SPECIAL TOPIC: LEAVEN (BDB 329)

The term "leaven" (zumē) is used in two senses in both the OT and the NT:

1. a sense of corruption and, therefore, a symbol of evil

a. Exod. 12:15; 13:3,7; 23:18; 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 6:17; Deut. 16:3

b. Matt. 16:6,11-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 5:9; 1 Cor. 5:6-8

2. a sense of permeation and, therefore, influence, not a symbol of evil

a. Lev. 7:13; 23:17; Amos 4:5

b. Matt. 13:33; Luke 13:20-21

Only context can determine the meaning of this word (which is true of all words!).

On the subject of unleavened bread, the Israelites could not wait until morning for the bread to rise. This detail of the exodus night gave rise to the Exodus’ Passover feast being combined with an agricultural feast (cf. Exod. 12:15-20; 23:14-17; 34:18).

Leaven was regularly used in sacrificial items (cf. Lev. 7:13; 23:17), and became a symbol of sin and rebellion. The fermentation was viewed in this symbolic sense as Israel’s opportunity on an individual basis to examine their lives for any hint of rebellion or disobedience to YHWH. As the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) functioned on a national level, the Feast of Unleavened Bread functioned on an individual or family level.

This annual required feast, combined with the Passover feast, kept the gracious deliverance of YHWH ever before the minds and hearts of His people. As grace and promise provided deliverance from Egypt, so Israel depended on these unchanging divine characteristics to save her as the years went by (cf. Deut. 4:9).

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