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
From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

Arcana Coelestia 9285, 9286, 9287, 9288, 9289, 9290, 9291, ...

Other references to this text:

Arcana Coelestia 1001, 2342, 2405, 2788, 3519, 4262, 7906, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 623, 939

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 329, 412, 661, 725, 865

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:

Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 12:10, 15, 13:3, 4, 22:28, 34:17, 18

Leviticus 23:6, 9, 10, 17, 34, 39

Numbers 15:21, 18:12, 13, 28:26

Deuteronomy 14:21, 16:1, 26:10

1 Kings 9:25

Nehemiah 10:36

Psalms 42:3

Proverbs 3:9

Ezekiel 44:30, 46:9, 48:13, 14

Micah 6:6

Luke 2:41

Bible Word Meanings

The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

"Keeping" in the Bible generally has to do with controlling the actual actions of life, though in some cases it can mean holding something away...

For something to be “unleavened” means that it's been made without yeast. Since yeast is what makes bread rise and take on its airy texture,...

Unleavened bread
'Unleavened bread' signifies the holiness of love, or the holy of holies, so, pure love. The baking of unleavened bread is purification.

When we eat, our bodies break down the food and get from it both energy and materials for building and repairing the body. The process...

The number 'seven' was considered holy, as is well known, because of the six days of creation, and the seventh, which is the celestial self,...

The expression 'even to this day' or 'today' sometimes appears in the Word, as in Genesis 19:37-38, 22:14, 26:33, 32:32, 35:20, and 47:26. In a...

To command is to give an order that something must be done, and is directed to an individual, or a group. It is an imperative,...

'A month' has respect to the state of truth in a person. 'A month' signifies a full state. Month,' as in Genesis 29, signifies the...

The Passover, and the beginning of the Exodus from Egypt, happened during the month Abib, in the Hebrew calendar. Abib signifies the beginning of a...

'Mizraim' signifies the same thing as Egypt.

In most cases, the meaning of "before" is pretty straightforward, both as a way of assessing relative time, and in its use meaning "in someone's...

'A harvest' symbolizes the state of the church with respect to Divine truth. The reason is that a harvest yields the grain used to make...

When we have a desire to be good people and to do good things, the natural first questions are "What does that mean?" "What should...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

To gather, as in Genesis 6:21, refers to those things which are in the memory of man, where they are gathered. It also implies that...

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

In most cases, a "master" in the Bible refers to truth: knowledge, an understanding of the situation at hand, an understanding of the Lord's wishes,...

The internal meaning of “blood” is a little tricky, because Swedenborg gives two meanings that seem quite different. In most cases, Swedenborg links blood with...

Leaven' signifies evil and falsity, which should not be mixed with good and true things. In Leviticus 2:11, it says, 'no meat offering which ye...

Fat signifies the celestial principle. Fat things, full of marrow, signify goodnesses. Fat and blood signify interior goods and truths, and hence the Israelites, prior...

Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “bring” is highly dependent on context, but in general it represents an introduction to a new...

A "house" is essentially a container - for a person, for a family, for several families or even for a large group with shared interests...

house of the
'The house of the prison' denotes the vastation of falsity, and also falsity itself.

When the Bible speaks of "Jehovah," it is representing love itself, the inmost love that is the essence of the Lord. That divine love is...

'To seethe' signifies destroying truths and goods by falsities.

'A kid' signifies the truth of the church. 'A kid,' as in Isaiah 11:6, signifies the genuine truth of the church and also innocence and...

In general, mothers in the Bible represent the Lord's church on earth, or the church among those who know and follow the Lord. In some...

In general, mothers in the Bible represent the Lord's church on earth, or the church among those who know and follow the Lord. In some...

Water represents true ideas about day-to-day life, and other drinks and liquids in general represent different forms of truth. Milk is a drink that contains...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.

