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
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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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

three
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...

keep
"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...

feast
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.

unleavened
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.

bread
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....

eat
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...

Seven
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,...

days
"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
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...

Month
'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...

Abib
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...

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

Egypt
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...

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

before
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...

Harvest
'A harvest' symbolizes the state of the church with respect to Divine truth. The reason is that a harvest yields the grain used to make...

field
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...

ingathering
'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...

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

blood
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
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
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...

first
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
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...

bring
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...

house
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.

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

Kid
'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...

mother
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...

milk
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

Commentary

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 #865

Apocalypse Explained (Tansley translation)

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865. These were redeemed from among men, being the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb. That this signifies those in the New Church who are received by the Lord, is evident from the signification of those who are redeemed by the Lord, as denoting those who receive instruction from the Word, especially respecting the Lord, and who live according to it; respecting which see above (n. 860). These are also called the redeemed of the Lord; and these are the redeemed who are regenerated by the Lord; and these are they who follow the Lord, that is, are led by Him, of whom we have just treated above. And the same appears from the signification of the first-fruits of God and the Lamb, as denoting those who have given themselves to the Lord, and are adopted by Him. That these are those who belong to the New Church, is evident from this consideration, that they are called the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb. For those who are received therein, acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human, and live according to His precepts. No others, are received in the New Church, called the New Jerusalem, because those who do not believe it, and so live, are not in agreement with the life of heaven, neither with the light there, nor with the heat; for the light there is Divine truth, from which come all intelligence and wisdom; and the heat there is Divine good, from which come all love and charity. All man's affection and thought therefrom is not only within him, and constitutes his life, but is also external to him, and constitutes the sphere of his life. This is why heaven is divided into societies according to the varieties of affections and thoughts therefrom. Unless therefore the affections and the thoughts therefrom are spiritual, and are formed solely from the acknowledgment of the Lord, and from a life according to His precepts, they cannot be admitted into any society of heaven, for they are repugnant thereto. This is the reason that those who do not acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human, and do not live according to His precepts in the Word, cannot be in association with the angels of heaven. That this is the case, has been made plain to me from much experience. There were some who had thought of the Lord only as of another man, and had lived in the faith of the present day, which is a faith of the thought merely, without any good of life. But because they believed that nothing more was necessary to life eternal than to be admitted into heaven, therefore, according to their wish, they were admitted into some society; but as soon as the light of heaven struck their eyes with its lustre, their sight and also their understanding began to be entirely obscured and became stupefied. And when the heat of heaven came upon them, they began to be tormented in a direful manner, and as to the head and limbs to writhe like serpents. Therefore they cast themselves downwards, swearing that to enter heaven was hell to them, unless they were in the light and heat of heaven; and that they did not know that every one has heaven from love and thence faith, or from a life according to the Lord's precepts in the Word, and from faith in the Lord, and not in any way from faith without the life of faith, which is charity.

(References: Revelation 14:4; The Apocalypse Explained 860)


[2] It shall now be stated in a few words what first-fruits in the Word signify. They signify the same as the first-begotten; but the latter term is used of animals, and first-fruits of vegetables. Thus the first-begotten are what are born first, and first-fruits are from the first things produced; and both signify the spiritual good first formed, which is essentially truth from good from the Lord. The origin of this is as follows. There are two minds in man, natural and spiritual. From the natural mind alone nothing but evil is produced, and the falsity therefrom; but as soon as the spiritual mind is opened, then good is produced, and the truth therefrom; this which is first produced is meant by the first-begotten and by the first-fruits. Now because nothing born and produced from the spiritual mind is from man but from the Lord, therefore those things were sanctified to Jehovah, that is, to the Lord, because they were His, and consequently holy. And because that which is born or produced first, signifies all the things that follow in a series - as a leader the people, and a shepherd the flock - therefore by the first-begotten and the first-fruits being given to the Lord was signified that all other things were also His.

[3] But in order that this may be more clearly understood, it must be known, that the merely natural mind is formed according to the idea or image of the world, but the spiritual mind according to the idea or image of heaven; and that the spiritual mind is opened to no one, except by the acknowledgment of the Divine of the Lord, and by a life according to His precepts; and that previous to this, no good and truth are produced. But as soon as the spiritual mind is opened, then they are produced therefrom from the Lord. Therefore the first that is produced is called holy, and signifies that all things afterwards produced are also holy. From these things, it is evident that the opening of the womb or matrix signifies the opening of the spiritual mind. That this is the signification is seen also from correspondence; for the womb corresponds to the good of celestial love; concerning which correspondence see above (n. 710), and in the Arcana Coelestia (n. 4918, 5050-5062).

(References: Arcana Coelestia 4918, 5050-5062; The Apocalypse Explained 710)


[4] Since the things now mentioned were signified by the first-fruits; and since the things of harvest, as wheat, barley, and the rest, signified the goods and truths of heaven and the church; also wool, and the clean and useful beasts, therefore, of the latter the first-begotten were given to the Lord, and of the former the first-fruits. And because the high priest represented the Lord as to His priesthood, which is the good of love, therefore they were given to that priest. And consequently everything produced from corn, wine, and oil was sanctified.

But concerning those first-fruits, see the statutes for the sons of Israel in the law of Moses; as, for example, the first of the fruits of all the corn, oil, wine, and the fruit of the tree; also of the fleece, and the first-begotten of the flock and the herd; and that they were given as holy to Jehovah, and by Jehovah to Aaron, and after him to the high priest.

(Exod. xxii. 18; Numb. xiii. 20; xv. 17-22; xviii. 8-20; Deut. xviii. 4; xxvi. 1, to the end).

And concerning the feast of the first-fruits of harvest, and of the first-fruits of bread

(Exod. xxiii. 14, 15, 16, 19, 26; Lev. xxiii. 9-15, 20-25 Numb. xxviii. 26, to the end; and elsewhere).

From these things it is now evident, that by first-fruits to God and to the Lamb are meant those who will belong to the New Church, called the New Jerusalem, who acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human, and live a life of love, that is, a life according to the Lord's precepts in the Word. For in the case of these and no others is the spiritual mind opened; no others, therefore, are led of the Lord, or follow Him whithersoever He goeth.

That by God and the Lamb in the Apocalypse, is meant the Lord as to the Divine itself, and at the same time as to the Divine Human, may be seen above (n. 297, 314, 343, 460, 482).

(References: Deuteronomy 18:4, 26; Exodus 22:18, 22:29, 23:14-16, 23:19, 23:26; Leviticus 23:9-15, 23:20-25; Numbers 13:20, 15:17-22, 18:8-20, 28:26-31)


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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 861

Other New Christian Commentary

Matrix 1


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


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