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References from Swedenborg's unpublished works: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


Arcana Coelestia #2342

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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2342. 'And he baked unleavened bread' means purification. This is clear from the meaning of 'unleavened' or without yeast. In the Word 'bread' means in general every celestial and spiritual food, and so in general everything celestial and spiritual, see 276, 680, 1798, 2165, 2177. The need for the latter to be free of all impurities or unholiness was represented by 'unleavened bread'; for 'yeast' means the evil and falsity by means of which celestial and spiritual things are rendered impure and profane. On account of this representation those who belonged to the representative Church were forbidden in sacrifices to offer any bread or minchah other than bread without yeast, that is, unleavened, as is clear in Moses,

Every minchah which you bring to Jehovah shall be made without yeast. Leviticus 2:11. In the same author,

You shall not sacrifice the blood of My sacrifice with that made with yeast. Exodus 23:18; 34:25.

[2] They were also forbidden therefore to eat any other bread during the seven days of the Passover than bread without yeast, that is, which was unleavened. This prohibition occurs in the following verses in Moses,

For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; even on the first day you shall remove yeast from your houses, for anyone eating that made with yeast, that soul shall be cut off from Israel, from the first day until the seventh. In the first [month], on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month, in the evening. For seven days no yeast shall be found in your houses, for anyone eating that made with yeast, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether a settler or one born in the land. Exodus 12:15, 19-20.

The same prohibition appears in other places as well, such as Exodus 13:6-7; 23:15; 34:18; Deuteronomy 16:3-4. Consequently the Passover is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Leviticus 23:6; Numbers 28:16-17; Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:1, 7.

(References: Exodus 12:18-20)

[3] That the Passover represented the glorification of the Lord and so the conjunction of the Divine with the human race will in the Lord's Divine mercy be shown elsewhere. And because the conjunction of the Lord with the human race is effected by means of love and charity, and by means of the faith deriving from these, celestial and spiritual things were represented by the unleavened bread which they were to eat each day during the Passover. Consequently to prevent the defilement of those things by anything unholy they were strictly forbidden to eat anything made with yeast, so strictly that any who did so were to be cut off; for those who profane celestial and spiritual things inevitably perish. Anyone may see that but for this arcanum within it that observance, together with so harsh a penalty, would never have been introduced.

[4] Everything that was commanded in that Church represented some arcanum, even the actual cooking, as with every instruction which the children of Israel carried out when they were leaving Egypt, namely that they were to eat that night flesh roasted by fire, and unleavened bread on bitter herbs; they were not to eat it raw or cooked in water; the head had to be on its legs; they were to let none of it remain until the morning; they were to burn what was left over with fire, Exodus 12:8-10. Every detail of these instructions was representative - eating it at night; flesh roasted by fire; unleavened bread on bitter herbs; the head on the legs; not raw; not cooked in water; not leaving any until the morning; and burning what was left with fire. But the arcana represented are in no way apparent unless they are disclosed by means of the internal sense. That sense alone shows that all these details are Divine.

[5] Something similar was done in the ritual for the taking of a Nazirite vow. The priest was to take the cooked shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and he was to place them on the palms of the Nazirite after he had shaved his consecrated head, Numbers 6:19. Anyone who does not know that a Nazirite represented the celestial man himself does not know either that every detail of these instructions embodies celestial things, and so arcana, which are not apparent in the letter, namely the instructions to take the cooked shoulder of a ram, an unleavened cake, an unleavened wafer, and to shave off his hair. This also shows what kind of opinion regarding the Word can be gained by people who do not believe in the existence of an internal sense, for without the internal sense such details are of no consequence at all. But when the ceremonial or ritualistic element has been stripped away everything becomes Divine and holy. Everything else has a deeper meaning, as does 'unleavened bread' which means the holiness of love, or what is most holy, as it is also called in Moses,

The unleavened bread that was left over was to be eaten by Aaron and his sons in a holy place, for it was most holy. Leviticus 6:16-17.

'Unleavened bread' therefore means pure love, and 'the baking of that which is unleavened' purification.

(References: Genesis 19:3)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 3880, 5620, 7853, 7886, 7897, 7902, 7978, 7979, 8051, 9287, 9298, 9992, 10137

References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 329

Glossary of Terms Used by Emanuel Swedenborg
Other New Christian Commentary

Unleavened 1

Leaven 1

Nazarite 1

Unleavened bread 1

Dining with the Lord 1

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.