gold and silver of the Lord, signify knowledges of good and truth, which are the goods and truths of the sense of the letter of the Word. These are called vessels, because they contain in themselves spiritual truths and goods, and vessels of adorning, because they are the manifestations (apparentiae), and thus the forms of interior things; those things which are of gold signify those that are from good, and those of silver those that are from truth. Thou madest to thee images of a male with which thou hast committed whoredom, signifies falsities appearing as truths of doctrine, which are falsified, images of a male denoting appearances of truth which are nevertheless falsities, and to commit whoredom denoting to falsify.

(References: Ezekiel 16:17)

[11] In Malachi:

"Cursed be the defrauder in whose flock is a male, and he voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a blemished thing" (i. 14).

A male in the flock signifies genuine truth of doctrine from the Word; a blemished thing signifies what is falsified; and to vow and sacrifice signifies to worship, thus from things falsified when the truth is known; that such a worship, being fraudulent worship, is infernal, is signified by Cursed be the defrauder. From what has been now shown from the Word concerning the signification of a male, and concerning the signification of a son, it is evident that the male child, which the woman encompassed with the sun, and upon whose head was a crown of twelve stars, brought forth, signifies the doctrine of truth, thus the doctrine of love and charity for the church which is called the New Jerusalem, and which is treated of in the twenty-first chapter of this book.

(References: Malachi 1:14; Revelation 12:5, 18:16-17)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 723, 758

Other New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.