Feast 2: Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8):
“Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. ‘On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. ‘But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord for seven days. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.'” (Leviticus 23:6-8. NASB)
Yahweh appointed another feast that was to begin the very next day after Passover, on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month, Abib/Nisan. It is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was to last for seven days. Seven being the number of completion, perfection. On the first night, and again on the seventh, there was to be a high Sabbath.
The Bible gives only three instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Special sacrifices were to be offered in the Temple each day of the feast, according to Leviticus 23:8; Numbers 28:19-24. The first and seventh days of the feast were Sabbaths with prohibitions on all work (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:7-8; Numbers 28:25; Deut. 16:8).
And the third requirement was the prohibition of ANY leaven. No less than six different passages emphasize the prohibition of leaven during this feast (Exodus 12:14-20; 13:6-8, 23:15, 34:18; Leviticus 23:6; Deut. 16:3 & 8).
Not only is the eating of leavened foods (such as bread and rolls) forbidden during the feast, but even the presence of leaven within one’s house is unlawful. Yahweh commanded Moses:
- ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15 NASB)
Disobedience to the divine command carried the death penalty. Another command stated:
- “Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. (Exodus 13:7 NASB)
The clarity of God’s command allows no room for debate. Any leaven, no matter how small the amount or how discreet its presence, is not permitted during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is not enough to simply refrain from eating leaven, or from touching leaven, or even from looking at leaven by storing it away in a hidden place. All leaven must be purged out. Failure to do so brought death.
An important thing to understand is that the Last Supper was not the actual Jewish Passover meal. The Last Supper was eaten a day earlier than the Passover meal, and you also cannot eat the Passover meal without the lamb and the lamb wasn’t killed until the last hours of the day of Passover. The Last Supper was in the “first hours” of the 24 hour Passover day.
We must keep in mind that the Hebrew community, taking its cues from Genesis 1 where the Bible says, “…the evening and the morning were the first day,” observes their days as starting at sundown; normally at 6:00, but formally at sundown. They do not view midnight to midnight as a day, as we do; but from sundown to sundown. So the 14th of Abib/Nisan began at sundown. After the sun had set, the start of the 14th day of preparation, is when they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. But the Passover meal was not eaten until after sundown the next day, at the start of the 15th.
- “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1 NASB)
This text then goes into the details of the Lord’s Supper. So we see that the Lord’s Supper was “…before the Feast of the Passover.” It’s easy to establish from the fourth Gospel that the people of Israel did not eat their Passover meal until sometime after Jesus partook of the Last Supper:
- “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” ( John 18:28 NASB)
This is clearly after the Last Supper and the Jewish leaders had not yet eaten the Passover. During the Last Supper the Lord sent Judas out and our text says:
- “For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor.” (John 13:29 NASB)
Some of the disciples thought that Jesus was telling Judas to go buy things for the Passover Feast, which was yet future for them and all Israel.
** When Judas accepted the dipped bread from Jesus at the Last Supper and left, it was symbolic of removing all the leaven from the house on preparation day during Passover week.
- “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour*. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your King!”” (John 19:14 NASB)(* Sixth hour = 6 a.m. Roman and Hellenistic time. John wrote using their time reference, while Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote using Jewish time reference (Three hours later after John 19:14 Jesus was crucified according to Mark 15:25, 3rd hour = 9 a.m. )
From these texts we just read we see that the Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, and Jesus’s trial and crucifixion, all occurred before Israel ate the Passover. These all occurred on the fourteenth, the day of preparation, the day when the Israelites made all the preparations to partake of the Passover. They cleansed out the leaven, bought bitter herbs, had the lamb slain at the Temple (at 3 P.M.), then dressed and roasted it, all in preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which would begin three hours after Jesus’s death on the beginning of the fifteenth (at 6 P.M.).
