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Unleavened Bread

Unleavened Bread
By Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
July  2007

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New is no recipe in the New Testament for "unleavened bread" as used in the Passover and in the Lord's supper, therefore we must look to the Old Testament to find how unleavened bread was made. Unleavened bread was, as we shall notice, either a loaf made with a mixture of flour and water, or a loaf of a mixture of flour and water mixed with olive oil, or a loaf made with a mixture of flour and water and anointed with olive oil. All three were unleavened, because no leaven was used at all.
"Nazarite" is the Hebrew word, for such Israelites as took on them the vow prescribed in Numbers 6:2-21. (Please read this passage). The word denotes generally one who is separated from others and consecrated to God Although there is no mention of Nazarite before Samson, yet it is evident that they existed before the time of Moses. The vow of a Nazarite involved these three things, (1) abstinence from wine and strong drink, (2) refraining from cutting the hair off the head during the whole period of the continuance of the vow, and (3) the avoidance of contact with the dead.

Among the acts that were to be performed to indicate that the individuals were taking upon themselves the vow of a Nazarite were certain prescribed animals to be offered to the Lord along with "a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened wafers spread with oil" (verse 15). Again animals were to be sacrificed "together with the basket of unleavened cakes" according to verse 17. Verses 17-19 says that at the dedication of each Nazarite's hair at the doorway of the tent there the priest was to take the ram's shoulder when it had been boiled, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them on the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his dedicated hair...." Along with all the other elements of the necessary ceremony, unleavened bread was carried.
According to all the definitions we can find on the unleavened bread commonly eaten by Isralites and used in the ceremonies of the Old Testament, it was "bread baked without using leaven, a substance such as yeast which produces fermentation in dough. Unleavened bread was often served to guests (Genesis 19:3; Judges 6:19; 1 Samuel 28:24). The eating of unleavened bread took on special significance through the Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated in connection with the Passover (Exodus 12:8,15,20; 13:3,6--7).
The term "cake" simply referred more to the shape of a loaf of bread (flat and round) than to the type of batter or dough used to make the loaf. The word "wafer" was used in reference to the thin cakes (Exodus 16:31; 29:2,23; Leviticus 2:4; 7:12; 8:26; Numbers 6:15,19) used in various offerings.
Oil was an indispensable commodity in the Ancient Near East for food, medicine, fuel, and ritual. Oil was considered a blessing given by God (Deuteronomy 11:14), and the olive tree was a characteristic of the land which God gave to Israel according to Deuteronomy 8:8.
In Bible times domestic oil was prepared from olives. Sometimes oil was combined with perfumes and used as a cosmetic (Esther 2:12). The extraction of oil from olives is abundantly confirmed by archaeological findings of stone presses found at several sites in Palestine. This oil, called "beaten oil," was lighter and considered the best oil. After the beaten oil was extracted, another grade of oil was produced by heating the pulp and pressing it again.
Domestic oil was stored in small cruses, pots, or jars (1 Kings 17:12; 2 Kings 4:2). Oil used in religious ceremonies was also kept in horns (1 Samuel 16:13). In Bible times oil was used in a variety of ways; but, most often, oil was used in the preparation of food, taking the place of animal fat. Oil was used with meal in the preparation of cakes (Numbers 11:8; 1 Kings 17:12--16) and with honey (Ezekiel 16:13), flour (Leviticus 2:1,4), and wine (Revelation 6:6). Oil was used as fuel for lamps, both in homes (Matthew 25:3) and in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:6).

Oil was extensively used in religious ceremonies. The morning and evening sacrifices required, in addition to the lambs, a tenth of a measure of fine flour and a fourth of a hin of beaten oil. Other cereal offerings also required oil. Oil was used during the offering of purification from leprosy. In the New Testament, oil was used to anoint a body in preparation for burial (Matthew 26:12; Mark 14:8).
Several persons in the Old Testament were anointed with oil: kings (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13), priests (Leviticus 8:30), and possibly prophets (1 Kings. 19:16; Isaiah 61:1). Some objects were also anointed in dedication to God: the tabernacle and all its furniture (Exodus 40:9--11), the shields of soldiers (2 Samuel 1:21; Isaiah 21:5), altars (Leviticus 8:10-11), and pillars (Genesis 35:14).
As medicine, oil or ointment was used in the treatment of wounds (Isaiah 1:6) and in the case of "the good Samaritan (Luke 10:34). When the elders of thechurch were called by the sick man to pray for his recovery the medicinal use of oil is referred to in James 5:14.
Oil was used cosmetically as protection against the scorching sun or the dryness of the desert (Ruth 3:3; Ecc. 9:8). Since olives were found in abundance in Palestine, olive oil was even used as a commodity of trade (1 Kings 5:11; Ezekiel 27:17; Hosea 12:1).
Oil was regarded as a symbol of honor (Judges 9:9), while virtue was compared to perfumed oil (Song of Solomon 1:3; Ecclesiastes 7:1). The abundance of oil was a demonstration of blessing and prosperity (Job 29:6); Joel 2:24). However, as a symbol of affluence, oil was also associated with the arrogance of the rich (Hebrew: "valley of oil"; KJV: "fat valley," Isaiah 28:1,4). Oil was a symbol of joy and gladness (Psalms 45:7), and in time of sorrow, anointing with oil was not practiced (2 Samuel 14:2).

When God instructed the Israelites on the observance of the "Passover" in Exodus 12, we read about the sacrifice of the pascal lamb and in verse 8 it says, "And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it." The ceremony was to be carried on for a week prior to the sacrifice of the lamb. "Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel" (12:15). During that period they were commanded, "Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread" (12:20). No one in the land was to eat leavened bread during that time.
According to Exodus 13:3, "And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten." This was a sign of their remembrance of what God did for them in order to escape the slavery of Egypt. All during their long history they were to observe, "Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD... Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters."

Since Christ instituted the Lord's supper in the upper room at the eating of the Passover, the only bread allowed to be eaten was "unleavened bread." This period was called the "feast of unleavened bread" (Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; Luke 22:1, 7). There were seven days that the Jews ate no other kind of bread. This period was referred to as "the days of unleavened bread" (Acts 12:3; 20:6).
Leaven was a type of sin. The New Testament refers to sin as leavenó "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ 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 of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). The apostle again uses the illustration to show that corrupt teaching will lead everyone in the congregation astray using this same axiom, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9).
Today, our stated intent is to do Scriptural things in Scriptural ways. Since the Lord himself used unleavened bread, and the apostles instructed the early church to use it, we will continue to use unleavened bread in the Lord's Supper. This, we have seen, is in total harmony with the teachings of the Scriptures.

"He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker: He who is glad in clamity will not go unpuniched" (Proverbs 17:5).  Disciples donít get depressed over sickness and death of Godís children, but they do "weep with those who weep."