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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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

Arcana Coelestia #1001

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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1001. 'Blood' means charity, as becomes clear from many considerations, and so means the new will part which a regenerate spiritual person receives from the Lord. This new will part is identical with charity, for it is from charity that the new will takes form. Indeed charity, or love, is the essential element or the life of the will, for nobody can possibly say he wills something unless he takes delight in it or loves it. When people say they have something in mind this does not imply that they will it, unless will is implicit in thought. This new will which is one of charity is 'the blood' here. It is not the person's own but the Lord's residing with him. And because it is the Lord's it must never be mixed together with things that belong to the person's own will which, as stated, is so foul. This was the reason why in the representative Church people were commanded not to eat flesh with its soul, that is, not to eat the blood. That is to say, they were not to mix the one with the other. Because 'blood' meant charity it meant that which was holy, and because 'flesh' meant what belonged to the merely human will, it meant that which was unholy. And because these, being opposites, were quite separate, people were forbidden to eat blood. For in those times 'the eating of flesh together with the blood' was representative in heaven of profanation, or the mixing together of holy and unholy - which representation in heaven could do nothing else than strike the angels with horror. For at that period of time all things that took place among members of the Church were converted among angels - according to the meaning such things had in the internal sense - into corresponding spiritual representations.

[2] Since the nature of everything depends on that of the person to whom it refers, the same holds true with regard to the meaning of blood. When it refers to a regenerate spiritual person 'blood' means charity or love towards the neighbour. When it refers to a regenerate celestial person it means love to the Lord. But when it refers to the Lord it means the whole of His Human Essence, and so Love itself, which is His mercy towards the human race. Consequently since 'blood' in general means love and what belongs to love, it means heavenly things that are the Lord's alone, and so in reference to man it means the heavenly things a person receives from the Lord. The heavenly things that a regenerate spiritual person receives from the Lord are celestial-spiritual. These in the Lord's Divine mercy will be dealt with elsewhere.

[3] That 'blood' means heavenly things, and in the highest sense meant the Lord's Human Essence, and so Love itself, which is His mercy towards the human race, becomes clear from the sacredness that the Jewish representative Church was required to attach to blood. For this reason blood was called 'the blood of the covenant'. It was sprinkled over the people, and also, together with the anointing oil, over Aaron and his sons. And [the blood] of every burnt offering and sacrifice was sprinkled over and around the altar. For these details, see Exodus 12:7, 13, 22-23; 24:6, 8; Leviticus 1:5, 11, 15; 4:6-7, 17-18, 25, 30, 34; 5:9; 16:12-15; 18, 19; Numbers 18:17; Deuteronomy 12:27.

(References: Leviticus 16:18-19, 16:14-15)

[4] Because blood was held to be so holy, and what belonged to the merely human will was so unholy, they were strictly forbidden to eat blood because this represented the profanation of what is holy, as in Moses,

It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling-places, that you shall not eat any fat or any blood. Leviticus 3:17.

'Fat' stands for celestial life, and 'blood' in this instance for celestial-spiritual life. The celestial-spiritual is that which is spiritual having a celestial origin, as with the Most Ancient Church. With them love to the Lord was the celestial because this had been implanted in their will, while that which was celestial-spiritual with them was faith flowing from it, dealt with in 30-38, 337, 793, 398. But with a spiritual person the celestial does not exist, only the celestial-spiritual, because charity is implanted in the understanding part of his mind. In the same author,

As for anyone from the house of Israel or from the sojourner sojourning among them who eats any blood, I will set My face 1 against the soul eating blood and will cut him off from among his people, for the soul of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar, to make atonement for your souls, for the blood itself will make atonement by reason of the soul. The soul of all flesh is the blood of it; everyone eating it shall be cut off. Leviticus 17:10-11, 14.

Here it is plainly stated that the soul of the flesh is in the blood and that the soul of [all] flesh is the blood, or that which is celestial, that is, that which is holy and is the Lord's.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 393)

[5] In the same author,

Be sure that you do not eat blood, for the blood is the soul and you shall not eat the soul with the flesh. Deuteronomy 12:23-25.

From these words similarly it is clear that the blood is called the soul, that is, celestial life, or that which is celestial, and was represented by the burnt offerings and sacrifices of that Church. In a similar way, it was the requirement not to mingle that which was celestial - the Lord's Proprium, which alone is celestial and holy - with man's proprium, which is unholy, that was represented also by their being forbidden to make a sacrifice of, that is, to offer, the blood of the sacrifice with anything leavened, Exodus 23:18; 34:25. That which was 'leavened' meant that which was corrupt and filthy.

[6] The reason Why 'blood' is called the soul and means the holiness of charity, and why the holiness of love was represented in the Jewish Church by 'blood', is that the life of the body lies in the blood. And because the life of the body lies in the blood it is its ultimate soul, so that the blood therefore may be called the bodily soul, or the place where a person's bodily life resides. And because in representative Churches internal things were represented by external, the soul or celestial life was therefore represented by 'the blood'.


1. literally, faces


(References: Genesis 9:4)

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