First, we should look at where the command to de-leaven our homes is mentioned in the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament.
We read in Exodus 12:15-20:
“Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.”
This is the first place where this is mentioned and the penalty for not complying was being “cut off” from the congregation. The Jews understood correctly that the removal of leaven would have to be completed “at the eve of this festival,” prior to the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread.
Adam Clarke’s commentary explains that “leaven was an emblem of sin, because it proceeded from corruption; and the putting away of this implied the turning to God with simplicity and uprightness of heart.” We should note, however, that the biblical passage, quoted above, does not specifically explain this meaning. As we will see, this will be explained later in Old Testament passages, and the full explanation can be found in the New Testament where the spirit of the law is discussed.
Exodus 13:3-10 also addresses de-leavening and abstaining from eating leavened products for seven days, while eating unleavened products:
“And Moses said to the people: ‘Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place. No leavened bread shall be eaten. On this day you are going out, in the month Abib. And it shall be, when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, “This is done because of what the LORD did for me when I came up from Egypt.” It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.”
Here it is stated that it was a sign and annual memorial when God brought them out of Egypt, which occurred on the First Day of Unleavened Bread, at night.
Another place speaking about eating unleavened products and abstaining from leaven for seven days is mentioned in Deuteronomy 16:3-4:
“You shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it, that is, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days…”
Notice the reference here to coming out of Egypt, where they had been held captive and had been afflicted for many years. The Church of God has understood that Egypt is used here as a type of sin and that the introduction of a little leaven to a clump of dough will eventually leaven the whole lump. This is further explained, for example, in 1 Corinthians 5:6:
“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
This is a clear reference to a little sin which, if not removed, will corrupt a person. It might even corrupt others in the church. If a person is sinning continually in plain sight and is not removed or “cut off” from the congregation, it might affect others. Paul is referring to this principle when he addressed a person having sexual relations with his mother or stepmother, which evil conduct was known, tolerated and even endorsed by some in the church.
Paul was aware of the danger of tolerating sinful behavior. If we do not put sin out of our lives, it could lead to our destruction and the destruction of others. Even a little sin or compromise can be catastrophic if not being dealt with. It is compared to leaven which puffs up both in its physical use and in a person’s life.
Notice the further instruction by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”
We are to de-leaven our homes and abstain from leavened products and thereby remind ourselves that we have to purge out the sin and disassociate ourselves from the sinner who, like a rotten apple, influences others. We are to get rid of sinful conduct, repent of it and be a new lump by becoming spiritually renewed before God. We must not justify sin or make excuses for the sin, but rather, we must eradicate it and replace it with righteous behavior.
Paul restated the same injunction in Galatians 5:9: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
The importance of removing leaven from our homes—a physical act—lies foremost in its spiritual application: It represents removing sin—a type of leaven—which, if not dealt with and repented of, can ultimately lead to the second death in the lake of fire.
There are several examples in the Bible where, if we are obedient in doing the physical things required of us, the spiritual meaning and understanding is revealed later. That is why obedience even in commanded physical matters is so important since it tests us to see if we will obey God in everything, and God can and will add the spiritual understanding in His due time.
Lead Writer: Rene Messier (Canada)