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 drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 329, 412, 661, 725, 865

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

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

Bible Word Meanings

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...

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.

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,...

The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

To command is to give an order that something must be done, and is directed to an individual, or a group. It is an imperative,...

'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...

'Mizraim' signifies the same thing as Egypt.

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 harvest' symbolizes the state of the church with respect to Divine truth. The reason is that a harvest yields the grain used to make...

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...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

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...

In most cases, a "master" in the Bible refers to truth: knowledge, an understanding of the situation at hand, an understanding of the Lord's wishes,...

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...

Leaven' signifies evil and falsity, which should not be mixed with good and true things. In Leviticus 2:11, it says, 'no meat offering which ye...

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...

In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

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.

When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

'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...

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      

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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 #2788

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

Study this Passage

Go to section / 10837  

← Previous   Next →

2788. That 'on the third day' means that which has been completed, and the beginning of sanctification, is clear from the meaning of 'the third day'. 'Day' in the Word means state, 23, 487, 488, 493, 893, as also does 'year', and as in general do all periods of time - an hour, day, week, month, year, or age; also morning, midday, evening, and night; and spring, summer, autumn, and winter. And when 'the third' is added to any of these the end of that state, and at the same time the beginning of the next, are meant. Here, the subject being the sanctification of the Lord which was effected by means of temptations, 'the third day' means that which has been completed and at the same time the beginning of sanctification, as also follows from what has been said previously to this. The reason for this meaning is that when He had fulfilled everything the Lord was to rise again on the third day, for the things that were done by the Lord while He lived in the world, that is, the things that were yet to be done by Him, were embodied within the representatives of the Church as though they had already been done. This was as it is with the internal sense of the Word, for with God that which is yet to come to pass and that which already is are one and the same; indeed to Him the whole of eternity is here and now.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 487-488)

[2] This is why the number three was representative not only in the Ancient Church and in the Jewish but also among various gentile nations; see what has been stated about this number in 720, 901, 1825. That such was the origin of the meaning of 'three' is clear in Hosea,

We will return to Jehovah, for He has wounded and will heal us; He has stricken and will bind us up; He will revive us after two days, on the third day He will raise us up that we may live before Him. Hosea 6:1-2.

Here 'the third day' stands for the coming of the Lord and His resurrection. The same is clear from Jonah, in that he was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights, Jonah 1:17, to which the Lord refers in Matthew as follows,

As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40.

[3] It should be realized that in the internal sense of the Word 'three days' and 'the third day' have the same meaning, as also do 'three' and 'third' in the following places: In John,

Jesus said to the Jews, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. He was speaking of the temple of His body. John 2:19-21; Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58; 15:29.

It is a well known fact that the Lord rose again on the third day.

[4] For the same reason the Lord also distinguished three periods in His life: in Luke,

Go and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, but on the third day I reach completion. Luke 13:32.

Also, the Lord underwent the final temptation, which was that of the Cross, at the third hour of the day, Mark 15:25. Three hours later, that is, at the sixth hour, darkness fell over the whole land, 1 Luke 23:44. And three hours after that, at the ninth hour, the end came, Mark 15:33-34, 37. But in the morning of the third day He rose again, Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:7. See also Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34; Luke 18:33; 24:46. From all this, and especially from the Lord's resurrection on the third day, the number three was representative and possessed a spiritual meaning. This fact becomes clear from the following places in the Word:

When Jehovah came down upon Mount Sinai He told Moses that he was to sanctify the people today and tomorrow and they were to wash their garments and be ready on the third day, for on the third day Jehovah would come down. Exodus 19:10-11, 15-16.

When they travelled from the mountain of Jehovah on a three days' journey, the Ark of Jehovah travelled before them on the three days' journey to search out rest for them. Numbers 10:33.

There was thick darkness for three days in all the land of Egypt, and nobody could see his brother for three days, but the children of Israel had light. Exodus 10:22-23.

(References: Matthew 20:19)

[5] The flesh of a sacrifice made as a vow-offering or as a freewill-offering was to be eaten on the first and the second day; nothing was to be kept until the third day but was to be burned, because it was an abomination. So too with the flesh of a sacrifice made as a 'eucharistic' offering; if this was eaten on the third day the one offering the sacrifice would not be accepted and that soul would bear his iniquity. Leviticus 7:16-18; 19:6-7.

Anyone who touched a dead body was to purify himself on the third day, and on the seventh day he would be clean. If he did not do so that soul would be cut off from Israel. And one that was clean was to sprinkle water over the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day. Numbers 19:12-13, 19.

Those who had killed someone in battle and had touched one who had been slain were to purify themselves on the third day and on the seventh day. Numbers 31:19.

(References: Leviticus 19:6-8)

[6] When they came into the land of Canaan the fruit of a tree was to be uncircumcised for three years and not eaten. Leviticus 19:23.

At the end of three years they were to bring every tenth part of their produce in that year and deposit it within their gates so that the Levite, the sojourner, the orphan, and the widow might eat. Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 26:12.

Three times a year they were to keep a feast to Jehovah. And three times a year every male person was to appear before the face of the Lord Jehovah. Exodus 23:14, 17; Deuteronomy 16:16.

Joshua told the people that in three days they would be crossing the Jordan and inheriting the land. Joshua 1:11; 3:2.

Jehovah called to Samuel three times and the third time he answered Him. 1 Samuel 3:8.

