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Bible verses about Days of Unleavened Bread
(From Forerunner Commentary)

All four gospel writers mention that Jesus was tried, convicted, crucified, and buried on a preparation day. Without any further clarification, one would assume that they meant a Friday, the weekly preparation day before the Sabbath. But can other days be considered preparation days as well?

Yes, indeed! God Himself gave the instructions about the use of the preparation day to the Israelites before they reached Mount Sinai (Exodus 16:23). The Jews later considered this to be so important that they made sure each of the holy days, which are also Sabbaths, was preceded by a preparation day. Since the holy days can fall on any day of the week, the preparation day can fall on any day of the week as well.

This is very relevant to the Passover. Not only is the Passover a festival in its own right, it also functions as the preparation day for a holy day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to the calculated Hebrew Calendar, Passover can fall on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Sabbath.

Clearly, our Savior was crucified on a Passover day (Matthew 26:2). Thus, it was on one of these days of the week that Jesus was killed and buried.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Few people realize that Jesus Christ fulfilled an Old Testament festival upon being resurrected. This festival, in which a priest waved "a sheaf of the firstfruits of [Israel's] harvest" before the Lord, was held each year on the day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:10-11). Thus, a priest would have conducted this wavesheaf ceremony on the day after Christ's resurrection.

During this period, according to the Mishnah, the sheaf to be waved in the ceremony was reaped from the field as the Sabbath ended and Sunday began. "R. Hananiah, Prefect of the Priests, says, 'On the Sabbath it [the barley] was reaped.' . . . On the Sabbath, he [the priest] says to them, '[Shall I reap on] this Sabbath?' They shall say, 'Yes'" (Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation, "Menahoth," p. 753-754). So, at dusk at the end of the Sabbath, the priest "put the sickle to the grain" (Deuteronomy 16:9). When was the sheaf waved? Histories of the time show that it was waved about the same time as the daily morning sacrifice, that is, about 9 AM on Sunday.

The reaping and waving of the sheaf symbolized Israel giving the first and best of the harvest to God and its subsequent acceptance by Him. It is exactly this symbolism that Jesus fulfilled! As the weekly Sabbath was ending, exactly 72 hours from His burial, God resurrected Him from the dead! God "reaped" the first and best of His spiritual harvest (I Corinthians 15:23).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Passover pictures the first major step in God's plan of salvation, justification through the forgiveness of sin by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Days of Unleavened Bread explain and memorialize the second major step in salvation, sanctification. When God sanctifies us, He separates us for holy use. After cleansing us at Passover, He sets us apart and considers us to be holy. The problem is, though, that our human nature remains intact and resists holiness.

When the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, a type of baptism, they were symbolically washed and sanctified as a holy people to God. However, they began to murmur and rebel almost immediately. Why? Because they still had their slave mentality; they were not yet accustomed to providing for themselves. They were frightened and intimidated, and they voiced their desire to return to their bondage in Egypt.

We also find it very easy to return to old, sinful habits and erroneous ways of thinking. God commands us to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread yearly to remind us to continue to fight free of the bondage to Satan's world and our own carnal nature so that we can truly escape slavery with a high hand.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Passover and Unleavened Bread are separate festivals, each with a different focus but related to the other. To blend them to the point of making them one festival stretches the Scriptures and introduces confusion into the instruction. The Pharisees did this and proved that the mixture produces weakness, not strength. Thus Passover, even when it occurs on a weekly Sabbath, is never legally part of the Days of Unleavened Bread and cannot be used for determining wavesheaf day. If one uses it as the starting point, it places the wavesheaf offering on a Sabbath in violation of the instruction in Leviticus 23:11 and Deuteronomy 16:9, which show it must be after the Sabbath and on a common workday.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Genesis 17:23   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Comparing Genesis 17:23; Exodus 12:41; and Galatians 3:16-18, we have evidence of a significant Genesis event that later became a festival date, and thus it is important to Christianity. Exodus 12:2-6 dates the Passover on the fourteenth of Abib. Israel left Egypt on the next day, the fifteenth. Verse 41 strongly suggests that the Exodus was 430 years to the very day from when Abraham made the covenant with God which was sealed by the patriarch's circumcision. Galatians 3 reinforces the link between the events of the Exodus (Paul sums them up in the term "the law," which was given about two months after leaving Egypt), the 430 years and God's covenant with Abraham. These verses confirm that the Abrahamic covenant, the introduction of circumcision, and Israel's going out of Egypt took place on Abib 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Exodus 12:15-18   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God has ordained a particular numbered day for these holy convocations, the fifteenth and twenty-first days of Abib/Nisan. It is impossible for both of these holy convocations to fall on the seventh-day Sabbath. Even if the fifteenth fell on a Saturday, the twenty-first would occur on the following Friday. By itself, this disproves the notion that all Sabbaths must fall on the seventh day.

