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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #10114

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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10114. 'And if anything of the flesh of fillings [of the hand], and of the bread, is left until the morning' means spiritual and celestial forms of good which have not been linked to the new state. This is clear from the meaning of 'anything of the flesh and of the bread that is left' as that which has not been made their own, for 'eating' means making one's own, Arcana Coelestia 10109, so that what has not been eaten means what has not been made their own; from the meaning of 'the flesh' as good, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 7850, 9127; from the meaning of 'fillings [of the hand]' as reception, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 10076, 10110, so that 'the flesh of fillings [of the hand]' means the reception of truth in good, and therefore the joining together of this truth and good, though in this instance the lack of any such reception or joining together is meant because what is left of the flesh must be understood; from the meaning of 'the bread' as celestial good, which is inmost good, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 10077; and from the meaning of 'the morning' as a new state, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 8211, 8427. From these meanings it is evident that 'anything of the flesh of fillings [of the hand], and of the bread, left until the morning' means spiritual and celestial forms of good which have not been linked to the new state. For the flesh of the sacrifice means spiritual good, which is the good of charity towards the neighbour, and the bread of it celestial good, which is the good of love to the Lord.

[2] What more should be understood by not being linked to the new state must be stated briefly. A new state is every state in which good and truth are joined together, and this occurs when the actions of a person who is being regenerated spring from good, thus from affection and love, and not as previously from truth or mere obedience. A new state also occurs when the good of love arises among those in heaven, a state called 'the morning' there; for different states of love and faith come round there, like midday, evening, [pre-dawn] twilight, and morning on earth. In addition a new state occurs when an old Church comes to an end and a new one begins. All these new states are meant in the Word by 'the morning'; each has been dealt with specifically in various places in the explanations of Genesis and Exodus.

Similar things are meant by the rule that 'none of the flesh of the Passover lamb shall be left until the morning' and that what did remain of it was to be burned with fire, Exodus 12:10, and also by the command that 'the fat of the feast shall not remain through the night until morning', Exodus 23:18.

[3] Similar things were also meant by the rule that what remained from the flesh of a eucharistic sacrifice could be eaten on the following day as well, but had to be burned on the third day, Leviticus 7:16-18; 19:6-7, 'the third day' too meaning a new state, see Arcana Coelestia 4901, 5123, 5159. The reason for the concession contained in this rule was that eucharistic sacrifices were offerings made in connection with vows or they were voluntary offerings. They were presented by people not so much, as all other sacrifices were, for the sake of being purified and sanctified, as in order that they might eat in a holy place and bear witness to the joy in their heart that Divine worship gave them. And these feasts, which they called holy, brought greater gladness to those people than all other worship. Similar things were also meant by the command that they should not leave any of the manna until the morning, spoken of in Moses as follows,

Moses said, Let no man leave any of the manna until the morning. But they did not obey Moses, for they did leave some of it 1 until the morning; and it produced worms and became putrid. Exodus 16:19-20.


1. literally, did make a remainder of it


(References: Exodus 29:34)

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