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Show references from Swedenborg's unpublished works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 #9992

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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9992. 'And unleavened bread' means purification of what is celestial in the inmost part of a person. This is clear from the meaning of 'bread' as that which is celestial, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 2165, 2177, 3478, 9545; and from the meaning of what is 'unleavened' as what has been purified, dealt with below. The inmost part of a person is meant because what is celestial consists in the good of love, and the good of love is inmost. There are three degrees in a person that follow one another in order; and these three are called celestial, spiritual, and natural. The celestial degree is the good of love to the Lord, the spiritual is the good of charity towards the neighbour, and the natural descending from this is the good of faith, which, since it descends from the spiritual, is called spiritual-natural. The situation with a person resembles that in the heavens. The inmost heaven, also called the third heaven, is where the celestial degree is situated; the second or middle heaven is where the spiritual degree does so; and the first or lowest heaven is where the natural descending from the spiritual, or the spiritual-natural degree, does so. The reason why the situation with a person resembles that in the heavens is that a person in whom good is present is heaven in the smallest form it takes, see the places referred to in Arcana Coelestia 9279. The celestial heaven or kingdom and the division of this too into three will be spoken of in what follows next where cakes and wafers made from fine wheat flour are the subject.

[2] 'Unleavened' means what has been purified because 'yeast' means falsity arising from evil, Arcana Coelestia 2342, 7906, so that 'unleavened' or made without yeast means pure or free from that falsity. 'Yeast' means falsity arising from evil because such falsity defiles good, and truth as well, and also because it gives rise to conflict; for when that falsity gets near good, agitation occurs, and when it gets near truth, a collision takes place. All this explains why a minchah consisting of unleavened bread was included in burnt offerings and sacrifices. Therefore it was decreed that every minchah which they brought to Jehovah should be made without yeast, Leviticus 2:11; that they should not sacrifice the blood of a sacrifice with anything made with yeast, Exodus 23:18; and that during the feast of Passover they should not eat anything made with yeast, and that anyone eating it should be cut off from Israel, Exodus 12:15, 18-20. The reason why anyone who ate anything made with yeast during the feast of Passover should be cut off from Israel was that the feast of Passover was a sign of deliverance from damnation, and in particular of deliverance from falsities arising from evil, accomplished with those who allow themselves to be regenerated by the Lord, see Arcana Coelestia 7093, 9286-9292. This also explains why it was called the feast of unleavened bread.

(References: Exodus 29:2)

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