(References: Deuteronomy 24:12)

:[7] When Saul wished to kill David, :David hid in the field until the third evening. Jonathan told David, :I will sound out my father on the third day from now. Jonathan said that he would shoot three arrows to the side of the stone. And David fell face to the ground, , :12, 19, 20, 35, 36, 41.

David was to choose one of these three things - either seven years of famine in the land, or his own flight before his enemies for three months, or pestilence in the land for three days. 2 Samuel 24:12-13.

(References: 1 Samuel 20:5, 20:12, 20:19-20, 20:35-36, 20:41)

[8] There was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. 2 Samuel 21:1.

Elijah stretched himself over the dead boy three times and revived him. 1 Kings 17:21.

When he had built the altar to Jehovah, Elijah told them to pour water over the burnt offering and over the wood three times. 1 Kings 18:34.

Fire consumed the captains of fifty sent on two occasions to Elijah, but not the one sent on the third occasion. 2 Kings 1:13-14.

It was a sign to King Hezekiah that they were to eat in that year what had grown of itself, and in the second year further growth from the same; but in the third year they were to sow, reap, plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of these. 2 Kings 19:29.

(References: 1 Kings 17:21-22; 2 Kings 1:13)

[9] Daniel went into his house and had the windows open in his [upper] chamber towards Jerusalem, where three times a day he gave thanks on his knees and prayed. Daniel 6:10, 13.

Daniel was mourning for three whole weeks, not eating pleasant bread, nor drinking wine, nor anointing himself, until the three whole weeks were completed. Daniel 10:2-3.

Isaiah went naked and barefoot three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and against Cush. Isaiah 20:3.

Out of the Lampstand went three branches on either side, and three almond-shaped cups on each branch. Exodus 25:32-33.

In the Urim and Thummim there were three precious stones in each row. Exodus 28:17-20.

(References: Daniel 6:11, 6:14; Exodus 28:17-19)

[10] In the New Temple there were to be three chambers on this side of the gate and three on that, and all three were to measure the same. And the breadth of the gate to the vestibule of the house was to be three cubits this way and three cubits that. Ezekiel 40:10, 21, 48.

In the New Jerusalem there were to be three gates to the north, three to the east, three to the south, and three to the west. Ezekiel 48:31-34; Revelation 21:13.

The same may be seen in the following places:

Peter denied Jesus three times. Matthew 26:34, 69 and following verses.

The Lord said to Peter three times, Do you love Me? John 21:17.

Also, in the parable about the man who planted a vineyard, he sent servants three times, and at length his own son. Luke 20:12; Mark 12:2, 4-6.

The labourers in the vineyard were hired at the third hour, the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Matthew 20:1-17.

And concerning the fig tree which, because it bore no fruit for three years, was to be cut down. Luke 13:6-7.

(References: Matthew 20:1-16, Matthew 26:69-75)

[11] Just as a group of three and a third one were representative, so also was a third part, as in the following:

Minchahs consisted of two tenths of fine flour mixed with a third part of a hin of oil, and the wine for the drink-offering was a third of a hin. Numbers 15:6-7; Ezekiel 46:14.

In Ezekiel it is said that he was to run a razor over his head and over his beard, and then to divide his hair, burning a third part in the fire, striking a third around the city with his sword, and scattering a third to the wind. Ezekiel 5:1-2, 11.

In Zechariah it is said that in the whole land, two parts were to be cut off, and the third would be left. Yet this third would be led through fire and tested. Zechariah 13:8-9.

[12] In John it is said that when the first angel sounded there came hail, and fire mixed with blood; and it fell on to the earth so that a third part of the trees were burned. The second angel sounded and so to speak a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea. And a third part of the sea became blood resulting in the death of a third part of the creatures who had their being in the sea. And a third part of the ships was destroyed. The third angel sounded and there fell from the sky a great star burning like a torch and it fell upon a third part of the rivers. The name of the star is Wormwood. The fourth angel sounded and a third part of the sun was struck, and a third part of the moon, and a third part of the stars, so that a third part of these was blacked out, and the day had no light for a third part of it, nor likewise the night. Revelation 8:7-12.

[13] The four angels were released to kill a third part of mankind. Revelation 9:15.

A third part of mankind was killed by these three, fire, smoke, and brimstone, which went forth out of the mouths of the horses. Revelation 9:18.

The dragon drew with his tail a third part of the stars of heaven and cast them down to the earth. Revelation 12:4.

'A third part' however means something which is not yet finished, whereas 'a third' and 'a group of three' mean that which has been finished - evil in the case of the evil, good in the case of the good.


1. or over the whole earth


(References: 1 Kings 17:21-22; Genesis 22:4; Matthew 20:1-16)

Go to section / 10837  

← Previous   Next →

   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 2813, 2904, 2905, 2906, 3016, 3056, 3176, 3251, 3281, 3298, 3390, 3462, 3498, 3613, 3703, 3785, 3786, 3814, 3827, 3830, 3837, 3938, 3941, 4010, 4060, 4119, 4283, 4334, 4387, 4495, 4548, 4616, 4780, 4814, 4850, 4882, 4901, 4916, ...

The Last Judgement 39

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 122

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 9, 20, 137, 194, 242, 285, 571

   Swedenborg Research Tools

Related New Christian Commentary

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