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Exodus 12:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When God called Israel out of Egypt, He commanded them to observe the seven Days of Unleavened Bread. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that God expects Christians to keep this festival. Paul writes, "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Corinthians 5:8).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Exodus 12:15   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The English phrases, "from your houses" (Exodus 12:15) and "in your houses," (verse 19) derive from a single Hebrew word, bayith, which can also mean "homes," "households," or "families."

Exodus 13:7 expands on this: "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." The English words "your quarters" come from the Hebrew word gebul, which can mean "borders," "coasts," "bounds," "landmarks," "space," "limit," "territory," and "region."

God's instruction shows that we should deleaven all the areas for which we are responsible. Obviously, this includes our homes, but what about our cars, garages, yards, and workspaces? Should we deleaven them? Where do our "quarters" end?

Many centuries ago Galileo wrote, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." God expects His people to be sensible. He should not have to explain every single detail for long-time members of His church. He does not expect us to deleaven areas where there has been no chance of leaven getting into it. Think about it! Is it possible that leavened products have made their way into the downstairs bathroom or into the tool cupboard or work bench? Does anyone ever eat in the car? Have groceries been carried in the trunk? Has anyone eaten in the office? Are we sure?

If a person has young children, of course, there can be no guarantees! But if we are absolutely sure that no leaven has been taken into an area over which we have responsibility, then there is no need to deleaven it! Our time at this period of the year is so valuable. Why waste any of it? We would spend it better preparing for the Passover and searching for spiritual leaven.

Staff
The Five Ws of Deleavening


 

Exodus 12:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does God really want us to be deleavening on the First Day of Unleavened Bread? Verse 16 clarifies what He means: "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."

This "first day" is the first holy day of God's annual holy day season. He commands His people to hold special church services and to do no work other than what is necessary to prepare food. Even for ancient Israelites living in tents, this forbade deleavening work on the holy day. The phrase "On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses" might therefore be better translated, "You shall have removed leaven from your houses by the first day." Verses 18 and 19 make this even clearer.

All leaven must be off our property by the sunset that closes Abib/Nisan 14. This sunset marks the Night to be Much Observed and the beginning of the First Day of Unleavened Bread. Many brethren, however, choose to have their deleavening work completed a little earlier so that they can spend more time preparing spiritually for Passover and physically for the Night to be Much Observed. We should permit no leaven on our property until after the sunset that closes Abib 21, which is the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.

Staff
The Five Ws of Deleavening


 

Exodus 12:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The words "the Feast of" are not in the Hebrew of verse 17, but were added by the translators. God says here that His people are to keep the annual practice of deleavening because He brought His Old Testament church out of Egypt (verse 39). We find later that this great and miraculous event symbolized freeing His New Testament church from sin. Many scriptures show that both Egypt and leaven are symbols of sin.

Did God really intend His people to observe this practice forever, as we read in verse 17, or was it nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ? These three scriptures from the early church after Jesus' crucifixion show that it is indeed a New Testament practice:

» And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, [Herod] proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. (Acts 12:3)
» But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread. . . . (Acts 20:6)
» Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 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. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)

We know that Jesus kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and perhaps what is more important for our example, these scriptures prove that His early New Testament church kept it after His death, resurrection, and ascension.

Staff
The Five Ws of Deleavening


 

Exodus 12:19-20   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Exodus involved a great deal of urgency and haste. With Egypt virtually destroyed, the Egyptians urged the Israelites to leave lest further devastation occur. However, God knew Egypt would not long tolerate the loss of her slaves or delay in seeking vengeance. The window of opportunity for escape would quickly close! They did not even have time to let their bread rise! Biblically, leaven represents sin. Once we are converted, we must diligently endeavor to rid ourselves of sin and live God's pure way of life (I Corinthians 5:8). Like the Israelites, we must flee from sin, lest it pursue and destroy us (Matthew 12:43-45).

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 12:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are seven days of Unleavened Bread but only one day of Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Atonement. God knows that we tend to change slowly. He gives us seven days each year to concentrate on our duty to rid our lives of sin. Those acts that are God's responsibility - the sacrifice of one for all sin, the sending of His Spirit, the resurrection of the dead, or the binding of Satan - He can accomplish in one day. The part that involves mankind's participation - overcoming sin - requires more time and attention. The Days of Unleavened Bread represent a period of judgment when man is required to overcome. To us, overcoming a deep-seated sin can seem to take an eternity! The obvious lesson is that we must draw much nearer to the Source of the power to overcome.

