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

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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #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 22:29, 22:18, 23:14-16, 23:19, 23:26; Leviticus 23:20-25, 23:9-15; Numbers 13:20, 15:17-22, 18:8-20, 28:26-31)

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