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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 Revealed #623

Apocalypse Revealed (Rogers translation)

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623. Being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb. This symbolizes the commencement of a Christian heaven that acknowledges one God, in whom is the Trinity, and acknowledges that the Lord is that one.

Firstfruits mean something that is produced first, and something gathered first, thus a commencement, here the commencement of a new heaven formed of Christians. God and the Lamb mean here, as before, the Lord in respect to the Divine itself from which springs all else, and in respect to His Divine humanity, including the emanating Divinity, thus one God in whom is the Trinity.

We will say something here about firstfruits. In the Israelite Church people were commanded to give to Jehovah as sacred the firstfuits of produce - of every kind of grain, of oil and wine, of the fruits of trees, and of wool - and these were given by Jehovah to Aaron, and after him to the high priest (Exodus 22:29; 23:19, Numbers 13:20; 15:17-21; 18:8-20, Numbers 28:26-31).

The reason for this was that firstfruits symbolized something that is produced first and afterward grows, like a child into an adult, or a cutting into a tree, and thus it symbolized every subsequent development until the thing's completion. For every subsequent development is present in the initial one, like the adult in the child, or the tree in the cutting. And because this first development occurs before the subsequent ones, as is the case also in heaven and in the church, therefore the firstfruits were sacred to the Lord, and the people celebrated a feast of firstfuits.

Firstfruits have a similar symbolic meaning in Jeremiah 24:1-2, Ezekiel 20:40, Micah 7:1, Deuteronomy 33:15, 21.

(References: Deuteronomy 18:4, 26:1; Exodus 23:26, 23:14-16, 23:10; Leviticus 23:20-25, 23:10, 23:9-15; Numbers 15:17-22; Revelation 14:4)

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