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!