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 #9349

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)      

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9349. The subject in Chapters 20-23 has been the laws, judgements, and statutes that were declared from Mount Sinai. It has been shown what these hold within them in the internal sense, and so how they are understood in heaven, namely not according to their literal but according to their spiritual meaning, which though not evident in the letter is nevertheless present within them. But anyone who is unaware of how the matter stands may suppose that this makes the literal sense of the Word unimportant, for no attention is paid to it in heaven. But let it be known that it does not at all make the literal sense of the Word unimportant; rather, it adds strength to it. Indeed all its individual words carry weight and are holy by virtue of the spiritual sense within them; for the literal sense is the foundation and support on which the spiritual sense rests, and with which it is directly linked, so directly that not even a jot, nor a tittle, that is, small part of a letter in the literal sense of the Word fails to hold what is holy and Divine within it, according to the Lord's words in Matthew,

Truly I say to you, Even until heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one small part of a letter will not pass from the law till all things are done. Matthew 5:18.

And in Luke,

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Law to fall. Luke 16:17.

'The Law' is the Word, see 6752, 7463.

(References: Exodus 21:1, 22:1, Exodus 23:1)

[2] Therefore also in the Lord's Divine Providence it has happened that every jot and tittle of the Word, especially in the Old Testament, has been preserved since it was written. I have been shown from heaven that in the Word not only each word but also each letter, indeed - incredibly so - each small part of a letter in the original language has an inner holiness, as angels of the inmost heaven are able to perceive. I can positively declare this to be so, but I realize that it surpasses belief. From this it is evident that outward religious observances of the Church, which represented the Lord and the inner realities of heaven and the Church which begin in the Lord, and about which one reads in the Old Testament Word, have indeed for the most part been abrogated. But it continues to be the Word with its Divine holiness, because all the details there, as has been stated, continue to hold within themselves holy and Divine things, which are perceived in heaven when that Word is read. For it has in all its details an inner, holy content, which is its internal sense , or heavenly and Divine sense. This sense is the soul of the Word; it is God's truth itself emanating from the Lord, and so it is the Lord Himself.

[3] All this makes clear what the situation is with the laws, judgements, and statutes which were declared by the Lord from Mount Sinai, and are contained in Chapters 20-23 which have now been dealt with. That is to say, it makes clear that every single regulation there is holy because its inward form is holy. Nevertheless some of them have been abrogated so far as practices by the Church at the present day, which is an internal Church, are concerned; some of them are such that the Church may practise them if it wishes to do so; and some of them must be altogether observed and carried out. Even so, those which have been abrogated so far as practices by the Church are concerned, those which it may practise if it so wishes, and those which must be altogether observed and carried out are all equally holy by virtue of their inner and holy content. For the whole of the Word internally is Divine. That inner and holy content is what the internal sense teaches, and it is identical with the inner virtues of the Christian Church, with which teachings about charity and faith are concerned.

[4] To make all this more intelligible let the laws, judgements, and statutes dealt with in the above-mentioned chapters serve as examples. Regulations which must be altogether observed and carried out are those contained in 20:3-5, 7-8, 12-17, 23; 21:12, 14-15, 20; 22:18-20, 28; 23:1-3, 6-8, 24-25, 32.

Regulations which [the Church] may practise if it so wishes are such as those contained in 20:10; 21:18-19, 22-25, 33-36; 22:1-14, 17, 21-23, 25-27, 31; 23:4-5, 9, 12-16, 33.

Regulations which have been abrogated so far as practices by the Church at the present day are concerned, in 20:24-26; 21:2-11, 16, 21, 26-29, 31-32; 22:15, 29-30; 23:10-11, 17-19.

But, as stated above, all these are equally holy, or equally the Divine Word.

(References: Exodus 20:13-17, Exodus 22:2-14)

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   Study this Passage
From Swedenborg's Works

Inbound References:

Arcana Coelestia 9401

The White Horse 13

The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 255, 262

   Parallel Passages:

Spiritual Experiences 4781

   Swedenborg Research Tools

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