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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #3519

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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3519. 'And take for me from there two good kids of the she-goats' means truths born from that good. This is clear from the meaning of 'kids of the she-goats' as truths born from good, dealt with below. The reason for haying 'two' was that as in the rational so in the natural there are things of the will and those of the understanding. Things in the natural that belong to the will are delights, while those that belong to the understanding are facts. These two have to be joined together if they are to be anything at all.

[2] As regards 'kids of the she-goats' meaning truths born from good, this becomes clear from those places in the Word where kids and she-goats are mentioned. It should be recognized that all gentle and useful beasts mentioned in the Word mean in the genuine sense celestial things, which are forms of good, and spiritual things, which are forms of truth, see Arcana Coelestia 45, 46, 142, 143, 246, 714, 715, 776, 2179, 2180, 2781, 3218. And since there are various genera of celestial things or forms of good, and consequently there are various genera of spiritual things or forms of truth, one beast has a different meaning from another; that is to say, a lamb has one meaning, a kid another, and a sheep, she-goat, ram, he-goat, young bull, or ox another, while a horse or a camel has yet another meaning. Birds have a different meaning again, as also do beasts of the sea, such as sea monsters, and fish. The genera of celestial and spiritual things, and consequently of forms of good and truth, are more than anyone can number, even though when that which is celestial or good is mentioned, and also when that which is spiritual or truth, this is not envisaged as being anything complex, consisting of many parts, but as a single entity. Yet how complex both of these are, that is, how countless the genera are of which they consist, may be seen from what has been stated about heaven in Arcana Coelestia 3241, to the effect that it is distinguished into countless separate communities, according to the genera of celestial and spiritual things, that is, of goods of love and of derivative truths of faith. Furthermore each genus of good and each genus of truth has countless species into which the communities of each genus are separated. And each species in a similar way has separate sub-species.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 45-46, 142-143, 714-715)

[3] The commonest genera of good and truth are what the living creatures offered as burnt offerings and sacrifices represented. And because the genera are quite distinct and separate, people were explicitly commanded to use those living creatures and no others, that is to say, in some sacrifices lambs and ewe-lambs, and also kids and female kids of she-goats were to be used, in other sacrifices rams and sheep, and also he-goats, were to be used, while in other sacrifices again, calves, young bulls, and oxen, or else pigeons and doves, were to be used, see Arcana Coelestia 992, 1823, 2180, 2805, 2807, 2830, 3218. What kids and she-goats meant however becomes clear both from the sacrifices in which they used to be offered and from other places in the Word. These show that lambs and ewe-lambs meant innocence belonging to the internal or rational man, and kids and she-goats innocence belonging to the external or natural man, and so the truth and the good of the latter.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 922)

[4] The fact that truth and good present in the innocence that belongs to the external or natural man is meant by a kid and a she-goat is clear from the following places in the Word: In Isaiah,

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the kid, the calf also and the young lion and the sheep together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11:6.

This refers to the Lord's kingdom and to the state there in which people have no fear of evil, that is, no dread of hell, because they are with the Lord. 'The lamb' and 'the kid' stand for people who have innocence within them, and who, being the most secure of all, are mentioned first.

[5] When all the firstborn of Egypt were smitten the people were commanded to kill from among the lambs or among the kids a male without blemish, and to put some of the blood on the doorposts and on the lintel of their houses; and so the destroyer would not strike them with the plague, Exodus 12:5, 7, 13. 'The firstborn of Egypt' means the good of love and charity that was wiped out, Arcana Coelestia 3325. 'The lambs' and 'the kids' are states of innocence, in which those with whom these exist are secure from evil. Indeed all in heaven are kept secure by the Lord through states of innocence. That security was represented by the killing of the lamb or kid, and putting the blood on the doorposts and on the lintel of the houses. .

[6] To avert his own death when a person saw Jehovah manifested as an angel he would sacrifice 'a kid of the she-goats', as Gideon did when he saw Him, Judges 6:19, and also Manoah, Judges 13:15-16, 19. The reason they offered a kid was that Jehovah or the Lord cannot appear to anybody, not even to an angel, unless the one to whom He appears is in a state of innocence. Therefore as soon as the Lord is present people are brought into a state of innocence, for the Lord enters in by way of innocence, even with angels in heaven. Consequently no one is able to enter heaven unless he has a measure of innocence, according to the Lord's words recorded in Matthew 18:3; Mark 10:15; Luke 18:17. Regarding people's belief that they would die when Jehovah appeared to them if they did not offer such a burnt offering, see Judges 13:22-23.

[7] Since genuine conjugial love is innocence itself, Arcana Coelestia 2736, it was customary in the representative Church for a man to go to his wife with the gift of a kid of the she-goats, as one reads of Samson in Judges 15:1, and also of Judah when he visited Tamar, Genesis 38:17, 20, 23. The fact that 'a kid' and 'a she-goat' meant innocence is also evident from the sacrifices made as guilt offerings that a person would offer if he had sinned through error, Leviticus 1:10; 4:28; 5:6. Sinning through error is sinning through ignorance that has innocence within it. The same is evident from the following Divine command in Moses,

You shall bring the first of the firstfruits of your land to the house of Jehovah your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk. Exodus 23:19; 34:26.

Here the requirement 'to bring the firstfruits of the land to the house of Jehovah' means the state of innocence which exists in early childhood; and 'not boiling a kid in its mother's milk' means that they were not to destroy the innocence of early childhood. This being their meaning, the one command, in both places referred to, follows directly after the other. In the literal sense there seems to be no connection at all between them as there is in the internal sense.

[8] Because kids and she-goats, as has been stated, meant innocence it was also required that the curtains over the tabernacle should be made from she-goat hair, Exodus 25:4; 26:7; 35:5-6, 23, 26; 36:14, as a sign that all the holy things represented in it depended for their very being on innocence. 'She-goat hair' means the last or outermost degree of innocence present in ignorance, such as exists with gentiles who in the internal sense are meant by the curtains of the tabernacle. These considerations now show what truths born of good are, and what the nature of these is, meant by the two good kids of the she-goats which Rebekah his mother spoke about to Jacob. That is to say, they are truths belonging to innocence or early childhood, meant also by the things which Esau was to bring to Isaac his father, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 3501, 3508. They were not in fact such truths, but initially they appeared to be. Thus it was that Jacob pretended by means of them to be Esau.

(References: Genesis 27:9)

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