Why did God emphasise so much to the Israelites that the bread they were to make after leaving Egypt had to be without yeast? What’s the purpose of non-yeast bread?
Exodus 12 tells the story of the Israelite departure from Egypt. In this chapter there are 2 festivals spoken about – the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
The Passover was first celebrated on the night before the Israelite community left Egypt. However, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was not celebrated until the year after they had left Egypt, but it’s roots are found here, at the time they are just about to leave Egypt.
In Exodus 12:34-39 we find out the reason why there was no yeast in the bread when they left Egypt – because they didn’t have time to finish preparing the bread that they were making as they left Egypt in such a hurry, once Pharaoh gave the order that they could leave the country! So the lack of yeast is set within the context of God’s deliverance of His people.
Because leaven was prohibited on such a wide scale, it is likely that the process of leavening was associated with decomposition and putrification and therefore symbolised corruption and sin.(1)
In the New Testament we find a number of texts which point toward this nagative view of leaven. In Matthew 16:6,11,12 Jesus uses yeast as referring to the false teaching of the Pharisees.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:6-9 explictity links the leaven with sins and suggests that the post-resurrection people of God no longer need to celebrate the actual Feast of Unleavened Bread but rather “celebrate it” by putting aside malice and wickedness and living with sincerity and truth.
So, as we view the whole of the bible, we get the idea that the removing of yeast symbolises the deliverance and liberation of the people of God from sin.
As Seventh-day Adventists, when we celebrate the Footwashing and Communion services we bake the bread without yeast.
The reason for this is that the bread symbolises the body of Christ. Paul, this time in 1 Corinthians 11:24, reminds his people of the words of Jesus during the Last Supper. He quotes Jesus as having said in reference to the bread, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
So, Jesus Himself equates the bread of communion with His body, which was without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). Jesus’ life was perfect, He was without sin; hence the symbold of the body of Christ (the bread) is made without yeast.
So, what does this all mean to me, you might ask? So what?! Well, this is very much relevant to you and me!
It was only because Jesus was perfect and without sin (righteous) that He was about to take our unrighteousness (imperfection and with sin) and give us His righteousness, His perfection. Paul speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 5:21 when he says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righeousness of God.”
So, when we celebrate the communion service in our churches and take the bread without yeast, we are reminded of Jesus’ perfect sinless life, and it was only because of his perfect sinless life that he was able to take our sins upon Himself as our Saviour.
Thank you for asking such an amazing question which bring us to the heart of God’s love and sacrifice for us.
(1) The Abundant Life Bible Amplifier Exodus, Jon Dybdahl, p.111