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 12:19   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People frequently joke about having eaten something leavened during the Days of Unleavened Bread. However, notice how serious this is to God. At the very least, "cut off" means to be excommunicated from camp, and at its most extreme it implies being put to death! Could it be that we do not take sin and holiness as seriously as God does?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Exodus 12:40-42   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Exodus 12:40-42 is describing the Night To Be Much Observed, not the Passover night. There is a reason why God established two different festivals. The first, Passover, on the 14th of Nisan, begins in the evening, that is, at the beginning of the day with the killing of the lamb.

The killing of the lamb has a specific focus, the death of the Savior, showing that we have a part in His death. The second part of the ritual, the eating of the lamb, emphasizes the more important continuance of the relationship. When a person ingests food, he receives energy, and his life is sustained. This is the symbolic meaning of eating the lamb.

Nisan 15—the First Day of Unleavened Bread, when the exodus occurred—emphasizes the action required to keep the relationship going and growing. That is our part. We have to get up and do something; we have to leave Egypt, a type of leaving sin.

We are dealing with two different festivals with two altogether different focuses.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed


 

Exodus 13:8-9   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Days of Unleavened Bread are a memorial to God's law and to His powerful deliverance from Egypt and bondage. Paul explains this significance to the Corinthians and the urgency attached to cease sinning. He says we should not even keep company with a brother involved in flagrant sin! Also, by ridding our homes of sin, we realize that overcoming sin is hard work!

Staff
Holy Days: Unleavened Bread


 

Exodus 16:4-5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Clearly, God allows the people to gather manna on the first through sixth days of the week. However, on the sixth day He tells them to gather twice as much, as well as to prepare what they would eat on the seventh day. Historically, then, the day before a Sabbath (Friday) was a preparation day.

But is the preparation day only for weekly Sabbaths? No! From the example of the holy days (see the notes at Exodus 12:15-18), a preparation day can fall on any day except Saturday! The Passover itself occurs the day before the first day of Unleavened Bread, a Sabbath, making it a preparation day.

Staff
Was Jesus Resurrected on Easter Sunday?


 

Leviticus 23:10-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Following the basic instructions about Pentecost's location on the calendar in Leviticus 23:10-16, we find that when Israel came into Canaan, they were to count beginning with the day following a Sabbath. Without further instruction, there could be a whole year's worth of Sabbaths to choose from! However, within Leviticus 23, the annual Sabbaths are arranged chronologically beginning with Nisan (also called Abib). This, combined with information obtained from other portions of the Bible, has led all concerned to conclude that the Sabbath in question is early in the year, located near the beginning of a spring harvest, and is one of three within the Days of Unleavened Bread. The church of God and the various sects of the Jews are in agreement on this.

The count is to continue fifty days with the fiftieth day being the Day of Pentecost. As a Greek word, the name Pentecost does not appear in the Old Testament, only in the New, and it means "fiftieth." In the Old Testament, Pentecost is called "the Feast of Weeks" or "the Feast of Firstfruits."

Carefully note that God points only to a Sabbath—it must first be found—in order to begin the count. This fits nicely within God's directive in Exodus 31:13 that the Sabbath is a sign between Him and His people. Day One of the count does not begin with a Sabbath, but with the day following it. However, without first isolating which Sabbath, one cannot know which "morrow"—which day after. If one does not use the correct Sabbath, it may set Pentecost's observance as much as seven days off God's intended target.

The Sabbath in question here can be neither the First nor the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, though both are annual Sabbaths. Why? Because using either of those holy days, both of which fall on fixed dates, effectively eliminates a person's need to count! This is because, when one begins counting fifty days from a fixed date, one will always end on a fixed date.

If we begin to count with the day following Nisan 15 (the First Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always end on Sivan 6. If we commence our count on the day following Nisan 21 (the Last Day of Unleavened Bread), we will always finish on Sivan 12. If God wanted us to observe Pentecost on a fixed date, He would have told us so, even as He did with all the other festival dates in Leviticus 23.

One man suggested that counting from a fixed date is still counting. Yes, that is true. But if one does that, the count only has to be done once in all of history, and Pentecost's location is found forever. The man's suggestion is similar to interpreting that the command to eat unleavened bread during the Days of Unleavened Bread no longer applies because the Israelites did it when they first came out of Egypt! Even as unleavened bread must be eaten each year, the clear implication from Leviticus 23 is that God wants us to count to Pentecost afresh each year.

God wants us to count to Pentecost year-by-year beginning with the day following a Sabbath whose date changes from year to year. This can only be the weekly Sabbath that falls on or between the two holy days during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The starting point has been located. Even though the count does not actually begin with the Sabbath, the Sabbath's location is of primary importance, not the day after. The day after would never be located without first locating the correct Sabbath.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Leviticus 23:10-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Less than 13% of the time in the last century, Passover has fallen on a weekly Sabbath. The conclusion reached by some church of God groups on when to begin the count destroys unity on this issue. A weekly Sabbath Passover causes the next day, a Sunday, to be the First Day of Unleavened Bread and thus a holy day Sabbath. The practice of beginning the count to Pentecost on this day began in 1974 in the Worldwide Church of God and has been continued by several groups following Herbert Armstrong's death.

