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Mini Bible Study

The Story Behind the Days of Unleavened Bread

by Ryan P. Denee

Every spring, the true Christian stands out from the world around him. He can be seen vigorously cleaning his entire home, contorting himself into his car to make sure every nook and cranny is clean, and saying “No, thank you” to complimentary bread at restaurants.

While members of God’s Church understand the meaning behind these actions—removing spiritual leaven from their lives—there is much more to the story.

The spring Holy Days depict the beginning of God’s plan for salvation. The season begins with the Passover. Professing Christianity incorrectly claims that upon acceptance of that sacrifice, the only remaining obligation is to “just believe.” Although genuine belief is crucial, there is much more to do in order to qualify for eternal life.

The sacrifice of Christ covers the sins of those who truly repent. Once someone has come under the blood of Christ, having been forgiven of past sins, he has the opportunity for a new start. The very process of coming out of sin is what true Christians must do once their slate has been wiped clean.

Even before coming under the sacrifice of Christ, a Christian has to acknowledge—and regret—having sinned as a way of life before being called. The process of coming out of sin is not instantaneous. It requires many years of overcoming and building character.

The meaning behind the Days of Unleavened Bread shows us what we must do!

(1) What does God command us to do during the Days of Unleavened Bread? Exodus 13:6-10; Deuteronomy 16:3-4. Were the Days of Unleavened Bread only to be kept for a limited time? Exodus 12:17.

God’s people, the Israelites, were commanded to put leaven out of their homes, off their property, and to instruct their children why they were doing this. It was to remind them of their exodus from Egypt. In addition, they were commanded to eat unleavened bread for seven days. God’s people today follow these same instructions, as they are an ordinance to be kept forever.

(2) Does God command that the first day and seventh day of Unleavened Bread be observed as Holy Days—times of commanded assembly? Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 28:17-18, 25.

The first and seventh days are Holy Days, in which no servile work is to be done. They are days on which we are commanded to assemble. God’s people are also to give special offerings on these days.

(3) Did Jesus’ parents keep the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread? Luke 2:41-43. Did Jesus observe the Days of Unleavened Bread as an adult? Mark 14:1-2, 12-16.

These verses show that Christ kept the Days of Unleavened Bread throughout His childhood. The statement, “when they had fulfilled the days” (Luke 2:43), means the day of the Passover and the seven Days of Unleavened Bread.

Later in His life, Jesus directed His disciples to make arrangements for the Passover meal (Mark 14:12-16). The same God, who commanded Passover be observed forever, also commanded that His people keep the Days of Unleavened Bread as an ordinance forever.

This command also requires that we eat unleavened bread each of the seven days (Ex. 13:6-10).

(4) Does the New Testament contain an explicit command to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread? I Corinthians 5:7-8. Did the apostles observe the Days of Unleavened Bread after Christ’s Resurrection? Acts 12:3; 20:6.

Paul expressed that we are to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (We will discuss the central meaning of leavening in more detail later.)

Luke records that the true Church observed the Spring Holy Days (Acts 12:3). Likewise, the Holy Day season was referenced again when Luke later traveled with Paul in Asia Minor (Acts 20:6).

(5) How does Egypt play a significant role in the meaning of these days? What does Egypt symbolize? Revelation 11:8; Hebrews 11:24-27. How was Israel treated in Egypt? Exodus 1:11, 13-14 and 2:23.

In Revelation 11:8, the great city (referring to Jerusalem—Revelation 16:19) in its sinful state was spiritually compared to Sodom and Egypt. In Hebrews 11:24-27, we find that Moses rejected the pleasures of sin that Egypt offered—choosing to obey God and suffer along with His people, while looking beyond the attraction of this temporary, evil world. Egypt signifies this world, with all of its enticing pleasures of the flesh—all of them sin!

The Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Since Adam, the entire world has suffered under the bondage of sin. Yet we have been given the opportunity to leave Egypt and the bondage of sin.

(6) Where did the Israelites begin their exodus out of Egypt and how did they get to the edge of the Red Sea? Numbers 33:1-7; Exodus 14:1-2.

The Israelites began from Rameses, located in the land of Goshen, where they lived. After approaching the Egyptians on the day of Passover to “borrow” (Ex. 11:2) treasures from them (actually to receive the fair wages they never received as slaves), they assembled on the night beginning the 15th of Abib—the “Night to Be Much Observed.”

We are to commemorate this event today by sharing a special meal on the evening beginning the Days of Unleavened Bread. Instead of solely focusing on Israel leaving Egypt, however, we are to also remember how God brought us out of the world’s sinful ways.

As Israel left Egypt, the pillar of cloud/fire first formed over them, providing them shade by day and light by night (Ex. 12:42, 13:21-22).

Soon after gathering and organizing according to tribes, they set off on their journey, and continued traveling throughout the coming days until they reached the Red Sea.

(7) After Israel left, did God cause Pharaoh to have a change of heart? Exodus 14:8. Did the people of Israel panic upon learning that they were trapped by the Egyptians? Exodus 14:10-12.

As Israel was escaping Egypt, it appeared that the Egyptians had trapped them between the Red Sea to the east and the Pihahiroth mountains to the south (Ex. 14:2-4).

Pharaoh intended to destroy as many helpless Israelites as possible with his well-equipped army—the most powerful in the world at that time.

Flavius Josephus recorded that the Egyptian army that chased Israel included 600 chariots, 50,000 horsemen, and 200,000 footmen (Antiquities of the Jews). Pharaoh pursued those leaving the bondage of Egypt just as Satan attempts to block anyone’s efforts to flee the bondage of sin.

As Egypt typifies sin, so Pharaoh is a type of Satan.

(8) How did Israel escape deadly entrapment by the Egyptians? Exodus 14:13-16.

Only by God parting the Red Sea was Israel delivered from the Egyptians. The seven Days of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:15) picture leaving spiritual Egypt and completely coming out of sin.

Departing from Egypt required effort from Israel as well as God’s intervention. Likewise, we have to exert sustained, persistent effort with God’s help to put sin out of our lives.

(9) Did the apostle Paul have to address a particularly grievous sin in Corinth around the time of the Days of Unleavened Bread? I Corinthians 5:1. Did the brethren, who tolerated such sin, consider themselves to be especially forgiving and righteous? I Corinthians 5:2. What did Paul command to be done with the offender in this matter? I Corinthians 5:4-5. What did he say someone in this puffed up condition should do? I Corinthians 5:6-7.

After condemning their puffed up condition, Paul warned that even a tiny amount of leaven can leaven a large amount of dough, just as the smallest sin can corrupt one’s character. He then charged them to purge out old leavening.

Paul emphasized the importance of putting away the spiritual leaven of sin, pride and self-righteousness. This analogy would have been useless if brethren had not been familiar with the annual act of eliminating physical leaven during this season.

(10) Having put away old leavening, both physically and spiritually, what did Paul command brethren to do next? I Corinthians 5:8.

Paul explicitly commanded the Corinthian brethren to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. The old leavening, which was thrown out, represents malice and wickedness, while an unleavened condition represents sincerity and truth.

The meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread defines what God expects of His people—we are to put out sin as a way of life!

Every spring, God wants us to go through the physical task of removing leaven from our homes. Yet He does not want us to focus on that physical task only, but also to be reminded of the greater spiritual meaning of these days.

Before being called, we were in bondage to sin. Our calling was our exodus from Egypt—sin.

For the rest of our lives, we must clean sin out of our character. We must replace it with God’s holy, righteous character so we will be able to be part of His Family!