The Feast of Unleavened Bread
“Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed, Messiah (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”
(I Corinthians 5:7-8).
As we write, it is the morning of Passover in Jerusalem. Jewish citizens are bustling around the markets, getting last-minute vegetables for the seder this evening. In many homes there has been Passover-cleaning (a bit like “spring cleaning” in the west!) going on for weeks. During the last couple of days and this morning the focus has come down to the Biblical instruction, “no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days.” (Deut. 16:4). Yesterday and this morning, one may see, in many places round the city—in fields, even on street corners (see below)—small fires set up by observant Jews. These serve as posts to which last remnants of hametz (leavening agents or food containing them) may be brought to be disposed of. This all in preparation for the beginning this evening of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hebrew: Chag- Matzot).
For seven days, in observant homes there will be no bread made with yeast. There are a growing number of “breads” without yeast now available. And there are many recipes for cooking or baking with matza meal, void of rising agents. But there will be no regular bread—and in Jerusalem, most stores have placed paper screens over the sections containing yeast—so that for a week it will not “be seen.”
Destroying hametz (there is a fire in the brown barrel)
on the corner of Bethlehem & Judah streets in Jerusalem.
For some it may come as a surprise to discover that the Scriptures actually have quite a bit more to say regarding observance of the “Week of Matza” than they do regarding the annual observance of “Passover” (the seder meal) itself. When grouped with Shavuot (Pentecost) and Succot (Tabernacles) as one of the major festivals requiring annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, this one is always referred to as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” (Exodus 23:14-15; Exodus 34:18-22; Deut. 16:16; II Chron. 8:13). Passover was one evening, the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted an entire week. All leaven (hametz) was to be cleaned out of the house, none was to “be seen” in Jewish dwellings from the beginning of the feast on Passover evening through to its end a week later. For all that week, the people were to eat a different kind of bread!
Looking Back and Looking Forward
On Passover evening, we look back—remembering Israel’s deliverance from judgment, when the LORD went through Egypt and slew the firstborn. We drink the fruit of the vine, and we remember the blood shed by the sacrificed “Pesah” lamb, whose mark over and around our doors protected us. And believers recognize a prophetic significance in this lamb, for Israel and all humankind—the coming “Lamb of God,” who would carry away the sin of the world. (John 1:29).
As, on this same evening we begin eating Unleavened Bread, we also look back—to the “bread of affliction” carried by the Hebrews as the LORD that night delivered His people in haste out of bondage in Egypt (Deut. 16:3). And we begin a full week of seeing how the Matzah “looked forward” as another wonderful prophetic picture—to the coming Messiah, the “Father’s Bread” who would come down from Heaven to provide us throughout our weeks with an eternal nourishment!
Throughout the year, Israel was free to eat normal bread. However, in order to make it rise, a different “life” from outside was required to be added to the dough. But that life-agent itself would not last for long on its own. Once yeast has become old, we say that it is “dead.”
For one “complete” week out of the year, Israel was to eat bread which did not have this “outside life” added to it. There is a picture here—“man (Hebrew: “the Adam”) does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8.3). From the Father would come forth “Living Bread”…to provide us with heavenly life for every day of our week! This “Living Bread” did not have any temporary, foreign agent in it! His name was Yeshua—and He was Life! He was actually born in Beit-Lehem (Hebrew: House of Bread). He called Himself the “Bread of God” sent down by the Father to give life to the world…And He promised that whoever partakes of this bread will live forever (John 6:34-33, 58).
* That as Israel enters and progresses through these seven days of “Unleavened Bread”—she will have a hunger awakened within her – with heavenly illumination– for the Bread which came down from Heaven.
* For the illumination of the Holy Spirit to grant understanding as His Word is read around seder tables, and throughout the week (see below)—pointing Israel and the world to the Lamb who was slain for our salvation from sin, to the Bread of Heaven who was bodily raised from the dead—providing eternal life for all who will believe.
* Divine Protection over Israel throughout this week, when children are out of school and much of Israel is enjoying a holiday.
PESAH S’ME’AKH! A HAPPY PASSOVER WEEK