However, a number of things are wrong with the conclusion to begin counting with this day.

First, we are warned in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Revelation 22:18 neither to add nor to take away anything from God's Word. There is no command or example anywhere in Scripture that the sheaf must be waved during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Instead, the implication of Leviticus 23 is that the weekly Sabbath's location within the Days of Unleavened Bread is of primary importance, as the instructions in verses 10-11, 15-16 show.

Second, Passover, though it falls on a weekly Sabbath occasionally, never qualifies as a weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:5-6 clearly states that "on the fourteenth day of the first month . . . is the Lord's Passover," and "on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread." That Passover and Unleavened Bread are adjacent to each other is patently true, but they are separate festivals with distinctly different teaching. Passover teaches us of the death of our Savior to cover our sins. The Days of Unleavened Bread instruct us to come out of sin, to overcome and grow from the trials of daily life.

Passover is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread, and therefore the Sabbath it infrequently falls on does not qualify as a weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. To use it so is inconsistent with the counting pattern used in the other 87% of years. Furthermore, Wavesheaf Day is directly attached to Pentecost?the former begins the count, the latter concludes it. In addition, both days involve harvest symbolism. Wavesheaf Day is only indirectly attached to the Days of Unleavened Bread due to the count often beginning within them.

Third, no one has ever found a record in all of history of the Jews?whether Sadducees, Pharisees, Falashas, Kairites, or Essenes?observing Wavesheaf Day on anything but a common workday. All these groups began their count following a Sabbath, but none of them ever permitted Wavesheaf Day to be observed on any type of Sabbath. This is because they could see that Scripture clearly states the Wavesheaf Day falls the day after a Sabbath, not on one.

John 20:1, 11-18 absolutely proves that Wavesheaf Day follows the day after the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Jesus, as the first of the firstfruits, is the reality of the symbolism of the Old Covenant Wavesheaf Day ceremonies. He was crucified on a Wednesday Passover and was interred as the sun set that day. He spent exactly three days and three nights buried in the tomb, being resurrected as the sun set ending the weekly Sabbath. Then, on Sunday morning, He rose to heaven for acceptance as the first of God's spiritual harvest.

Seeing their conclusion is weak, those who want to place Wavesheaf Day on the day following a Sabbath Passover have devised a cunning argument for beginning the count with the First Day of Unleavened Bread: Since Jesus, the first of the firstfruits, was "waved" for acceptance before the Father following His resurrection within the Days of Unleavened Bread, they conclude that every Wavesheaf Day thereafter should be conformed to it. But consider this: Does every Passover have to be observed on a Wednesday because Jesus was crucified in a year when Passover fell on a Wednesday? We do not do that, do we? Wavesheaf Day and the beginning of the count to Pentecost are, like all other festivals and their ceremonies, to fall on the dates and days assigned them by God in Leviticus 23 (see verse 2) and in the calendar rules.

There is no consistency to their argument and practice, but those who believe this reasoning are so insistent that at least one group declared Passover to be a Day of Unleavened Bread, despite Leviticus 23:4-6 showing they are two different festivals.

No statement in the Bible says that Wavesheaf Day must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Instead, God uses a weekly Sabbath falling within Unleavened Bread as His marker, and the following day begins the count. Thus, the day the count begins?a Sunday?can fall outside the Days of Unleavened Bread in about 13% of years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Leviticus 23:11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The question is, which Sabbath do we need to isolate to arrive at the correct date for Pentecost? The Sabbath we choose to begin the count is significant, or else we could arbitrarily decide to count from any Sabbath. Confusion would be the result. Even though the Old Testament instruction seems ambiguous on this point, it is reasonable to conclude that, since the counting instructions given in Leviticus 23:11, 15 and Deuteronomy 16:9 are given in relation to the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, the Sabbaths of Unleavened Bread are significant. Because Unleavened Bread is seven days long, one and only one weekly Sabbath, with its varying date, will always fall within it. If we were to deny this link between Unleavened Bread and when the count to Pentecost begins, God's counting instructions become unusable. Everyone could do what is "right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25), and confusion and division would result.