Why the emphasis on unleavened bread in this feast? Many have claimed that “leaven symbolized sin.” However, the Scriptures do not say that. In the Bible, leaven is used as a symbol of different things; some negative, some positive. Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:20-21 mention “leaven” of a positive kind:
- “He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.’” (Matt. 13:33 NASB)
Jesus used leaven as a symbol for the spreading of the Kingdom of God. Thus, it would be wrong to claim that leaven is simply a “symbol of sin.” Leaven always carries with it the idea of influence. You take a little piece of leaven and place it in a lump of dough, which you are going to bake, and that little piece influences the entire lump, causing it to rise. Leaven was an appropriate metaphor for something that spreads.
- “And Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” (Matt. 16:6 NASB)
Both the Pharisees and Herod were parties of influence. Verse 12 explains that it was the Pharisees’ and the Sadducees’ teachings (doctrines) that Jesus called “leaven.”
- “Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matt. 16:12 NASB)
So leaven seems to primarily have the idea of influence, it could be good or bad.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Exodus.
- “Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. “You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:7-8 NASB)
- “You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.” (Exodus 12:17 NASB)
The rescue of the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Remembering God’s deliverance and their exodus is a major theme of this festival.
The story of the Exodus is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking accounts in all of Scripture. God would tell Moses that He had seen the affliction of His people down in Egypt, that He had heard their cry for help, and that He knew their sorrows. And now, He was bringing a deliverer to bring them out of Egyptian bondage and bring them into a physical Promised Land. He was bringing them out to bring them in.
** Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus came to earth to bring man out of his bondage to sin, and with a mighty hand He brought His people out from under the condemnation in sin to eternal death. He bought His people out of the curse of sin and initiated His eternal New Covenant in His blood, established His church, grew them in maturity and led them to the true Promised heavenly land in AD 70 where they would have eternal life forevermore with God in heaven.
The Exodus took place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It started at the beginning of the feast, and they crossed the Red Sea at the end of the feast. This feast is all about deliverance.
The Feast of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are really merged into one eight day feast:
- “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.” (Luke 22:1 NASB)
Josephus says, “We keep a feast for eight days, which is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.”
It’s hard to separate these feasts because the deliverance that Unleavened Bread pictures is only possible because of Passover. On the 14th of Abib/Nisan at 3:00 pm the Passover lamb was slain, and on the 15th of Abib/Nisan the children of Israel ate the Passover meal and shortly after that they left the bondage of Egypt. And before the 7 day feast was over they had passed through the Red Sea where their enemies were destroyed. This deliverance was a type.
Nearly 1600 years later the antitype, our spiritual deliverance from the curse of sin and its condemnation to eternal death, took place on the very same dates. On the 14th of Abib/Nisan at 3:00 pm our Savior shed His physical blood and died on the cross of Calvary and His body was laid in the tomb, and His soul went to Hades/Sheol (Paradise) as our “scapegoat” before the start of the 15th of Abib/Nisan à commencing the second Exodus of the new covenant believers, which would consummate in the fulfilling of the last three fall Feasts on His return out from the heavenly Holy of Holies and the pouring out of God’s wrath on OC Israel in AD 66-70.
This OC Jewish exodus period was a type/shadow of deliverance! The type is the picture, the anti-type was the reality of the deliverance of those 1st century saints to eternal life in the afterlife in heaven for all of those in Christ in AD 70.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread, which included the Passover, was an eight-day feast, with the first day being the Passover. The people were to prepare by cleansing out all leaven from their presence and then to sacrifice the Passover lamb on the 14th day of Abib/Nisan, then to eat it on the 15th.
The eight day festival they celebrated each year was a memorial to how they were freed from their bondage in Egypt. They were to Exodus from Egypt after the Passover and to eat unleavened bread the entire week à signifying leaving behind them all of the “leaven/influence” of Egypt. The Exodus/Feast of Unleavened Bread completed when they crossed the Red Sea and the waters covered and destroyed the Egyptians and separated the people of Israel from all of the former bondage and influence they were under in Egypt.
This second exodus, which was the antitype, was spoken of in the Prophets:
“Then in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious. Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people…” (Isaiah 11:10-11. NASB).
See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:
Related full “Study Series” (available upon request if not hyperlinked):
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 1 God’s Festal Calendar (Spring Feasts)”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 8 Lesson 2 God’s Festal Calendar (Fall Feasts)”]