When analyzing Scripture, everything in the OT had to be taken into account, or risk getting the interpretation wrong. This also includes the rituals, their symbolism, and its consistency of use through the entire Bible. We can see ideas as obvious depending on the context of a term or phrase, but we must examine all the times either a word or phrase is used to ascertain if the interpretation is correct.
Exodus 12:15 (NKJ) Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.
Exodus 12:19 For seven days there must be no leaven found in your houses. If anyone eats something leavened, that person, whether a foreigner or native of the land, must be cut off from the congregation of Israel.
Exodus 13:7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten during those seven days. Nothing leavened may be found among you, nor shall leaven be found anywhere within your borders.
This was to commemorate the Exodus. Because Israel fled Egypt in such a hurry, they had no time to add leaven to the dough. Leaven was made from either dried old dough or raw dough set out to ferment. The most effective ways to be rid of it was to either burn or bury it outside the camp to be retrieved later. With the threatened banishment for eating something leavened, it is understandable why people would equate leaven with sin.
Exodus 25:30 announced the use of the Bread of the Presence (Showbread), which was twelve unleavened cakes stacked the two rows of six and covered with frankincense. Leviticus 2 and 6 detail how they were to be processed. For every Shabbot, fresh cakes were made and only the priests ate this within the Holy Place. This reinforces the idea that being unleavened or without sin should be our desired state.
The first deviation from this idea comes from the peace (freewill) offering:
11Now this is the law of the peace offering that one may present to YHWH: 12If he offers it in thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with olive oil, unleavened wafers coated with oil, and well-kneaded cakes of fine flour mixed with oil.
13Along with his peace offering of thanksgiving he is to present an offering with cakes of leavened bread. 14From the cakes he must present one portion of each offering as a contribution to YHWH. It belongs to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the peace offering.
This also happens during Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost):
15From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, you are to count off seven full weeks. 16You shall count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to YHWH.
17Bring two loaves of bread from your dwellings as a wave offering, each made from two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with leaven, as the firstfruits to YHWH.
18Along with the bread you are to present seven unblemished male lambs a year old, one young bull, and two rams. They will be a burnt offering to YHWH, together with their grain offerings and drink offerings—an offering made by fire, a pleasing aroma to YHWH.
19You shall also prepare one male goat as a sin offering and two male lambs a year old as a peace offering. 20The priest is to wave the lambs as a wave offering before YHWH, together with the bread of the firstfruits. The bread and the two lambs shall be holy to YHWH for the priest.
According to What Are Heave and Wave Offerings?, both the priest and the offeror waved bread over the main altar and ate some of it in the Lord’s presence; the remainder was for the priests. The Outer Court allowed for both puffed and flatbread, which could symbolize corruption and incorruption operating on this plane of existence, but why allow leavened bread there at all? Why not have either the priests or the people eat unleavened bread only? Is Yah in favor of sin if leaven represents sin?
Thank Yah, He sent His Son to muddies the waters:
Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into three measures of flour, until all of it was leavened.”
Luke 13:20-21 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three sata of flour until it was all leavened.”
Here, Yahshua is comparing leaven to the Kingdom of God. If leaven embodied sin, why would He compare it to the Kingdom? I assumed that this meant believers were to be like leaven in the world. Years later, the Father enlightened me—leaven symbolizes influence.
7They discussed this among themselves and concluded, “It is because we did not bring any bread.”
8Aware of their conversation, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you debating among yourselves about having no bread? 9Do you still not understand? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11How do you not understand that I was not telling you about bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12Then they understood that He was not telling them to beware of the leaven used in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Teaching is a form of influence, the last time I looked.
16So they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
17Aware of their conversation, Jesus asked them, “Why are you debating about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Do you have such hard hearts? 18‘Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?’ [Deuteronomy 29:4, Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10, Isaiah 42:20, Isaiah 43:8, Jeremiah 5:21, Jeremiah 6:10, Ezekiel 12:2] And do you not remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Twelve,” they answered.