Although the wavesheaf is normally offered during the Days of Unleavened Bread, the connecting link between the wavesheaf and Unleavened Bread is the Sabbath. The Sabbath day is the sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:12-17), not just in identifying who they are, but in this case, it also serves as the focal point in counting to Pentecost. Because we must first identify the Sabbath to begin the count, it is the Sabbath that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread, not necessarily wavesheaf Sunday. In the odd years when Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath, the only weekly Sabbath day within Unleavened Bread is also the holy day at its end. Nevertheless, this Sabbath, a double Sabbath, is of greater importance for beginning the count, not the wavesheaf offered the next day. The weekly Sabbath provides a consistent and correct pattern for beginning the count to Pentecost.

Another reason that we should count from the weekly Sabbath is the appearance of the definite Hebrew article ha that normally precedes "Sabbath." In the entire Old Testament, this designation, hashabbath, indicates the weekly Sabbath about 95% of the time. In Leviticus 23, a form of "Sabbath" appears in Hebrew twelve times and "Sabbaths" twice. The article ha appears before "Sabbath" three times, and each time it refers to the weekly Sabbath. Two of these occurrences concern the Sabbath in question (verses 11, 15). Once it appears before "Sabbaths" (verse 15), also referring to weekly Sabbaths.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Leviticus 23:11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we do not accept the fact that the Sabbath mentioned in Leviticus 23:11, 15 is the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are left without a consistent defining point from which to begin the count. Only these two verses in the Old Testament show when to wave the sheaf. Why not any other Sabbath, either holy day or weekly? John 20:1, 17 absolutely confirm that Jesus was "waved" on the Sunday following the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. When Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, the only Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread is also the last day of Unleavened Bread. When Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath, should we throw out the rule used to calculate Pentecost for all other years? Pentecost is always calculated from the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Leviticus 23:15-16   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This late spring holy day must be counted. God instructs us to count 50 days from the day that the wavesheaf was offered. This explains why this day is commonly called Pentecost, which means "count fifty." The Sabbath (verse 15), the day after which we start to count, is not an annual holy day, but the weekly Sabbath that falls during Unleavened Bread. We know this because Pentecost must be counted every year. If this Sabbath were an annual Sabbath, Pentecost would always fall on a fixed date. It always falls on the same day of the week—the first day, Sunday—because one begins to count on a Sunday.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Holy Days: Pentecost


 

Deuteronomy 16:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

That "God brought you out of Egypt by night" ought to give us a clue as to what this context is about. It is about coming out, the Exodus from Egypt, not Passover night and the slaying of the firstborn. This is what we have called the Night To Be Much Observed (Exodus 12:40-42). Anyone who understands the context of Exodus 12 and similar places can understand that the instruction in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 does not contemplate Passover per se. It certainly speaking of the Passover season, but it is generally describing the Days of Unleavened Bread and specifically the Night To Be Much Observed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed


 

Joshua 5:10-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some assume the events of Joshua 5:10-12 can only mean—by the eating of unleavened cakes and parched corn—"that Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath and wavesheaf day was the first day of Unleavened Bread." However, nothing in the context directly states those assumptions, nor does it indicate anywhere that a wavesheaf offering or its accompanying burnt offering occurred either.

We may know the dates on which these events occurred, but they in no way reveal on which days of the week they fell. If Israel made a wavesheaf offering, when did they do it? It seems especially critical at this point, since it would have been the first time in the land. But Joshua says absolutely nothing about it.

We know that Passover observance begins at twilight when the lamb is slain, but the bulk of it is observed at night. We also know that twenty-four hours after Passover begins the Night to be Much Observed begins. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins with this observance at night. On the 15th, beginning with the keeping of the Night to be Much Observed, the people would be eating unleavened bread just as we do today because it is such a significant event in the history of God's people.

Where did the grain for making the unleavened bread and parched corn come from? It came from the grain of the land, exactly as the Scripture implies (Joshua 1:11). They could have used the old corn confiscated from the Canaanites' storage places or even harvested a sufficient amount from fields of grain left behind by Canaanites as they fled the Israelites. They had sufficient time to make such preparations. Joshua 5:11 says the Israelites ate unleavened bread and parched grain on the day after Passover. Day does not necessarily have to mean "daylight," but simply any portion of the next 24-hour day. The observance of the Night to be Much Observed is a very significant part of the day after Passover.

The Israelites rested on the holy day. They could eat manna as well as unleavened preparations. On the 16th, the next day, when they would normally have expected manna to appear, it did not. From this point, they were completely dependent upon the crops harvested from the land.

Why did Israel not make a wavesheaf offering? Because they could not lawfully do so for many reasons:

1. Because the 15th is a Sabbath, and Leviticus 23:11 clearly commands the wavesheaf offering to be made on the day following the Sabbath, not on the Sabbath.

2. Because, if the particular Sabbath that preceded the 15th was also Passover (as per the WCG scenario), it would not qualify to determine wavesheaf day since it is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Because they had absolutely no grain that qualified as an acceptable offering. The wavesheaf offering law states specifically that it had to be from seed that they had sown. Israel reaped what Canaanites had sown. Conquest did not change this fact. They could eat it but not offer it.

