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Bible Terms

Bible Term: Yeast

Yeast is used symbolically in the Bible to represent influence, often negatively. Just as a little bit of yeast, permeates dough and produces a noticeable result, so does influence, be it good or bad.

In the Books of Moses, there are thirty-two references to not using yeast (and more for it’s counterpart, leaven) in various religious practices, which symbolically shows the removal of sin. The theme continues in Judges 6:19, I Samuel 28:24, and Ezekiel 45:21. (Leviticus 7:13 and 23:17 are two exceptions, when yeast should be used.)

Paul compares false teaching to yeast (Galatians 5:9).

Another negative connotation is when Jesus says to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), as well as the yeast of Sadducees (Matthew 16:6-12) and the yeast of Herod (Mark 8:14-15).

Another reference to yeast is in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, where Paul uses yeast as a metaphor for boasting. Paul says to get rid of bread with old yeast (malice and wickedness) and use new bread without yeast (sincerity and truth).

In likely the only positive usage of yeast in the Bible, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God (Heaven) is like yeast (Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:18-21).

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Bible Terms

Bible Term: Unleavened

Unleavened bread is made without yeast, or leaven, so that it will not rise. It is more like a cracker than bread.

The Jews celebrated Passover using unleavened bread. It symbolically represents the haste in which they left Egypt after the first Passover celebration (that is, they did not have time for the bread to rise).

Today, some followers of Jesus carry this practice over to communion, by using unleavened bread or crackers.

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Bible Terms

Bible Term: Leaven

Leaven is a food ingredient that causes dough to rise via fermentation. Yeast is a common leavening ingredient.

Use of the word leaven is found mostly in the Books of Moses in the Old Testament, whereas yeast is used throughout the Bible.

See the entry for yeast for more information about the symbolic meaning of leaven and yeast, us well as unleavened.