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 drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 329, 412, 661, 725, 865

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

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

Bible Word Meanings

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...

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.

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,...

The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

To command is to give an order that something must be done, and is directed to an individual, or a group. It is an imperative,...

'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...

'Mizraim' signifies the same thing as Egypt.

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

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...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

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...

In most cases, a "master" in the Bible refers to truth: knowledge, an understanding of the situation at hand, an understanding of the Lord's wishes,...

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...

Leaven' signifies evil and falsity, which should not be mixed with good and true things. In Leviticus 2:11, it says, 'no meat offering which ye...

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...

In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

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.

When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

'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...

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      

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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 (Whitehead translation)      

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865. These were bought from among men, firstfruits to God and the Lamb, signifies those received in the New Church by the Lord. This is evident from the signification of "those bought by the Lord," as being those who receive instruction from the Word, especially respecting the Lord, and who live according to it (see above, n. 860. The same are meant by those called "redeemed by the Lord;" and "the redeemed" are those who have been regenerated by the Lord and these are those who follow the Lord, that is, are led by Him (of whom just above). Also from the signification of "firstfruits of God and the Lamb," as being those who have given themselves to the Lord and have been adopted by Him. That those who are of the New Church are meant is evident from their being called "firstfruits to God and to the Lamb," since those who are received in that church acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human and live according to His commandments. No others are received in the New Church which is called "the New Jerusalem," because those who do not believe this and live thus are not in accord with the life of heaven, nor with the light there, nor with the heat there: for the light there is the Divine truth, which is the source of all intelligence and wisdom; and the heat there is the Divine good, which is the source of all love and charity. All man's affection and thought therefrom not only is within him and constitutes his life but is also outside of him and constitutes the sphere of his life. This is why heaven is divided into societies according to the varieties of the affections and their thoughts; consequently unless the affections and the thoughts therefrom are spiritual, which are formed solely by the acknowledgment of the Lord and a life according to His commandments, they cannot be admitted into any society of heaven, for they are repugnant thereto; and this is why those who do not acknowledge the Lord's Divine Human and do not live according to His commandments in the Word cannot be consociated with the angels of heaven. That this is so has been proved to me by much experience. There were some who had the same idea of the Lord as of any other man, and had lived in the faith of the present day, which is cogitation (or thought) without any good of life. As these believed that eternal life is merely being admitted into heaven, so according to their wish they were admitted into a certain society; but as soon as the light of heaven struck their eyes, their sight, and at the same time their understanding, began to be wholly darkened, and they began to fall into a stupor and into foolishness; and when the heat of heaven breathed upon them they began to be tormented in a direful manner, and their head and limbs began to writhe like serpents; consequently they cast themselves downwards, swearing that admission to heaven, unless they were in the light and heat of heaven, was hell to them, and that they had not known that everyone has heaven from love and its faith, or from a life according to the Lord's commandments in the Word, and from faith in the Lord, and not at all from faith without the life of faith, which is charity.

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

[2] It shall now be told briefly what "firstfruits" signify in the Word. The signification of firstfruits is similar to that of "firstborn;" but "firstborn" is predicated of animals, and "firstfruits" of vegetables; thus "the firstborn" are such as are born first, and "firstfruits" are from the first products; and both of them signify the spiritual good that is first formed, which in itself is truth from good which is from the Lord. This has its origin in the fact that there are two minds in man, a natural mind and a spiritual mind. From the natural mind alone nothing is produced but evil and its falsity; but as soon as the spiritual mind is opened, good and its truth are produced; and that which is first produced is meant by the "firstborn" and the "firstfruits." And as all things that are born and produced from the spiritual mind are from the Lord and not from man, these were sanctified to Jehovah, that is, to the Lord, because they were His, and thus were holy. And as that which is born or produced first signifies all things that follow in their order, as a leader is followed by his people, or a shepherd by his flock, so "the giving of the firstborn and the firstfruits to the Lord" signified that all the rest were also His.

[3] But that this may come yet more clearly into the understanding it is to be known that the merely natural mind is formed to the idea or image of the world, but the spiritual mind to the idea or image of heaven; also that the spiritual mind is not opened to any man, except by the acknowledgment of the Lord's Divine and by a life according to His commandments; and until this mind has been opened no good and no truth therefrom are produced; but as soon as it is opened these are produced, and what is produced is from the Lord. Therefore the first thing that is produced is called holy, and signifies that all things that are afterwards produced are holy. This makes clear that the opening of the womb or matrix signifies the opening of the spiritual mind. This signification of opening the womb or matrix is from correspondence, the womb corresponding to the good of celestial love. (On this correspondence see above, n. 710, and in the Arcana Coelestia 4918, 5050-5062)

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 710)

[4] Because this is what is signified by "firstfruits," and because the things pertaining to the harvest, as wheat, barley, and the rest, and also wool, signified the goods and truths of heaven and the church, and the clean and useful beasts had a similar signification, so the firstborn of the latter and the firstfruits of the former were given to the Lord; and as the high priest represented the Lord as to His priestly function, which is the good of love, these things were given to that priest, and thus all things that were products of the corn, wine, and oil were made holy. But respecting these firstfruits see the statutes for the sons of Israel in the law of Moses; as respecting the first of the products of all corn, of oil, of wine, of the fruit of the tree, also of the fleece, likewise of the firstborn of the herd and the flock; and that these were given as holy to Jehovah, and by Jehovah to Aaron, and after him to the high priest (Exodus 22:29; Numbers 13:20; 15:17-22; 18:8-20; Deuteronomy 18:4; 26 the end): also concerning the feast of the first fruits of harvest and of the first fruits of bread (Exodus 23:14-16, 19, 26; Leviticus 23:9-15, 20; 23:20-25; Numbers 28:26-31).

(References: Exodus 22:18)

[5] From all this it can now be seen that "firstfruits to God and to the Lamb" mean those who will be of the New Church which is 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 commandments in the Word. In such and in no others is the spiritual mind opened; therefore no others are led by the Lord, or "follow Him whithersoever He goeth." That "God and the Lamb" means in Revelation 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: Revelation 14:4; The Apocalypse Explained 297, 314, 343, 460, 482)

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From Swedenborg's Works

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 861

   Swedenborg Research Tools

Related New Christian Commentary

Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for their permission to use this translation.