4. Because Deuteronomy 12 specifically forbids making the required animal sacrifice that accompanied the wavesheaf offering until the Tabernacle was established where God had placed His name. This did not occur until seven years had passed (compare Joshua 14:6-13 and Joshua 18:1).

5. Because Leviticus 22 strictly forbids an offering from the stranger's hand. It had to come from someone who had covenanted with God. A stranger is someone "unknown" to God, an outsider, or someone not in the family.

Israel never made a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Joshua 5:10-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to support using the First Day of Unleavened Bread to begin the count to Pentecost because:

1. No authority is given in Scripture to change the method of counting to Pentecost when Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath.

2. Counting to Pentecost always begins the day after the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the weekly Sabbath, God's sign, not Wavesheaf Day that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread.

3. Exodus 23 explicitly requires the grain offering to be planted by the offerer, thus they had none to offer immediately after entering the land.

4. Leviticus 22 forbids making an offering of heathen substance, thus they had no acceptable grain offering.

5. Deuteronomy 12 forbids offerings until the Tabernacle, altar, laver, and all the Tabernacle's furniture were in place.

6. Deuteronomy 12 requires the Israelites to be settled in their inheritances and no longer involved in warfare before any sacrifices could be lawfully made.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty


 

Psalm 81:3   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If one looks in the King James or an Interlinear Bible, it reads, "at the set time." The holy days occur right on schedule. It is God who sets the schedule; He sets the holy days at a specific time. Interestingly, as these holy days are fulfilled, the literal fulfillments occur right at the set time. The ones with which we are probably most familiar are Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost because they have already, in that sense, been fulfilled. For instance, the Holy Spirit came "at the set time"—on the day of Pentecost.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction, Moses and Us


 

Amos 8:11-14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One of God's annual feasts instructs us in how we can avoid becoming a casualty of such a famine of hearing. The New Testament clearly shows that Jesus Christ and the disciples observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Matthew 26:17; Mark 14; Luke 22), and the latter did so even after Jesus' death (Acts 12:3; 20:6; I Corinthians 5:7-8).

In the New Testament, leavening and unleavened bread take on added meaning that the ancient Israelites did not grasp. In addition to leavening symbolizing sin, hypocrisy, and pride, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for false doctrine (Matthew 16:11-12). Conversely, Paul describes unleavened bread as symbolic of "sincerity and truth" (I Corinthians 5:8). A famine of hearing God's words, then, is like a famine of eating unleavened bread. When such a famine occurs, people turn to eating leavening—false doctrines, false philosophies, and ways of thinking that are ultimately "malice and wickedness."

Remember that this famine, this curse, simply continues the trajectory that the people are already on. They suppress the truth and reject God's Word, and so God gives them what they ask for. However, this famine begins in the heart, in the mind. It has its genesis in the regard and esteem—or lack thereof—in which the people hold God's Word. When His Word is not valued, God takes away the hearing of it. The result is stumbling, as the people lack the means to evaluate their circumstances and make right decisions.

The instructions for the Days of Unleavened Bread give a solution—a simple one, but one that takes continual diligence. God instructs, on the one hand, to remove all leavening and to ensure that none is seen with us (Exodus 12:15, 19-20; 13:3, 7; Deuteronomy 16:3-4). He is telling us to be vigilant to keep the falsehoods out. We are to guard against this world's philosophies and ways that may seem harmless enough, but are actually slowly poisoning the mind.

On the other hand, God instructs us to eat unleavened bread—to take in truth—every day (Exodus 12:15, 17-18, 20; 13:6-7; 23:15; 34:18; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3, 8). In fact, God gives more instructions about eating unleavened bread than about avoiding leavening. If the relative number of instructions is significant, ingesting truth to make it a part of us is more important than avoiding falsehood. Even the name of the festival suggests that the greater emphasis is on the unleavened bread, which ultimately represents Jesus Christ Himself.

Of course, neither action can be neglected—God requires us to do both. Yet studying truth is vital because it enables us to identify and resist the leavening—to recognize what is false because we are so familiar with what is true.

The mind will feed itself on something. If we pass over the truth for something that may not be altogether wrong but is not actually nourishing, over time we will become spiritually weak and unable to resist the lies. All the while, because our minds are full, we may not realize that we are starving ourselves to spiritual death. This does not happen overnight, but it does happen.

This famine of hearing occurs as a result of people not esteeming the Word of God, and because it is not valued and not acted upon, He removes it. However, it does not have to be that way with us. We have been blessed with understanding—with the ability to hear God's words and rightly respond. If we value the truth, we will continually search it out, and we will hear it. Because we value it, we will recognize what is false and contrary, and not want to have anything to do with it.

