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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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

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 Revealed #939

Apocalypse Revealed (Rogers translation)

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939. The fact that seeing the Lord's face does not mean seeing His face, but knowing and acknowledging Him as He is in respect to His Divine attributes, of which there are many, and that people conjoined with Him by love know Him and in that way see His face, can be seen from the following passages:

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me... ...When you come to see the face of Jehovah... (Isaiah 1:11-12)

My heart said..., "Seek my face. Your face, Jehovah, I am seeking." (Psalms 27:8)

We will shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His face with confession. (Psalms 95:1-2)

My soul thirsts... for the living God. When shall I come to see the face of God? ...yet shall I confess to Him the salvation of His countenance. (Psalms 42:2, 5)

They shall not see My face empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15) come... to placate the face of Jehovah. (Zechariah 8:21-22, cf. Malachi 1:9)

Make Your face shine upon Your servant. (Psalms 31:16)

Who will show us any good? Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, Jehovah. (Psalms 4:6)

They shall walk, O Jehovah, in the light of Your countenance. (Psalms 89:15)

...O God, cause Your face to shine, that we may be saved! (Psalms 80:3, 7, 19)

God be merciful to us and bless us. May He cause His face to shine upon us. (Psalms 67:1)

Jehovah bless you and keep you; Jehovah make His face shine upon you and be merciful to you; Jehovah lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

You hide them in the secret place of Your countenance... (Psalms 31:20)

You have set... our hidden secret in the light of Your countenance. (Psalms 90:8)

(Jehovah) said (to Moses), "My countenance will go... (Moses) said..., "If Your countenance does not go..., do not bring us down from here." (Exodus 33:14-15)

The bread on the table in the Tabernacle was called [literally] "the bread of faces" (Exodus 25:30, Numbers 4:7).

(References: Psalms 31:21, Psalms 102:1-2; Revelation 22:4)

[2] We are often told, too, that Jehovah hid His face or turned His face away, as in the following:

...for (their) wickedness I have hidden My face from (them). (Jeremiah 33:5, cf. Ezekiel 7:22)

Your sins have hidden (God's) face from you... (Isaiah 59:2)

The face of Jehovah... will no longer regard them. (Lamentations 4:16)

(Jehovah) will hide His face from them..., according as they have made their works evil. (Micah 3:4)

You hid Your face... (Psalms 30:7, cf. 44:24; 104:29)

I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them... I will surely hide My face... because of all the evil which they have done... (Deuteronomy 31:17-18)

And so on elsewhere, as in Isaiah 8:17; Ezekiel 39:23, 28-29; Deuteronomy 32:20.

(References: Ezekiel 39:23-24; Psalms 13:1, 22:24, 27:8-9, Psalms 69:17, 88:14, Psalms 102:2, 143:7)

[3] In an opposite sense, the face of Jehovah symbolizes anger and aversion, because an evil person turns away from the Lord, and when he turns away, it seems to him as though the Lord had turned away and was angry, as is clear from the following passages:

...I have set My face against this city for its evil... (Jeremiah 21:10, cf. 44:11)

I will set My face against that man and... devastate him... (Ezekiel 14:7-8)

I will set My face against them... and... fire shall devour them..., when I set My face against them. (Ezekiel 15:7)

...(he) who eats any blood, I will set My face against that soul... (Leviticus 17:10)

At the rebuke of Your countenance they perished. (Psalms 80:16)

The face of Jehovah is against those who do evil... (Psalms 34:16)

...I send an angel before you... Beware of his face..., for he will not endure your transgression. (Exodus 23:20-21)

Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee from Your countenance. (Numbers 10:35)

(I saw one sitting on the throne) from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. (Revelation 20:11)

That no one can see the Lord as He is in Himself, as we said above, is apparent from the following:

(Jehovah said to Moses,) "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." (Exodus 33:18-23)

That people nevertheless saw the Lord and lived, because He appeared by means of an angel, is apparent from Genesis 32:30, 1 Judges 13:22-23, 2 and elsewhere.


1. Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."

2. Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!" But his wife said to him, "If Jehovah had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have told us such things as these at this time."


(References: Revelation 22:4)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Apocalypse Revealed 932

Thanks to the General Church of the New Jerusalem for the permission to use this translation.