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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #9286

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9286. 'Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year' means enduring worship of the Lord and thanksgiving on account of deliverance from damnation. This is clear from the meaning of 'keeping a feast' or 'holding a feast' as worshipping the Lord with gladness of mind on account of deliverance from damnation, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 7093; and from the meaning of 'three times in the year' as a state complete right to its end, for 'three' means complete from the beginning to the end, Arcana Coelestia 2788, 4495, 7715, 9198, and 'year' a whole period, Arcana Coelestia 2906, 7839, 8070. At this point therefore complete and whole deliverance is meant; for 'the feast of unleavened bread' means purification from falsities, 'the feast of harvest' means the planting of truth in good, and 'the feast of ingathering' means the implanting of good from there. Thus complete deliverance from damnation is meant by these feasts; for when a person has been purified from falsities, and after this has been brought by means of truths into good, and is at length governed by good, he is in heaven with the Lord and has accordingly undergone complete deliverance.

(References: Exodus 23:14)

[2] The consecutive stages of deliverance from damnation are like the consecutive stages of regeneration; for regeneration is deliverance by the Lord from hell and being led by Him into heaven. For a person who is being regenerated is first purified from falsities, after that the truths of faith he knows are planted in the good of charity, and finally that good itself is implanted in him. When all this has been done the person has been regenerated and he is then in heaven with the Lord. Therefore the three feasts in the year also meant worship of the Lord and thanksgiving on account of regeneration. Because these feasts were established on account of the everlasting remembrance of those things, the worship and thanksgiving are called enduring; for the most important things in worship should endure forever. The things which should endure forever are those which have been inscribed not only on the memory but also on the actual life that is led. When this is so they are said to reign universally with a person, see Arcana Coelestia 5949, 6159, 6571, 8853-8858, 8865.

(References: Exodus 23:14)

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