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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #9294

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9294. 'And the feast of the harvest of the firstfruits of [your] labours, which you have sown in the field' means worship of the Lord and thanksgiving on account of the implanting of truth in that good. This is clear from the meaning of 'the feast' as worship of the Lord and thanksgiving, dealt with above in Arcana Coelestia 9286, 9287; from the meaning of 'the harvest' as truth when it becomes fruitful, thus its implantation in good; from the meaning of 'the firstfruits (or the beginnings) of labours' as the things which come at the end of instruction and at the start of life, dealt with below; from the meaning of 'sowing' as giving instruction, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 9272; and from the meaning of 'the field' as the Church in respect of good, and so the Church's good, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 2971, 3500, 3766, 7502, 9139, 9141. From these meanings it is evident that 'the feast of the harvest of the firstfruits of labours, which you have sown in the field' means worship of the Lord and thanksgiving because truth has been planted in good.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9286-9287)


[2] The fact that these things are meant by this second feast is clear from what has been stated above in Arcana Coelestia 9286, namely that three feasts were established on account of people's deliverance from damnation, thus on account of their regeneration since it is through regeneration that a person is delivered from hell and brought to heaven. On this account the first feast, which was called the feast of unleavened bread, means purification from falsities; this second feast therefore means the planting of truth in good; and the third feast the implantation of good. For when a person is being regenerated he is first purified from falsities that arise from the evil of self-love and love of the world. That purification is accomplished by his being taught about evil, hell, and damnation, also about good, heaven, and eternal happiness, as a result of which he allows himself to be held back from evil deeds, intentions, and thoughts. When the ground has been prepared in that way, the truths of faith are sown in it, for they are not received before that. But the truths that are sown must be planted in good, for they have no ground anywhere else nor can they take root anywhere else. They are planted in good when a person wills truth, loves it, and does it. This state of regeneration or deliverance from damnation is meant by this feast, which is called 'the feast of the harvest of the firstfruits of labours', for 'the harvest' means truths when productive of good.

[3] When truths have been planted in good a person is no longer led by the Lord by means of truths but by means of good. This comes about when he wills good and does good from love and affection, that is, from charity. This state of regeneration or deliverance from damnation is meant by the third feast, which is called the feast of ingathering.

[4] These three feasts were also called the feast of Passover, the feast of weeks, and the feast of tabernacles; regarding these, see Exodus 34:18-22; Leviticus 23:1-end; Leviticus 23:Deuteronomy 16:1-end. By these three feasts the same things were represented as by the children of Israel being brought out of the land of Egypt, by their being brought into the land of Canaan, and by their dwelling in it. By the children of Israel being brought out of the land of Egypt the same thing was represented as by the first feast, called the Passover. This may be seen to be so from what has been shown regarding the Passover in Arcana Coelestia 7093(end), Arcana Coelestia 7867, 7995. For the bringing out of the children of Israel, on account of which that feast was established, meant the deliverance of those belonging to the spiritual Church from falsities by which they were molested, Arcana Coelestia 7240, 7317, 9197.

(References: Deuteronomy 16:1-17; Exodus 34:18-23, 34:18-26; Leviticus 23:1, 23)


[5] By the children of Israel being brought into the land of Canaan the same thing, namely the planting of truth in good, was represented as by this second feast, which was called 'the feast of the harvest of the firstfruits of labours' and also 'the feast of weeks'. For 'the land of Canaan' is the Church in respect of good, and so the Church's good, Arcana Coelestia 1607, 3038, 3481, 3686, 3705, 4240, 4447, 4517, 5136, 6516, and 'the children of Israel' - in the abstract, without envisaging actual persons - are spiritual truths, Arcana Coelestia 5414, 5879, 5951.

[6] By the dwelling of the children of Israel in the land of Canaan the same thing, namely the implantation of good and so life in heaven, was represented as by the third feast, which was called 'the feast of ingathering' of the fruits of the earth, and of ingathering from the threshing-floor and the press, also 'the feast of tabernacles'.

From all this it is now evident why three feasts were established, namely for the reason that the human race, which wishes to receive new life from the Lord, is brought out of hell and into heaven, which is accomplished by the Lord through His Coming into the world.

(References: Exodus 23:16)

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