Unleavened Bread Lessons

Unleavened Bread Lessons


Calvin Lashway

March 2008 Revised


God specifically commands His people, in the Old and New Testaments, to eat unleavened bread during the weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread:1


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. . . . For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12:15, 19-20, all scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted).


And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread (Leviticus 23:6).


Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).


One reason God wants us to eat unleavened for seven days, are the lessons we learn from doing so. In this article we will examine some of these lessons. Lessons we mustn’t forget once the Feast of Unleavened Bread is over.


Unleavened Bread and Freedom from Sin

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He was delivering them from slavery: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (Leviticus 26:13, also see Deuteronomy 5:15; 6:21; 15:5; 24:18, 22). Because of this deliverance, God commanded Israel to eat unleavened bread for seven days each year in remembrance of their liberation from Egyptian slavery: “And Moses said to the people: ‘Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. . . . Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, “This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt”’” (Exodus 13:3, 6-8).


Following the Exodus, Egypt becomes a symbol representing “bondage and oppression” (Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 5:12–15; 15:12–15; 16:9–12; 24:17–22).2 Not only does Egypt symbolize slavery, it’s also a symbol of sin: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).


Jesus joins the themes of slavery and sin, when He says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). Once freed from the slavery of spiritual Egypt, we mustn’t return to the bondage of lawlessness, which is sin (1 John 3:4):


What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, . . . But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:1-8, 17-23).


Unleavened Bread Lesson: Eating unleavened bread is a reminder that once freed from the bondage of sin, we mustn’t return to the lawlessness of spiritual slavery.


The Unleavened Bread of Affliction

The Bible refers to unleavened bread as “the bread of affliction:” “You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 16:3). While in Egyptian slavery, Israel suffered affliction: “And you shall answer and say before the LORD your God: My father was a Syrian, about to perish, and he went down to Egypt and dwelt there, few in number; and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. But the Egyptians mistreated us, afflicted us, and laid hard bondage on us. Then we cried out to the LORD God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and looked on our affliction and our labor and our oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders” (Deuteronomy 26:5-8). Israel’s eating of unleavened bread was meant to help them remember their deliverance from the afflictions of Egyptian slavery.


There is a connection between affliction and sin. Affliction is one of the results of sin. David says, “Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:16-18). In Jeremiah 30:12-15, God says Israel and Judah’s sufferings and afflictions are the result of their sinful behavior, “For thus says the LORD: ‘Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause, That you may be bound up; You have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased. Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you’” (Jeremiah 30:12-15).


Unleavened Bread Lesson: As we have seen, sin is like slavery (John 8:34), and those enslaved to sin suffer the afflictions of its bondage, with freedom only coming through Jesus (Romans 6:18, 22). Eating unleavened bread reminds us that at one time we were the slaves of sin. But now delivered from sin, we’re no longer under the affliction of its bondage.


Unleavened Bread and Obedience to God

As Israel was leaving Egypt Moses told them, "Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, ‘This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt’” (Exodus 13:6-8). Then Moses figuratively described eating unleavened bread, “as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’S law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt” (verse 9). Eating unleavened bread was a way for God to help Israel recall that His Law must guide every part of their lives: actions, thoughts and words.


Verse 9 is similar to other sections of scriptures declaring that God’s law or word should guide one’s actions (“a sign to you on your hand”), thoughts (“a memorial between your eyes”) and spoken words (“law may be in your mouth”):


And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).


Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).


This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).


Under the Old Covenant God wanted Israel to obey Him, even having Israel eat unleavened bread as a reminder to do so. As Christians having a New Covenant relationship with God (Hebrews 9:14-15; Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20). God has written His Law in our hearts and minds through His Spirit, making obedience possible. The apostle Paul in writing to Hebrew Christians about the New Covenant quotes the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant. . . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel3 after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:8, 10-12; also see Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 10:15-18). It’s by placing His Spirit within us, that God changes our hearts and minds, making obedience to His Law possible: “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. . . . I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27).


Unleavened Bread Lesson: For Christian, eating unleavened bread helps us to remember that God placed His law in our hearts, and we must let those laws guide our actions, thoughts and words.


The Unleavened Bread of Sincerity

Christians keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread by eating bread without leaven in it, as well as not consuming leavened bread products. The Scriptures refer to unleavened bread as the “bread of sincerity and truth:” “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). According to the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, “sincerity” is “the quality or state of being sincere : honesty of mind : freedom from hypocrisy.” A sincere person is not, a hypocrite, a person not “feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion” (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).


Throughout the Gospels, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for being hypocrites. As a group of people they would say one thing and do another. They would claim to be following God and obeying His law, when in fact they did what they wanted to do. Jesus confronted the Pharisees about their hypocrisy by asking “them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?’” (Matthew 15:1-9). Spiritually the Pharisees were an insincere people, who rejected the Truth of God. At one point Jesus warns His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). We mustn’t be like the hypocritical Pharisees, who put on a show of obeying God but didn’t.


Unleavened Bread Lesson: Eating unleavened bread teaches us that we must avoid hypocrisy by living sincere lives of obedience to God.


The Unleavened Bread of Truth

Not only do we keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the unleavened bread of sincerity, but also with the bread of truth: “Therefore let us keep the feast . . . with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). What is truth? God’s word is Truth: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17); “And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant” (2 Samuel 7:28). Jesus equates the words of God with Scripture when He said, “Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken)” (John 10:34-35). From these verses we see that the Word of God, which is also Holy Scripture, is Truth.


Unleavened Bread Lesson: Eating of unleavened bread reinforces the idea that we must live our lives guided by the Truth of the Word of God.


Unleavened Bread and the Bread of Life

Jesus is the “Bread of Life”:


I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven--not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever (John 6:48-58).


Jesus is obviously referring to the Passover symbols of unleavened bread and wine, which represent His body and blood (Matthew 26:17-20, 26-29; Exodus 12:5-11). When thinking of Jesus as the Bread of Life, it seems more suitable to view Him as a thin cake of unleavened bread, than as a puffy loaf of leavened bread. As the Bread of Life, Jesus lives in us, and we live by faith in Him: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).


Unleavened Bread Lesson: Eating unleavened bread is a reminder that we must let Jesus live in us, by having a continuous faith in Him and His sacrifice.


Conclusion

Each year there are many lessons we learn from eating unleavened bread for one week. Lessons we should remember throughout remaining year. Once freed from the bondage of spiritual slavery and its afflictions, we mustn’t return to the slavery of sin. The word of God must be something which guides our thoughts and actions. It’s important we live our lives in sincere obedience to the truth of Holy Scripture. Finally, it’s necessary to have faith in Jesus, allowing Him to live His life in us.




Notes:

1 This article presumes the Christian observance of the festivals of Leviticus 23. It’s beyond the scope of this work to prove that Christians should keep these festivals. For information on this, and the meaning of the festivals, see the following literature: God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise for All Mankind http://www.ucg.org/booklets/HD/; Ronald L. Dart's book The Thread: God’s Appointments With History, Appendix 2 "In Defense of the Holydays." A PDF version of the book is available at http://servantofmessiah.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/11/The-Thread-Gods-Holy-Days-Ron-Dart.pdf.

2 Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Egypt,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (electronic ed.), (Downers Grove, IL, InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1998), 228.

3 Under the New Covenant, Christians, whether Jews or Gentile are now the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16; Romans 2:28-29; 9:3-8; 11:11-27).

© Calvin Lashway 2018  -  Contact: cinfowritings@gmail.com