02 – Unleavened Bread

A Taste Test

Shortly after we were married, my wife and I ate dinner at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Brown, an older couple. The bread this lady made was absolutely heavenly! Hot out of the oven,  moist, soft and just absolutely to die for. “WIFE!”, I declared. “I hereby command you to get this recipe and bake this bread every week! For I do love it and it doth taste most wondrously to my lips!”

“Yes, m’lord.”

(hey.. we can all dream, right?)

Mrs. Brown was quite gracious. “Wow! Thanks for the compliment. I’ll get you the starter for it.”

I had no clue what a starter was – probably something to light an oven, I guess. I don’t cook – I just eat. I let the womenfolk take care of all that stuff. Mrs. Brown came back from the refrigerator with a jar 1/2 filled with dirty water with some moldy junk on the bottom and floaty gunk on the surface, and proceeded to hand it to my wife: “Here ya go, hon. It’s got the recipe on the lid. Just mix this in with your flour and…”

“Woah, woah, woah! What’s this!!??” I’d be doggoned if my wife was going to touch that filthy jar.

“This is the starter for the bread.”

“Yeah, but it’s all rotted. Why don’t you ask her for the fresh stuff instead?”

“No, honey – this is starter. You use it to make the bread soft and rise.”

“PUTRID STUFF LIKE THAT?!!”

“Yes.”

“You are mistaken! That ….THING… in that jar did NOT make the bread I just ate! The bread I ate tasted GOOD, and no good thing can come from a jar like THAT!”

“Yes it did, hon. And you ate almost a whole loaf of it.”

“I just ate bread with moldy, putrid stuff added into it?” It was all I could do to prevent the contents of my stomach from making a dramatic presentation back onto the table. “I don’t …think I feel so good.”

“Honey – you need to get out more. This is perfectly normal.”

Mr. & Mrs. Brown didn’t mind letting me know that they were laughing at me, not with me.

Over the next several days I toyed with the idea of throwing that ..thing.. out of our fridge. I have no idea where it came from, but I felt confident it would grow and multiply in my fridge and contaminate everything in it. And I sure wasn’t going to eat any more bread made out of it! It took several months before I would even listen to any discussion about how this starter stuff was normal for bread recipes, let alone a “good” thing. I don’t recall seeing Ron Popeil holding up a jar of putrid stuff while hawking his bread makers. I guess no matter how you slice it, sausage isn’t the only thing people don’t want to see being made.

Unleaven Bread

Before talking about unleavened bread, we should probably talk about what leaven is and what the Bible uses it to represent.

Leaven is simply yeast. You and I go to the corner grocery store, pay a couple bucks for a package, and use it to make our bread dough rise nicely (unless you’re Mrs. Brown), and if it was a particularly good mix, you’d take a portion of your dough and keep it for the next batch and/or pass it on to your friends so they could continue the fun. Not only can you have your bread and eat it too, but it’s also the gift that keeps on giving!

Alas, in the ancient world, they didn’t have WalMart so they did the next best thing: if they didn’t have a friend ready to give them a portion of their starter (leaven, same thing), they’d make some bread dough and leave it out on a windowsill and let nature blow some natural yeast  into the mix. It was kind of a lucky thing because nature is not particularly discriminating when it comes to this method of yeast-gathering: if the winds were favorable, not only would you get yeast, but you’d get pollen, leaves, ants, grasshoppers and all manner of extra nutrition and flavor into your mix. And even if you used a cloth over the top of your dish to keep bugs and bramble out, if you let it sit too long it’d go really, really bad and wouldn’t be good for anything. Word would get out that you had bad batch of leaven, and all your friends would politely decline if you tried to share of your toil.

