Chag HaMatzot (The Feast of Unleavened Bread): An Overview
Chag HaMatzot or the Feast of Unleavened Bread is the second annual festival on YHVH’s biblical calendar, and occurs on the fifteenth day of the month of the Abib, which is the day immediately following Passover (or Pesach, Lev 23:5–8). Because both of these feasts (Exod 34:25; Lev 23:2, 6) occur back-to-back, the Jews often refer to Passover and Unleavened Bread simply as Passover Week or some similar term that places the main emphasis on the Passover. But it must be noted that, though related, these two festivals are separate in meaning and purpose. Passover pictures Israel coming out of Egypt. Upon separating from Egypt, YHVH (the LORD) then commanded the Israelites to put all leavened food products out of their houses and to eat unleavened bread (flat bread) for seven days, hence the origins of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Additionally, the first and seventh days of this week-long event are Sabbaths, and YHVH commanded his people to hold a set-apart convocation (or gathering) on these Sabbaths.
What, you may ask, is the purpose of putting leavening out of one’s home and eating unleavened bread products such as matzoh for one week? This seems like a curious request by YHVH of his people. Not surprisingly, the Creator of the universe has a reason for everything. The spiritual implications are enlightening and highly relevant to the disciples of Yeshua. In commanding his people to de-leaven their homes and lives, YHVH is teaching us an object lesson that applies to us as much today as to the Israelites of long ago.
Eating unleavened bread for seven days is a memorial, remembrance or reminder (Exod 13:6–9) of our coming out of our own spiritual Egypt. But how did unleavened bread enter into this picture? The Torah tells us that the Israelites left Egypt early in the morning as they were making their daily bread, and because they left in haste the bread was not able to rise (Exod 12:34). Therefore, they were forced, by circumstances, to leave their leavening — a biblical metaphor for sin — behind in Egypt. Similarly, believers in Yeshua are commanded to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (1 Cor 5:6–8), which helps to remind us that we should have left our old sinful ways behind us in the spiritual Egypt of this world when we surrendered our lives to Yeshua. We are pressing onward to the Promised Land of YHVH’s eternal kingdom.
Not only did YHVH command his set-apart people to leave Egypt (a biblical metaphor for this world and its godless ways), but he wanted his people to separate themselves from and leave behind in Egypt the rudiments of this world, or sin, which defiles them and separates them from a set-apart and sinless Elohim (God). Leaven is a picture of this, as we will see more clearly below.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was the next step in YHVH’s plan of redemption for his people. Israel had just left Egypt and we know that Egypt is biblically a spiritual metaphor for the world and Satan. It may have been easy for the Israelites to leave Egypt, but after their exodus, the arduous process of getting the sin or spiritual leaven of Egypt out them began! The same is true when we leave the spiritual Egypt of this world and endeavor to follow obey Yeshua through our spiritual journey in the wilderness we call life. The old sin habits die hard and often lie hidden in our lives waiting to be exposed and cast out from the recesses of our mind, will and emotions—or one’s spiritual houses. This is not an easy process, and is not unlike ridding our physical homes of leavening products, such as bread crumbs, which find their way into the nooks and crannies of our homes that the word of Elohim commands his people to do in order to properly keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12:14–15). Throughout Scripture, leavening usually represents sin, pride, hypocrisy, malice, bitterness and false religious doctrine (Pss 71:4; 73:21; Hos 7:4; Matt 16:6; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor 5:8–6; Gal 5:9).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts seven days. The number seven in YHVH’s spiritual economy represents completion or perfection. YHVH has given man 7000 years on this earth to get rid of sin completely and totally in preparation for admission into his eternal kingdom as revealed in Revelation 21 and 22. For 6000 years, YHVH has left men on this earth to their own sinful devices. The seventh thousand-year time period, called the Messianic Age or Millennium (Rev 20:2, 3, 4, 6), will be different than the previous 6000 years, for during this time Yeshua will be ruling over the earth with a rod of iron as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 2:27; 12:5; 19:15; 17:14; 19:16), and Satan will be bound in the pit (Rev 20:2–3). All humans on earth will be taught the Torah-truth of YHVH Elohim without the evil influences of the devil and the world as we know it today. During the Messianic Age, the earth will be at peace and rest, and men will be taught to love YHVH with all their heart, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves. This time of relative peace and rest is the seventh thousand-year time period of man’s tenure on this earth, which corresponds to the seventh day of the week—the Sabbath. It will be a Sabbath of rest and peace on this earth for 1000 years. The Days of Unleavened Bread picture this, for the first day is a Sabbath representing the first Sabbath when YHVH rested after creating a perfect, paradisiacal and sin-free world. The last day or seventh day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is also a Sabbath, which corresponds prophetically to the Messianic Age.