20“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of broken pieces did you collect?”
“Seven,” they said.
21Then He asked them, “Do you still not understand?”
As in Matthew 16, the focus is on Yahshua’s influence over His environment, reinforcing that only good comes from and increases under Father Yah’s direction. The Pharisees (religion) and Herod (government) are faulty without His Guidance. Since those two entities led the people, their behavior—sin, pointless rules, public praying, ill-gotten gains, for example—infected the ones beneath them.
1In the meantime, a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling one another. Jesus began to speak first to His disciples: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. 3What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.”
In short, their actions said, “Do as I say, not as I do,” but Father’s Light will expose them. The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek word hupokrisis, meaning acting under a mask as they did in ancient Greco-Roman theater. On a deeper level, Yahshua highlighted how their behavior causes others to behave as hypocrites, but neither group realized it.
1 Corinthians 5
6Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven works through the whole batch of dough? 7Get rid of the old leaven, that you may be a new unleavened batch, as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old bread, leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and of truth.
The idea of leaven representing sin was strengthened here. Remember, the thought precedes the sin (an action). Paul had implied, “Get rid of your old habitual thoughts (influence) and renew yourselves under the grace Christ’s blood bought us.” See Romans 12:2, Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:19, Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 4:23-24, Ephesians 5:10, Ephesians 5:17, Colossians 3:10, 1 Peter 1:14.
James 4:4 Adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility with Yah? Therefore, whoever has chosen to be a friend of the world is appointed an enemy of Yah.
Ezekiel 16:32 You adulterous wife! You receive strangers instead of your own husband!
Friendship a type of influence. This is why YHWH told the Israelites not to make covenants of any kind (marriage and treaties, for example) with the goyim serving other gods.
7You were running so well. Who has obstructed you from obeying the truth? 8Such persuasion does not come from the One who calls you. 9A little leaven works through the whole batch of dough. 10I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is troubling you will bear the judgment, whoever he may be.
Persuasion is another type of influence. Paul declared the Galatians had been led astray, but the Father will correct those who sowed the deception.
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
John 15:19 If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.
Romans 8:7 …because the mind of the flesh is hostile to God: It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
The ego—our flesh and soul together—operates outside of our spirit and Holy Spirit and is our greatest influence, the one we must overcome daily. Being in this realm is our test, to see if we choose Him over the tangible. As we grow closer to Him, the more we see of His supernatural Nature and the less we desire to maintain this existence. Do you desire to be a light on His Holy Mountain (the New Jerusalem)?
The only leaven He wants is the stuff He made, even if it is not always perfectly presented. He knew in advance we would mess things up; that is the curse of corruption. He even knew the Israelites would want a king before they were established as a nation. The cleansing of the homes of leaven symbolized cleansing ourselves of the world’s influence. Unleavened bread is the pure Word of YHWH; eating it means either to start over, so it becomes a part of you or nurture what was already there. The leavened bread at the Tabernacle/Temple’s Outer Court represents His grace under His influence (His Word, written or spoken, no matter how much we distort it—the bubbles in the bread) while we are in the world.
If you are not convinced, take this to the Lord in prayer. Amen.
Edit: Someone else received the same revelation I did. Reposted with permission.
I have reviewed many Christian documents and websites to learn about their perspectives on leaven. One website that I found offered this: “Whenever leaven is mentioned in the Bible (22 times in the Old Testament and 17 times in the New Testament), it always (almost always) represents sin or evil.” This is a very traditional understanding of what leaven is supposed to represent.
However, while this is a tradition, it is not scriptural. There is no verse in the Bible that declares that leaven is sin. There is a verse that tells us what sin is. That verse is 1 John 3:4 which says, “Sin is the transgression of the law.”
Messiah Yahshua never called leaven sin, but he did give us some examples of how he viewed the symbol of leaven. The first example is found in Matthew 13:33: “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven.” Another scripture that offers a positive perspective is found in Luke 13:20-21: “and again he said, whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of Yahweh? It is like leaven.”