So when God chose leaven to represent sin, the imagery wasn’t much of a stretch. In fact, the imagery is so good, God uses it pretty much throughout the whole Bible. My guess is that back then their starter didn’t quite look like Mrs. Brown’s, but nontheless, the idea of something maybe looking innocent when it’s buried in with a whole batch of dough, yet capable of taking a good batch of dough and blowing it up and making a foul mess of the whole thing .. yeah, leaven’s a pretty good metaphor for sin. Especially when you see it sitting by itself before it gets mixed in with the dough. Nasty looking!

The ancient Jew knew that leavening with yeast was a fermentation process that causes a dough mixture to foam, lighten and soften. What the ancient Jew did not know was that the yeast reproduces while consuming the carbohydrates of the dough, chemically altering its molecular structure. In this process, the yeast leaves behind a waste byproduct that gives the bread a distinct yeast flavor. Although the bread mixtures started with similar ingredients and had a somewhat similar baking process, unleavened bread neither resembled nor tasted like leavened bread.

It was around this symbolism that God appointed the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Starting on the 15th of Nisan (the day after Passover), this 7-day feast required the removal of all yeast (leaven) from the home (). The leaven symbolized sin, and its removal was to be complete. The feast started and ended with a holy Sabbath day, where no work was to be done, and along with Passover, commemorated God’s deliverance of the Children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt (; ; ). Because it began with the Passover Feast, it was frequently used interchangeably with that feast ().

Jesus in the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (, ESV)

The Feast of Unleavened Bread has several parallels to the Christian life.

  • Christ, our perfect redeemer, is sinless (no leaven). ()
  • He calls us to be Holy (sinless) as He is holy. ()
  • The matzah bread (unleavened bread) is baked in a process that leaves a series of stripes and pierced holes in it. This is reminiscent of the passages saying that Christ would be pierced (; ) and by His stripes we are healed. (Is 53:5; )
  • Participants ate the bread, dressed to travel out of Egypt. We, too, should be ready to go as God calls, prepared to be living sacrifices as part of our reasonable service. ()

The ancient Jew knew that leavening with yeast was a fermentation process that causes a dough mixture to foam, lighten and soften. What the ancient Jew did not know was that the yeast reproduces while consuming the carbohydrates of the dough, chemically altering its molecular structure. In this process, the yeast leaves behind a waste byproduct that gives the bread a distinct yeast flavor. Although the bread mixtures started with similar ingredients and had a somewhat similar baking process, unleavened bread neither resembled nor tasted like leavened bread.

It was around this symbolism that God appointed the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Starting on the 15th of Nisan (the day after Passover), this 7-day feast required the removal of all yeast (leaven) from the home. The leaven symbolized sin, and its removal was to be complete. The feast started and ended with a holy Sabbath day, where no work was to be done, and along with Passover, commemorated God’s deliverance of the Children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt (; ; ). Because it began with the Passover Feast, it was frequently used interchangeably with that feast ().

Jesus in the Feast of Unleavened Bread

The feast’s parallel to the Christian life occurs on several levels.

Christ, our perfect redeemer, is sinless (no leaven)

He calls us to be Holy (sinless) as He is holy.

The matzah bread (unleavened bread) is baked in a process that leaves a series of stripes and holes in it. This is reminiscent of the passages saying that Christ would be pierced (; ) and by His stripes we are healed (Is 53:5; )

Participants ate the bread, dressed to travel out of Egypt. We, too, should be ready to go as God calls, prepared to be living sacrifices as part of our reasonable service ()



18 In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven is to be found in your houses. If anyone eats what is leavened, that person will be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a sojourner or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwelling places you shall eat unleavened bread.” (ESV)


Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. (ESV)


In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. (ESV)


12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (ESV)


22:1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. (ESV)


Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (ESV)


15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV)


15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV)


10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (ESV)


37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (ESV)


24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (ESV)


12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)


Then Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. (ESV)


In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the Lord’s Passover. (ESV)


12 You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes. (ESV)


22:1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. (ESV)


10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (ESV)


37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” (ESV)


24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (ESV)


12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)