Leaven

Does God not like leaven? I think we have to answer no. Leaven has its place in life, but it is interesting to look through the Bible at the subject.

The Passover is associated with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but the reason given in the text for no leaven is their haste in leaving Egypt. They didn’t have time for bread to rise, but in the subsequent celebration of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread they purposely removed the leaven. Exodus 12:34, 39, Exodus 13:3-10. Deuteronomy 16:1-8 calls the unleavened bread the bread of affliction and again notes their haste in leaving Egypt. But all of this is a reminder of the circumstances of the Exodus.

Leaven was not used with the blood of the sacrifice. Exodus 23:18 and 34:25. The grain also excluded leaven and honey. Leviticus 2:11. Why leaven is excluded is not given in the text. Some speculate that the leaven represents a corrupting influence so that it is especially not used with blood which represents life. Others have suggested that it represents a vital force in the vegetable world while the blood represents the vital force of the animal world. But we don’t have clear guidance on the reasons from the text.

Leaven could be a part of the thanks offering. Leviticus 7:11-14 and 23.17. So, leaven wasn’t always excluded just most of the time.

Jewish people would have eaten bread with leaven as a normal part of their diet.

Leaven becomes a symbol of power and influence which can be either positive or negative.

  • Leaven represents the positive and growing influence of the kingdom in Matt. 13:33; Lk. 13:21

Leaven is a negative image in the following.

  • The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees represents their teaching and hypocrisy. Matt. 16:6, 11-12; cf. Mk. 8:15; Lk. 12:1
  • Leaven is the corrupting influence of immoral behavior that hasn’t been disciplined in the church.1 Cor. 5:6
  • Leaven is the corrupting influence of false teaching in Gal 5:9 with the warning that a little leaven can leaven the whole lump if you are not careful.

We use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper because that is what would have been at the Institution of the Lord’s Supper at Passover. But we like the Jews use leavening on a regular basis in our food. As readers, we need to remember that leaven can be a power image for either good or evil.

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