15Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.
16And in the first day there shall be an holy convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance for ever.
18In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even.
19Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.
Why did God want Israel to eat unleavened bread for eight days (including Passover)? Why did He want leavening put out of their homes for seven of those days?
Herbert W Armstrong used to thunder the meaning of the holy days aloud while most people ignored them. It isn’t because their meanings were totally unknown, either. Many of the world’s scholars, for example, know that the Passover lamb symbolized the shedding of Messiah’s blood for our sins. The killing of the Passover lamb foreshadowed that event. It pointed to part of God’s plan. However, because most people don’t keep the holy days, it rarely goes beyond that limited understanding.
God designed us physical human beings to learn spiritual lessons from the physical.
Let’s cut to the chase. Most, but not all, leaven in the ancient world would have been yeast. Yeast works by breaking down sugar molecules, digesting them and expelling out carbon dioxide. If enough CO2 is expelled quickly enough, it pushes the boundaries of whatever it’s contained in. When it is contained within bread, then, it makes the bread rise.
Yeast, then, works by breaking down a substance, in this case sugar. It ferments. It is a type of corrosive. It literally eats sugar. Rust is another type of corrosive. Mold works in a similar fashion. These all work by corrupting the ingredient they are working on.
That is the physical side of things.
Spiritual Leaven in OT
According to Strong’s G2219, one definition of leaven is, “metaph. of inveterate mental and moral corruption, viewed in its tendency to infect others”.
“Moral corruption” really is just another word for “sin”. Does the Bible equate leaven and sin anywhere. Why yes, it does!
1When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered, and the wickedness of Samaria: for they commit falsehood; and the thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without.
2And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face.
3They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies.
The above shows wickedness, lies and adultery equated with leaven.
4Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:
The above is very significant because leavening was not to be used in sacrifices made by fire.
11No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto the LORD, shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the LORD made by fire. (Leviticus 2:11, King James Version)
God cannot tolerate sin in His presence (Isa 59:2). Leaven, representing sin, was not to be used in any of the sacrifices offered upon the altar of fire.
Spiritual Leaven in NT
The entire Passover scene is about breaking free from the slavery of sin (spiritual Egypt). Satan, like Pharaoh, would pursue and overtake us if allowed. Jesus came to set us free from the bonds of sin and iniquity. Therefore, the Passover in the OT was accompanied by unleavened bread, and since the death of Jesus, the NT symbols are of unleavened bread and wine. We’ll come back to that in a moment.
1It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
The Corinthians were “puffed up”, that is proud, thinking their tolerance of sin was a virtue.
6Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
There is little mistaking the symbolism here. Their pride, their glorying, was a type of self-righteousness. It was a sin. And, a little sin inflates a lot. Furthermore, Christ, the Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us. Once we are forgiven, we must do our part and clean out the “old leaven” because we are now leavened.
So, can we remove sin from our lives? Frankly, even people who are not saved do it in limited ways to varying degrees of success every day. Alcoholics stop drinking. Dopers stop doping. Smokers stop smoking. So, how much more should we with God’s Spirit be doing in our own lives?
Christ gave us a clean slate. It is up to us to try to keep it clean. When we fail, it is up to us to ask for help.
Participate in and Take in Unleavened Bread
I am simply amazed at the gymnastics people will go through to try to explain away such a simple verse. Not plain enough for you?
8 So let us celebrate this feast, but not with the bread that has the old yeast—the yeast of sin and wickedness. Let us celebrate this feast with the bread that has no yeast—the bread of goodness and truth.
The NCV decided to use “yeast” instead of “leaven”, and most leavening then would have been yeast, as I stated earlier. The point of this article, however, remains. Leaven = sin. That’s the symbolism for putting leaven out of our homes and lives for seven days.
Seven is a number of finality. It is the end of a cycle. It symbolizes completeness.
But, did you notice?
We are also instructed to keep it “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. These are the opposite of sin and wickedness.
“Sincerity” also is the opposite of hypocrisy (cf. Lk 12:1). “Truth” is the opposite of doctrinal error (cf. Mt 16:12). Spiritually, we should be taking in pure truth and sincerity unadulterated by hypocrisy, false doctrine and pride.
We need to remember that even when we read about the leaven of hypocrisy, false doctrine and pride, we are still talking about sin.
To combat sin, we must take in more of God’s Holy Spirit, which has overtones of the very next feast day.
What about the crumbs in my couch? Should I remove them? I’m not going to tell you to or not to, but I will tell you what I’m planning on doing.
In all fairness, you and I might not be tempted to eat them, but the simple fact of the matter is that there are starving people in this world that probably would. “Bread crumbs would be bad for me, though,” someone might argue. Well, sin isn’t good for you either.
In addition, there’s a lesson even there. Even the sin that isn’t appealing to us shouldn’t be left hanging around. Yes, it might not be appealing to you, but do you really want to leave it hanging around? Lot allowed himself to be submersed in sinful Sodom until he no longer properly discerned even that offering his daughters to the mob was wrong.
So, even though I might not be tempted to eat those bread crumbs, I know they are there, and I will vacuum them up and remove as much leaven from my entire household as I am able (Ex 13:7).
And, I will never get it all by my own power. In fact, as I get older, it gets harder. But, there’s still a lesson there. I have to rely upon God and His Holy Spirit for what I’m not physically able to do. That thought should humble me and make me look forward to the next holy day.