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:

Stories:

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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works


Commentary

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 #4262

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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4262. 'And took from what came into his hand a gift for Esau his brother' means Divine things that were to be introduced into celestial-natural good. This is clear from the meaning of 'taking from what came into his hand' as from what had been provided and supplied and so what had been supplied by Divine Providence - and since the things attributable to Divine Providence are Divine, 'taking from what came into his hand' here means things that are Divine; from the meaning of 'a gift' as introduction, dealt with below; and from the representation of 'Esau' as the good of the Divine Natural, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 3302, 3322, 3504, 3599, which in this case is celestial good, because the Natural had not yet been made Divine.

(References: Numbers 7)


[2] The reason 'a gift' means introduction is that it was made to initiate goodwill and favour. Indeed in former times the gifts which were made and offered had differing meanings, the gifts presented by people to kings or priests when they went to them having one meaning, those offered on the altar another. The former meant introduction but the latter meant worship, 349, for all sacrifices in general of every kind were called 'gifts' while the minchahs, which were offerings of bread and wine, that is, of cakes accompanied by a libation, were specifically called such; for in the original language 'minchah' means a gift.

[3] The fact that gifts were presented to kings or priests when people went to them is clear from many places in the Word. Saul did so when he went to consult Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:7-8, whereas the men who despised Saul did not bring him any gift, 1 Samuel 10:27. And the Queen of Sheba brought a gift when she came to Solomon, 1 Kings 10:2, like everyone else, of whom the following is said,

The whole earth sought Solomon's presence to hear his wisdom; and every one brought his gift, vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and garments and armour, and spices, horses and mules. 1 Kings 10:24-25.

And as this was a customary and holy practice, meaning introduction, the wise men from the east who came to Jesus soon after His birth brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Matthew 2:11. 'Gold' meant celestial love, 'frankincense' spiritual love, and 'myrrh' those loves as they exist within the natural.

[4] Indeed this customary practice was commanded, as is clear in Moses, Jehovah's face shall not be seen by the empty-handed. Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:16-17.

Also, when gifts were presented to priests or kings it was as though they were presented to Jehovah, as may be seen from other places in the Word. As regards gifts that were sent meaning introduction, this is evident from the gifts which the twelve princes of Israel sent when the altar was introduced or dedicated after it had been anointed, Numbers 7:1-end. In verse Genesis 32:88 of that chapter their gifts are actually called 'the dedication (or introduction) offering'.

(References: Genesis 32:13; Numbers 7:88)

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