A second example is when Yahshua compared the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees with leaven. This is found in Matthew 16:11-12:
How is it that ye do not understand that I spoke not to you concerning bread that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine [Strong’s 1322, didache, teaching or instruction] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Messiah clarified that he was not talking about bread, but the influence of teachings. He was not calling the bread or the teaching bad, but only influential.
Their teachings had the ability to shape people’s thinking. Since these teachings were based on man’s traditions and not the Scriptures (Mark 7: 13), caution must be taken.
The third example is when Messiah warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod in Mark 8:15. Once again, Messiah was speaking about the Pharisees and Sadducees’ reliance on their traditions, and not the word of Yahweh. This time he also referenced Herod’s immorality with his brother’s wife as well as his other evil deeds. (Mark 6:14-29; Luke 3:18-21) Messiah was warning his disciples not to be influenced by Herod’s words or deeds.
The fourth example is found in Luke 12:1 where Messiah says: “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy is saying one thing and doing something else. The Pharisees had the knowledge to teach properly, but would often conduct themselves contrary to the teachings.
The Pharisees, the Sadducees and Herod were authority figures. Their status in society would only add weight to their words. He was warning his disciples to be careful. They must always compare someone’s words and behavior to Yahweh’s word. That is the ultimate authority and not man.
Three of these four examples had to do with the negative influence of teachings and behavior. The fourth compares leaven with the kingdom of Yahweh or heaven. What could be evil or corrupt about Yahweh’s Kingdom or heaven?
However, I did find some Christian writers who tried very hard to spin this parable in such a way that it supported a sinful or corrupt influence of the kingdom of Yahweh or heaven. Once again, Messiah was talking about the potent influence of the kingdom. Once leaven enters the dough, it spreads quickly and thoroughly throughout the dough. It is this pervasive quality that Messiah is describing, not the good or bad qualities of the influence.
In Matthew 4:4 Messiah is quoted as saying: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Yahweh.” We must be careful of any source other than the word of Yahweh as a standard of how to live our lives. Yahweh’s words are more important than any other source that man can offer.
Messiah was not saying that everything man proclaims is bad, but it could be. We must be discerning. Leaven is not bad in and of itself, but It can ferment or puff-up. Man’s words can also produce arrogance and blind one to the truth.
If Ieaven usually represents sin, then what does this say about the bread of the firstfruits mentioned in Leviticus 23:17, 20? On Shavuoth, or Pentecost, the people were told to offer a new meal offering. It is in verse 17 that we are told: “Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven; they are the firstfruits of Yahweh.”
Who are these firstfruits? The apostle John provides us with an answer in Revelation 14:4-5:
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto Yahweh and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of Yahweh.
Should these firstfruits be symbolized by bread that supposedly contains evil leaven? Of course not, because leaven is not used to indicate sin or evil. What we are being told is that the firstfruits have been under the influence of a very permeating force. In this case it is the Spirit of Yahweh and the Spirit of YahwehShua.
The firstfruits are the saints who overcome and are raised in the better resurrection when Messiah returns. When they were baptized in the name of YahwehShua, they received a down payment of the Son’s Spirit, bestowed by the Father’s Spirit. The Son’s Spirit is compared to leaven because it is a permeating force that over time supplants our carnal nature with the nature of Messiah. This process is described by Paul in Galatians 4:19. The attributes of Messiah’s nature are described in Galatians 5:22-23 as fruits of the Spirit.
The two loaves presented at Pentecost represent the firstfruits. As the spirit supplants man’s carnal nature, it produces beings that will be with Messiah always, having no guile and are without fault. This positive outcome is symbolized by the permeating action of leaven in dough.
The case of Judas provides an example of a negative outcome of a different sort of influence. Judas was pressured by the Pharisees to make an evil pact to betray Messiah. His deadly decision cost him his own life as well as that of Messiah. Yes, this was all within Yahweh’s will and His plan. Yahweh is the most powerful force of all. His will shall be done. This is why Messiah said the Kingdom of Yahweh is as leaven!