The preventative for this famine lies in what we value, what we appreciate, and what our priorities are. If we are seeking God's truth—if we are diligently ingesting this unleavened bread every day and carefully avoiding what is false—God will continue to feed us and bless us with His truth.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

Matthew 16:6-12   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jesus warns His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Seeing their puzzlement, He explains further. "Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (verse 12). Both testaments use leaven as a symbol of sin because of what it does to a lump of bread dough. Once yeast enters the dough, it immediately begins to spread by breaking down in reaction to the dough's sugars and producing a gas that puffs the bread up.

Like leaven, when sin enters a person's life, it begins to corrupt and fill him with vanity. A person enslaved by habitual sin will have a difficult time growing in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of sin's corrupting influence. Sin defiles and can permanently destroy relationships with God and man.

Throughout the year we hear frequent exhortations to produce fruit and grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. During Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we give special emphasis to "getting the leaven out." These three actions are all parts of the same process. Though not technically the same, they are related closely enough to say they are simply different ways of describing the same process. "Getting the leaven out" is the most negative, "growing" is the most general, and "producing fruit" is the most specific. All three emphasize that a Christian should not stand still after entering the New Covenant. God expects him to take steps to ensure that these actions will occur in his life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Matthew 26:17   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hidden in the Greek of Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:1, 12; and Luke 22:7 is a reference to Passover as "the first of the unleaveneds." This is because unleavened bread is indeed used on the 14th as part of the Passover service. A comparison with the Old Testament, however, discloses this to be only the popular usage of some during New Testament times. In the Old Testament, something akin to this is found in Deuteronomy 16, where the first day of Unleavened Bread is called "Passover," while the context clearly describes the first day of Unleavened Bread. People popularly used Passover and Unleavened Bread interchangeably, and the Bible notes this practice, though "Passover" was the term most generally used for the whole period.

Doing things like this is not uncommon. Today, we commonly refer to the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day as either the "Feast" or "Tabernacles," even though we clearly understand that the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day are separate festivals. So it was with Passover in the time of Christ and the apostles. Neither our use of "Tabernacles" nor the Jews use of "Passover" alters the authority of God's intent in the Scriptures.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Luke 21:36   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "praying always" that Jesus commands in Luke 21:36 affects every part of our Christian lives. It is the tool that God gives us to be in constant contact with Him so that we can truly bring every thought into captivity, under the control of God (II Corinthians 10:5). We are encouraged to make bold use of this tool for our every need (Hebrews 4:16). We need to explore some of the important implications that striving to pray always—praying at all times—has on this life to which God has called us.

In Luke 21:36, Christ also commands us to "watch." The underlying Greek word stresses the need to be alert or on guard. This fits with a major requirement of Christian life, that we examine ourselves. We are to be alert to those things about ourselves that will disqualify us from entering God's Kingdom so that we can change them.

Self-examination is such an important spiritual activity that God includes it as a major part of one of His seven festivals, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. II Corinthians 13:5 exhorts, "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified." Our ongoing efforts to submit to God's laws and standards are evidence that Christ and His faith are in us (James 2:18).

God always gives us choices (Deuteronomy 30:19). Consider the example of Jonah. He could have done exactly what God asked of him, but instead, he rebelled, having to suffer an intense trial to bring him to obedience to God's will. Notice, however, that God's purpose never changed. The only variable was how much pain and suffering Jonah chose to experience before he submitted to God's purpose. Initially, he chose rebellion and trials over submission to God.

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Five)


 

Luke 22:1   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What Luke is doing is showing the popular usage of the terminology, which is similar to what we do. Sometimes we call this season "Passover season," but at other times we refer to "the Days of Unleavened Bread," often implying the inclusion of Passover. We are probably less likely to do this than the Jews were because many of them blended the two days (Passover and the first day of Unleavened Bread). Luke is showing that the two terms were used in both ways. Sometimes "Passover" referred to the whole eight days, and sometimes "the Days of Unleavened Bread" identified the whole eight days.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed


 

John 8:32   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Freedom is what Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are ultimately about. God's freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt is the object lesson that we are to apply spiritually. Truth and freedom go hand and hand. This is why the Christian world is in the condition it is in. The vast majority of Christians do not really mark the death of Jesus Christ in the way that God commands us to observe it. They may be very much aware of it, and it is a large part of their teaching: They understand that Christ died for our sins. But they miss its full importance—its full impact—because they do not observe the Passover. Thus the lesson is missed.

Truth and freedom go hand in hand, but truth will produce freedom only as it is used. That ought to be self-evident. We can know something is true, but if we fail to use it, what good is it? Its value is worthless unless it is used.

