Questions & Answers
Good News Magazine
March 1981
Volume: Vol XXVIII, No. 3
Issue: ISSN 0432-0816
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Questions & Answers

   Just what is leaven? Which foods are to be avoided during the Days of Unleavened Bread?

   God uses leaven to typify sin (I Cor. 5:1-8). Sin puffs up just as physical leaven puffs up (verse 2). Unleavened bread is a type of an unleavened life.
   To understand exactly what is included in the leaven we are to avoid during the Days of Unleavened Bread, let's first notice some of the Hebrew words translated "leaven" in the Old Testament. Mechametz refers to leavening agents — substances used to puff up or produce fermentation, causing dough to rise. Yeast, bicarbonate Ľof soda (baking soda) and baking powder are such substances.
   Another Hebrew word rendered "leaven" is seh-ohd. This literally means "sourdough," a naturally fermenting yeasty batter that was the most common leaven of the Israelites, and which is still often used to cause baked goods to rise and become light in texture.
   These leavening agents cause foods to become chametz. This Hebrew word is translated "that which is leavened" in Exodus 12:19. It is also translated "leavened bread" in a number of places. It refers to all foods that leaven has caused to rise, including bread, cake, some crackers, certain cookies, some prepared cereals and pies. A few candies and other foods also make use of leavening agents. If you are in doubt about any product, check the list of ingredients on the wrapper.
   Instead of eating leavened bread, we have the positive command to eat unleavened bread (Ex. 13:6). We may also eat unleavened pies and cereals together with all the meats, drinks, fruits and vegetables we normally consume.
   Most stores carry a variety of unleavened breads. Always check the ingredients on the label to be sure. Or, you may enjoy making your own.
   Some have asked about using egg whites in baking. Egg whites should not be used as a substitute for leaven, in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the spirit-of the law. On the other hand, beaten egg whites used in meringue on pies and other desserts do not constitute a leavening agent. They have not been used to puff up any product baked of flour or meal.
   Others have noticed the term "yeast extracts" on the labels of certain foods and have wondered if they should be avoided. These are derivatives of yeast that cannot be used as leavening agents. It would therefore be permissible to use a product containing yeast extracts provided, of course, that it does not contain any actual leavening agent. Some people also buy brewer's yeast from health food stores. This form of yeast is totally dead and should not therefore be considered as leaven. It should also be mentioned that cream of tartar, by itself, is not a leavening agent either.
   Occasionally a question comes up about beer or other fermented drinks. There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture to indicate any restriction on the kind of beverages we consume during the Days of Unleavened Bread — no mention of these being the "Days of Unleavened Beverages." The fact is that in all cases where the Days of Unleavened Bread are mentioned, the reference is always to the example set by the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt without any leaven in their dough (see Exodus 12:39). There is no reference to the invisible yeast or result of it in either beer, wine or other beverages.
   Naturally fermented wine was customarily consumed by the Israelites at God's festivals. If God had intended a ban on fermented beverages during the Days of Unleavened Bread, it would undoubtedly have been mentioned. In fact, such mention would have been necessary. Yet the command adds no more than is found in Exodus 13:6-7: "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread... and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters."
   If you are unsure about any particular food and unable to find the answer, you should refrain from eating it, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23).
   If partway through the Feast you find some leavened product that somehow escaped your scrutiny, put it off your property immediately. This is a type of those hidden sins that we don't always discover upon conversion. We must keep on putting out sin (leaven) until the process is complete, as is signified by the very fact that there are seven — the complete number — Days of Unleavened Bread.
   God intended the Days of Unleavened Bread to be a type to remind us that we are to be unleavening our lives spiritually by putting out the spiritual leaven of sin — not for seven days only, but throughout our entire lives! "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. 5:8).

   Matthew 26:17 calls the Passover a day of unleavened bread. Please explain.

   Leavened bread may be eaten on the Passover day. But because unleavened bread was used in the actual Passover meal, the day of the Passover came to be considered "the day of unleavened bread" (Luke 22:7). The day of the Passover is a time when all leavened bread is to be put out of the home in preparation for the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) that immediately follow (Ex. 12:18-19).
   The noted Jewish historian Josephus, who lived in the same century as Christ, tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted for seven days — from the 15th day to the 21 st day of the first month. The Passover preceded the Feast, being on the 14th day. However, the entire eight-day Spring Festival was commonly called "The Feast of Unleavened Bread" — that is, from the 14th to the 2lst. (See Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, chapter XV, Book III, chapter X.)

   Is there biblical proof that the word even in Exodus 12:18 refers to the end of the 14th day of the month and not to its beginning? I thought each day begins at "even" as God counts time.

   The Hebrew word translated "even" in Exodus 12:18 means "dusk, evening, eventide." The evening mentioned here could just as well refer to the end of the 14th as well as its beginning. We must look at the context to see the intended meaning of this verse.
   Exodus 12:15, 19 and 13:6 all show there are only seven Days of Unleavened Bread. Scripture shows that the seven Days of Unleavened Bread do not begin on the 14th but rather on the 15th of the first month. Leviticus 23:5-6 clearly states: "In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread." Beginning with the 15th for seven days, ending with the 21st day, no leaven was to be eaten (Ex. 12:19-20).
   Another proof the Days of Unleavened Bread did not begin with the Passover is given in Numbers 28:16-18 "And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the Lord. And in the fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be eaten. In the first day shall be an holy convocation; ye shall do no manner of servile work therein."
   The Passover was not a holy convocation in which no servile work could be done. Instead of God's people coming together, the Passover was observed separately by families in private homes at night (Ex. 12:21-22). And instead of resting from servile work during the remaining daylight portion of the 14th, the Israelites busily spent the time getting ready to leave Egypt the following night (verses 33-39).
   It was the night following the 14th that Israel left Egypt. "And they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians" (Num. 33:3).
   Here, then, is the sequence of events: At the beginning of the 14th "in the evening," or as the Hebrew could be rendered, "between the two evenings" (Ex. 12:6), just at the time the 13th of the month was ending and the 14th was beginning, the Israelites killed and roasted the Passover lamb, and ate it with unleavened bread. They remained in their homes until the morning, which was still the 14th, when they went out and made ready to leave Egypt the next night, the beginning of the 15th.
   The 15th, then, is the first day of the seven Days of Unleavened Bread, when only unleavened bread was to be eaten. Unleavened bread was eaten at the Passover meal (Ex. 12:8), but the entire day was not made a feast day and there is no command that leaven could not be eaten following the Passover night. The seven Days of Unleavened Bread end with a Holy Day on the seventh of these days (Lev. 23:4-8).
   Thus, the Passover is not the first of the seven Days of Unleavened Bread. These days begin with the 15th and end with the 21 st day of the month.

   I noticed that Abib is the name of the first month of God's calendar (Ex. 13:4) and that Zif and Bul are the second and eighth months (I Kings 6:1, 38). Could you give me the names of the other months?

   The names you mentioned are Hebrew in origin. Babylonian names were given to the months when Judah was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. These names are still in use today, beginning with the first month: Nisan (Abib), Iyar (Zif), Sivan, Tammuz, Ab, Ellul, Tishri, Heshvan (Bul), Kislev, Tebeth, Shebat, Adar.
   There is nothing wrong.with these names since they are also used in the Bible (Neh. 2:1, Esther 3:7). The calendar itself was not changed after the captivity, only the names.

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Good News MagazineMarch 1981Vol XXVIII, No. 3ISSN 0432-0816