In Exodus 12, we are introduced to the use of unleavened bread with the Passover meal and as food during the Israelite escape from Egypt. They ate this Passover meal in haste. (Exodus 12:11) They did not have time to prepare leavened bread. The use of unleavened bread in this passage is not intended to make a statement about the good or evil nature of leaven. It was simply expedient to use unleavened bread.
Look at what Paul tells us in first Corinthians 5:6-7:
Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Messiah our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness but with the unleavened (bread) [the word bread is added and not found in the Greek] of sincerity and truth.
Paul is not writing about leavened or unleavened bread. He is speaking about the extensive influence of the world and Satan. We must learn to rely on the truth of Yahweh’s word instead.
Here are two extra-biblical examples of interpreting leaven as sin or evil: “And in rabbinic literature, leaven is often used as a metaphor for the evil inclination or yetzer-ha-ra.” (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhat 17a)
“And the people took their dough before it was leavened. On the strength of this founded the precept that leaven should be burned on Passover eve. Leaven and unleavened symbolizes the evil and good incarnations of man.” (Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Raya Mehemna page 40b)
These are two examples of how the Christians, Catholics and Messianic groups learned that leaven is evil and unleavened is pure or good. This concept did not come from the Scriptures, but from the traditions of men. These groups have fallen victim to what Messiah warned us about. The Talmudic and rabbinical perspectives represent a potent force that can be compared to the leaven that puffs up man. Man views their beliefs as having greater authority than what Yahweh says in his word. This has nothing to do with bread. This is really about persuasive forces that can lead us away from Yahweh’s truth.
This false teaching obscures the meaning of the bread of firstfruits as well as how the Spirit of the Father Yahweh began the development of the firstfruits at the first Pentecost. Those who receive the down payment of the Spirit are exposed to the mighty spiritual force of Yahweh. This dominant force is able to overcome man’s carnal nature and create a new being that will be like Messiah. This spiritual force is symbolized by the leaven in the bread of the firstfruits. Yahweh’s spirit is the most powerful force in the universe. Nothing is comparable.
It is interesting to note that Yahweh began His Scriptures with a comment about the firstfruits. Genesis 1: 1 is traditionally translated in the King James Version as “In the beginning Elohim [this is the correct Hebrew word, the English, g-d, is an incorrect translation] created the heaven and earth.” However, the Hebrew for “in the beginning” is translated from the word “bereshiyth.” Be is a preposition and can be translated using various prepositions including, for the sake of. Reshiyth is the Hebrew word that can be alternately translated as firstfruit. [Strong’s 7225] There is another Hebrew word, tekhillaw, which actually expresses the sense of beginning better than reshiyth. I believe Yahweh is sending us a message of how important the firstfruits are. He begins the book of Genesis with this thought and concludes His Scriptures with information about the firstfruits in the book of Revelation. The alternate, and I believe, the more accurate translation of Genesis 1: 1 is: “For the sake of the firstfruit, Elohim created the heaven and earth.”
Messiah is called a firstfruit by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:23. James 1:18 says the saints are a kind of firstfruits and Revelation 14:4 reveals who the first fruits are. The firstfruits are created by the extraordinary Spirits of the Father and Son. This force is not evil, nor are the firstfruits.
When Messiah returns, 144,000 firstfruits will be with him. They will reign with him for 1000 years. They will not face the second death or Gehenna fire. Perhaps this is why we are told in Leviticus 2:11-12 that leaven should not be burned. The firstfruits are blessed by not having to face the Gehenna fire. Remember, Yahweh knows the end from the beginning. These are his words and he knows what he’s speaking about. We must always pray to Yahweh for truth and ask that he reveal the true and deeper meaning of His words.
These insights about leaven are important. They will help us to better understand the deeper meaning of the NEW COVENANT PASSOVER. There is more to be revealed!
If you wish to submit a question or comment, please email our Elder at firstname.lastname@example.org.