Freedom and truth come to those who press on. Freedom, the kind of freedom that God is involved in bringing us into, comes progressively, not all at once. These are lessons from the Days of Unleavened Bread. It took the Israelites seven days to get to and across the Red Sea. It took them another forty years to get into their own land, into their inheritance, the Promised Land.

Their freedom was progressive. There was a time when it began, but if they had never continued on the way, they would never have had their own land, never have had their inheritance, never have been free. This is a large part of the object lesson: We have to continue. If we continue, then we will truly be a disciple. We will understand the truth, and we will become free. The truth of God shows us the real values of life because it shows us what we are to give our life to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

John 19:14   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word "Passover" in this context requires some explanation. At some time before Christ's day, the Jews had begun calling the day of Passover and the following seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6-8) by the single name "Passover." This has caused great confusion for non-Jews, especially when they read the account of this particular Passover. But John 19:31 should clear up any confusion: "Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day) . . ."!

So, without a doubt, Jesus was crucified on a Passover day, Nisan 14, and the Sabbath that followed was the first day of Unleavened Bread, an annual holy day, a high day. This only makes sense, for the apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 5:7, "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

Acts 20:6   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here is another mention of a holy day. Protestant commentators openly admit that when this verse is coupled with I Corinthians 5, it shows that, even at this late date, Paul was still keeping the "Jewish" (as they say) holy days, and they say he observed it along with Gentiles. Clearly, their conclusions on Paul's epistle to the Galatians do not agree with his practice with both Jews and Gentiles, as the book of Acts clearly shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 24)


 

Acts 20:7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There are some denominations that read Acts 20:7 as a proof that the "Lord's Supper" should be taken each Sunday morning! First notice that this was after the Days of Unleavened Bread (verse 6). Paul was preaching a farewell meeting, not on Sunday morning, but on Saturday night. It was after midnight (verse 7) that they broke bread because they were hungry. When they "had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day," Paul departed.

So this was just an ordinary meal!

The same expression "break bread" is found in Acts 27:34-35. "Wherefore I pray you to take some meat . . . he took bread . . . and when he had broken it, he began to eat." Also Acts 2:46: "And breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness." This could not possibly have been the "Lord's Supper" or, more properly, Passover, because Paul says that if we take it to satisfy our hunger we take it to our condemnation (I Corinthians 11:34). In that day, everyone "broke bread" at ordinary meals, because they did not have the kind of bread that we slice. Jesus broke bread because it was at the Passover supper, while eating a meal.

Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986)
The Plain Truth About Easter


 

1 Corinthians 5:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul plainly instructs that the purpose of keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is to remind us of our need to remove sin from our lives. Because of the serious sins that a Corinthian member had committed, and the congregation's general acceptance of this situation, Paul advises them to use the Days of Unleavened Bread to "purge out the old leaven." They should examine their attitudes and put these sins out of their lives and out of the congregation. He reminds them that the Passover is a memorial of the death of Christ, who died for us that we may receive forgiveness of sins. They "truly are unleavened," he says, in the sense that they had repented and been justified through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. However, since they had allowed leaven to return into their lives, they needed to get rid of it.

This is the heart of why we are still required to put leaven out of our homes. Leaven represents sin, and deleavening our homes symbolizes purging sin from our lives. However, cleansing our lives of sin is a lifetime process that will not be completely fulfilled until we are resurrected and transformed into spirit. As long as we are still flesh and blood, we will never be absolutely perfect—we will never free ourselves completely and totally of sin. This constant struggle to overcome human nature and put on God's nature is called sanctification. Nevertheless, we must continually strive to conform to the image of Jesus Christ, that is, to be a truly perfect human being (Philippians 3:12-14).

God wants us to observe the Days of Unleavened Bread year after year to remind us that we are not perfect and that our lives are a constant struggle against sin. When we deleaven our homes, we find that, no matter how hard we try, we cannot find every tiny crumb that may be imbedded in carpet or hidden behind an appliance. This illustrates how deceitful sin is and teaches us that we must constantly examine ourselves to purge it out of our lives. Removing sin is hard work! The Days of Unleavened Bread remind us annually of this constant warfare that all Christians must wage throughout their lives.

Why then must we remove leaven from our homes but need not be circumcised? The answer is that physical circumcision no longer has a purpose under the New Covenant. Its symbolism is fulfilled in the process of repentance, baptism, and receipt of the Holy Spirit. However, the object lesson of deleavening our homes still has great meaning and purpose for us. The symbolism of putting sin out of our lives will not be completely fulfilled until we are born into the Kingdom of God and become like Him who cannot sin (I John 3:9).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Why We Must Put Out Leaven


 

Galatians 4:9-10   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

 




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