The children of Israel left Egypt on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread in a de-leavened state. What is the spiritual lesson in this for us? On an individual level, once a person has placed their faith in Yeshua, the Lamb of Elohim (as pictured by the children of Israel killing the lamb and placing its blood on the doorposts of their homes on the first Passover), and has been spared from sin’s death judgment (as pictured by the smiting the firstborn of Egypt), one then must leave spiritual Egypt and begin their spiritual journey or trek through the wilderness of life en route to the spiritual “rest” of Yeshua’s eternal and spiritual kingdom (Heb 4:1–11). At that time, a person must take on the spiritual “yoke” of loving and obeying Yeshua, which is light and easy (Matt 11:28–30) compared to being a spiritual slave in the Egypt of this world. As a result of turning one’s back on Pharaoh (a spiritual type of the devil) and Egypt (a spiritual type of this world), one must choose to follow Yeshua who is their new spiritual Master. As the children of Israel chose to follow YHVH Elohim through the wilderness (Exod 19:8; 24:3–7), the redeemed believer must likewise choose to follow Yeshua every day, which involves eradicating sin (the violation of YHVH’s commandments, 1 John 3:4) from one’s life, loving him and keeping his Torah-commandments (John 14:15). This process is how one de-leavens his or her life. As the sin is removed, a person will begin to experience the “joy of YHVH” (Neh 8:10; John 16:24; Rom 5:11) and the peace or shalom of YHVH that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) as the freedom from sin and the guilt and shame it brings occurs. This step in a redeemed believer’s life corresponds to the first day or Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
After day one of the Feast of Unleavened Bread comes, there are five regular work days before the final seventh day of Unleavened Bread, which is a Sabbath. These five days are a picture of the Israelites’ trek through the wilderness en route to the Promised Land. For the redeemed believer, it is a symbolic picture of life in general, which is a like a spiritual wilderness that one must traverse before attaining the goal and the reward of one’s spiritual inheritance or the spiritual Promised Land of YHVH’s eternal kingdom. In this life, a believer must do his best to live a sin-free life, which is like eating the “bread of affliction” or unleavened bread (Deut 16:3). Yeshua instructs his disciples and us that though we are in the world, we’re not to be of this world. Additionally, the world will hate and persecute us when we follow him (John 17:11, 14; 15:18–20; 16:2, 3, 33). Being faithful to Yeshua, keeping his commands and not sinning will bring persecution and affliction, but the spiritual rewards that will given for those who overcome the world will be worth the rigors of the journey!
The Paul the apostle refers to this process when he talks about “working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), his struggles to defeat the carnal man (Rom 7), to walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and to enter into a life dominated by the Spirit of Messiah Yeshua (Rom 8:1–2). Yeshua also talked about the persecution and tribulation that his disciples would have to endure to enter the ultimate rest of his kingdom (Matt 5:10–12). Paul said that all who live godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12), and that the spiritual metal of our lives must be tested and purified by the fire of life’s trials (1 Cor 3:12–13). James says that we are to count it all joy when we are tried or proven (Jas 1:12). Will the fires of persecution separate us from the love of Yeshua, Paul asks the Romans (Rom 8:35)? During this journey, which is arduous at times, will we forget our first love as the Ephesian believers did (Rev 2:4), and lose faith and long for the delicacies of Egypt as the Israelites did when they fell into doubt and unbelief and perished in the wilderness (Heb 3:8–19)? Or will we persevere and overcome the world as Yeshua, the Author and Finisher of our faith, did (John 16:33) and to be granted entrance into the Promised Land of his eternal kingdom? For us to receive this reward, we must bring down the walls of our spiritual Jericho—the sin strongholds of our lives. Only then will we receive the rewards of the kingdom of Elohim (Matt 5:10, 12; 1 John 5:4; Rev 2:7, 17; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). We are to re