 Feast of Ingathering
Color the pictures of the Children of Israel celebrating this feast, then attach the pictures together to display.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Memory Verse: Our Guardian Angels
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Quotes: The Lord's Fruitful Harvest
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Thanking the Lord
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Significance of Thanksgiving
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Three Feasts
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18



Three Feasts      

By New Christian Bible Study Staff

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 #9297

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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9297. 'Three times in the year all your males shall be seen at the face of the Lord Jehovah' means the Lord's constant appearance and presence in like manner in the truths of faith as well. This is clear from the meaning of 'three times in the year' as complete and continuous, dealt with in 4495, 9198; from the meaning of 'being seen' as appearance and presence, dealt with in 4198, 5975, 6893; from the meaning of 'males' as the truth of faith, dealt with in 2046, 7838; and from the meaning of 'face', when attributed to Jehovah or the Lord, as the Divine Good of Divine Love, which is Mercy, dealt with in 222, 223, 5585, 7599. And since the Divine Good of Divine Love is Jehovah or the Lord Himself, 'being seen at the face of the Lord Jehovah' has the same meaning as being seen by the Lord. The Lord is indeed One who sees a person and establishes His presence with him, enabling the person to see Him; thus no one sees the Lord from himself but from the Lord present with him.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 222-223; Exodus 23:17)

[2] How to understand the Lord's constant appearance and presence in the truths of faith as well must be stated briefly. The Lord's presence with a person is in the good residing with him, since good composes his life but not truth except in the measure that it derives from good. Consequently, as stated above in 9296, the Lord's dwelling-place is in the good of innocence with a person. When therefore a person has been regenerated the Lord is present not only in the good residing with him but also in the truths deriving from the good; for the truths now receive their life from the good and are the outward form in which good exists and through which the essential nature of the good can be recognized. These truths are what constitute the person's new understanding, which makes one with his new will. For as stated already, all things have connection with truth and with good, and a person's understanding is dedicated to truths, but his will to good, from which the truths derive. From this it is evident how to understand the Lord's appearance and presence then in the truths of faith as well. These are the things that are meant by the requirement that three times in the year every male was to be seen at the face of the Lord Jehovah. The reason why it says 'males shall be seen' is that the truth of faith is meant by 'a male'; and the reason why it says 'at the face of the Lord Jehovah' is that 'Jehovah' means the Divine Being (Esse), and 'the Lord' the Divine Coming-into-Being (Existere) that arises from that Being. Consequently being (esse) on the human level is good, and coming-into-being (existere) that arises from it is truth.

[3] In the Church it is said that faith comes from the Lord; but it should be recognized that faith which is rooted in charity comes from the Lord, not faith separated from charity. Faith separated from charity springs from the self and is called faith that is no more than persuasion, which is dealt with under Teachings About Charity and Faith in the preliminary section of the next chapter. A person can know whether his faith comes from the Lord or from the self, for the faith of anyone who is influenced by truths solely for the sake of a reputation for being learned, which will bring him position and wealth, and not for the sake of leading a good and useful life, is no more than persuasion that comes from the self and not from the Lord.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 9363-9369)

[4] There are also theoretical truths of faith and there are practical ones. The person who considers theoretical truths for the sake of practical ones and sees how the theoretical fit in with the practical, the person who therefore sees how the two combine to result in a good and useful life and feels an affection for them both with this end in view, he has the faith that comes from the Lord. The reason for this is that the useful life, which is his end in view, consists in the good that resides with him; and it is that life which gives form to all things, the truths of faith being the means. It is transparently evident from those in the next life that this is so. All without exception there are restored to the state of good which was theirs or to the state of evil which was theirs, thus to what had moved them to serve a useful life, that is, to what had been their end in view, or what they had loved above all things and what had therefore been the actual delight of their life. Everyone is restored to this. The truths or the falsities that have made one with that service remain. In addition to these many more are acquired which combine with those truths or falsities, giving the usefulness greater solidity and definite shape. So it is that spirits and angels are the outward forms of whatever use they serve. Evil spirits are forms of evil use; these are in hell. Good spirits or angels are forms of good use; these are in heaven. This also explains why the moment they are present spirits can be recognized for what they are. Their truths of faith can be recognized from their face and from the beautiful way it is shaped. Their actual good, or their usefulness, can also be recognized from the fire of love in their face which enhances its beauty, as well as from the sphere emanating from them. From all this it is again made clear what the Lord's presence in the truths of faith is.

(References: Exodus 23:17)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 9334, 9596, 10672, 10677

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 186

References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 946

   Swedenborg Research Tools

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.