That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
One of the traditions of the Passover meal is to eat unleavened bread. When the Hebrews left Egypt they were instructed by the Lord to eat unleavened bread that night with their Passover lamb and bitter herbs. In addition, they were not to eat leaven for another seven days (the Feast of Unleavened Bread).
Jews take this very seriously, in that they not only ensure they eat bread without leaven, they clear the entire home of leaven. Preparations for Passover usually begin up to a month prior to Passover in order to clean the home from top to bottom to ensure there is no leaven left. (For tips on preparing your home for Passover visit Preparations for Passover at Hebrew for Christians.)
While many know this tradition symbolizes the haste in which the Hebrews left Egypt, there is an even deeper meaning to be found.
Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast – as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
This passage is powerful, however understanding the underlying concepts makes it come even more alive.
The Hebrew word for leaven is chometz which means bitter or sour. In the Bible, leaven is almost always a symbol of sin. The Hebrew word for unleavened bread is matzo which means sweet, without sourness.
Jesus even refers to leaven as false doctrine and hypocrisy. (see Matthew 16:11-12, Mark 8:15 and Luke 12:1)
Why is leaven so often used to symbolize sin?
Just a little amount of leaven (yeast) permeates the entire batch and causes dough to rise and become puffed up. It adds volume to the bread while remaining at the same weight. This is similar to when we become prideful and puffed up, thinking we are more than we really are.
During the time of the first Passover Jewish women used the sourdough method of making bread. This consisted of tearing off a chunk of the raw dough to be set aside in a cool moist place prior to forming the dough into loaves to be baked. The next time a batch was prepared for baking, this chunk would be mixed in with the new dough of flour and water and a new chunk would be torn off and set aside for the next batch. By doing this each “generation” of bread was linked by common yeast spores to the previous loaves.
This parallels our sin nature passed down from Adam, which connects each of us to the rest of the human race. Sin left unchecked will quickly flourish and multiply, permeating the entire batch of dough (our life, our community, etc). By becoming a new batch without sin we become like unleavened bread, which is sweet with sincerity and truth, no longer full of malice and wickedness.
For the Hebrews, the putting away of leaven symbolized breaking the cycle of sin and starting a fresh new walk with the Lord. They put away the leaven not to become redeemed (this occurred when they spread the lamb’s blood on their doorposts) but because they were redeemed!