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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #9223

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9223. '[And] you shall not be slow [to offer] the firstfruits of your grain and the firstfruits of your wine' means that since all the good and the truth of faith come from the Lord they are to be ascribed to Him, not to self. This is clear from the meaning of 'the firstfruits' as those things which must occupy first place, thus which are the chief of them all, dealt with below; from the meaning of 'grain' as the good of the truth of faith, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 5295, 5410, 5959, and from the meaning of 'wine' as the truth of good, thus the truth of the good of faith, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 1798, 6377; and from the meaning of 'not being slow', when it has reference to the good and truth of faith, as ascribing from affection, since that which is done not slowly but swiftly is done from love and affection, Arcana Coelestia 7695, 7866. The reason why ascribing to the Lord is meant is that the firstfruits, like the firstborn also, were given to Jehovah, and by Jehovah to Aaron and his seed, 'Jehovah' being used in the Word to mean the Lord, Arcana Coelestia 1736, 2921, 3023, 3035, 5663, 6303, 6945, 6956, 8274, 8864. Consequently since the firstfruits of grain and wine are forms of the good and the truths of faith, the meaning is that they are to be ascribed to the Lord since they come from Him. For the truth that everything composing a person's thought and will flows in, and the truth that all goodness and truth come from the Lord, see Arcana Coelestia 2886-2888, 3142, 3147, 4151, 4249, 5119, 5147, 5150, 5259, 5482, 5649, 5779, 5854, 5893, 6027, 6982, 6985, 6996, 7004, 7055, 7056, 7058, 7270, 7343, 8321, 8685, 8701, 8717, 8728, 8823, 8864, 9110, 9111; and the same truths from experience, Arcana Coelestia 6053-6058, 6189-6215, 6307-6327, 6466-6495, 6598-6626.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 7055-7056, 8863)

[2] The firstfruits that were to be offered to the Lord were the firstfruits of the harvest and the firstfruits of vintage, 1 also the firstfruits of shearing, and the firstfruits of fruit too. The firstfruits of the harvest were parched and fresh ears of grain, also a sheaf that was to be waved, and afterwards products of the threshing-floor, which were cakes, while the firstfruits of vintage were the firstfruits of wine, must, and oil. In addition to these there were the firstfruits of shearing the flock, and also the firstfruits of fruit, which were offered in a basket. In addition also all the firstborn were offered to the Lord, though the firstborn of human beings were redeemed, as also were the firstborn of animals that were not offered in sacrifices, such as those of asses, mules, horses, and the like. Firstfruits and firstborn were offered to Jehovah and were given by Jehovah to Aaron and his seed because Aaron and his sons, who served in the office of high priest, represented the Lord. In the present verse 'the firstfruits of grain and of wine' is used to mean all the firstfruits of harvest and vintage that have been referred to immediately above. For the words used in the original language are 'the fullness of grain' and 'the tear of wine', 'fullness' being the harvest when it has ripened and also been gathered in, and 'tears' drops of fluid that trickle down.

[3] What was represented specifically by firstfruits - for all the religious laws and practices which the Lord commanded the children of Israel represented internal aspects of the Church - becomes clear when the particular products whose firstfruits were offered are considered in the internal sense. 'Grain' means the good of faith and 'wine' the truth of faith, as may be seen in the places referred to above. Giving firstfruits to Jehovah was a sign that the ascription of every good and truth of faith to the Lord and not to self was the first thing of the Church. Ascribing them to the Lord consists in knowing, acknowledging, and believing that they spring from the Lord and in no way at all from self; for as shown above, faith comes entirely from the Lord. The reason why 'the firstfruits' have this meaning is that firstfruits were offerings and gifts which were thanksgivings for the fruits of the earth. They were the acknowledgement of blessings from Jehovah, that is, from the Lord, and therefore the acknowledgement that all things came from Him. In the internal sense they are the acknowledgement [that He is the Source] of every good and truth of faith, which are meant by harvest, grain, oil, must, wine, wool, and fruit, whose firstfruits were given. Regarding these 'firstfruits', see Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Leviticus 23:10-11, 20; Numbers 15:19-21; 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:4; 26:1-11; and 'firstfruits' have a similar meaning in Ezekiel 20:40 and Micah 7:1-2.


1. i.e. the time or season when grapes and other fruits such as olives are harvested


(References: Exodus 22:29)

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