ANCIENT ISRAEL AND THE DAYS OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

After  many  years of exile Moses, the adopted son  of  Pharaoh's daughter  (Ex.12),  returned to Egypt demanding the  release of the Israelites on behalf of the Creator God. Because of Pharaoh's refusal to free the Israelites, God began to systematically  destroy  Egypt through the hand  of  Moses.

As  Moses  pronounced  plague after plague  upon  Egypt,  Pharaoh continued  to refuse to free the Israelites because he  did not believe in the God of Moses. The  Nile  river turned into blood,  fish died by  the  millions, and the stench from the river of blood and dead fish filled the land. Swarms of  frogs, flies, locusts, and lice plagued the  land, and a terrifying  hail of fire  destroyed what little of the crops the insect plague did not consume.  Millions  of cattle died of a mysterious disease. A strange, eerie darkness blanketed the land for  three days. Terror gripped the population of one of the world's  most advanced  and prosperous nations. Egypt was on the brink of  collapse, but Pharaoh still refused to give the Israelites their freedom.

The Final Ultimatum

Because  of  Pharaoh's refusal to free the  Israelites,  God  instructed  Moses to give Pharaoh one more opportunity to  let his people  go. If  Pharaoh still refused to release the children  of Israel after this last warning, God said he would kill all the first-born of Egypt. Knowing  full well  that the God of Moses had already destroyed most of  Egypt, Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites go.

Moses  and Aaron returned to warn the Israelites of  this   final plague and they instructed them to prepare to make a sacrifice to  God in order to avoid being killed by the destroyer:

"I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and kill  all of the  first-born of Egypt,  both man and beast: and I will execute my  judgment against all the gods of Egypt:  I am the Lord. And the blood [blood of the sacrificial lamb] that you place on your house will show me where you are. And when I see this blood I  will pass  over  you, and spare you from death, when I strike the land  of Egypt with death" (Ex.12:12-13 Para.). See also Ex.12:23-38.

During and After the Passover

When the Israelites heard the cries  of mourning from the Egyptians who were not protected by the lambs' blood, they knew that God had again made a difference between the Israelites and  the Egyptians.

Every  first-born man, woman, child and animal throughout the  land  of Egypt that was not protected by the blood of the lamb was killed. From  the  palace of the Pharaoh to the  hovel  of  the lowest  Egyptian  serf, every home that  the destroyer visited was filled with sorrow.  The  terror and apprehension  generated  among the unprotected   by   this  final plague from God was enormous.

After midnight on the 15th day of Nisan and the passing-over of the destroyer, the Israelites were finally freed by Pharaoh.

Note:

It is important to point out that the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread cannot be separated, because together they picture the sequence of God's plan and process of salvation. The second part of the Passover  observance  (the eating  of the lamb) actually began at the end of the 14th day of Nisan and the beginning of the 15th  day after  sunset on  the  first day of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, the  Feast of Unleavened  Bread is an integral part and a continuation  of  the process that began with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb.

Israel's Departure

Before the lamb's sacrifice at the end  of  the 14th   day,  the  Israelites had taken much of the wealth of  the Egyptians (Ex.3:21-22; 11:2-3) and were packed and ready to leave Egypt (Ex.12:10-11).

After  the destroyer passed through the land of Egypt,  Pharaoh  issued  a command for the Israelites to  leave  Egypt (Ex.12:30-34).  During the early morning hours of the 15th ,   while it was still dark, the Israelites began to gather and leave Egypt:

"And  they departed from Rameses in the first month, on the  fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover  the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians" (Num.33:3 KJV).

430 Years in Egypt

"Now the  sojourning  of the children of Israel,  who  dwelt  in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.  And it came to pass at the  end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the  land  of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed  to  the Lord  for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is  that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations" (Ex.12:40-42 Para.).

There  are  two important points in this text concerning the Israelites and their departure from Egypt:

1. God instructed Jacob who was the last of the Patriarchs to receive conformation of the promises that God made to Abraham (Gen.46:2-7) to go into Egypt where  his  descendants would become a great nation.

2. Within  the safety and security of Egypt,  Jacob's  descendants multiplied  into  a large nation. However, while they were in Egypt, they became lax in obedience to God and lost most of the knowledge of him and his laws. Thus, they brought to fulfillment the prophecy of heir 430 year sojourn and slavery  in Egypt, which was told  to Abraham .

Exactly 430 years from the day that Jacob, his sons, and  their families entered Egypt, God caused Pharaoh to release the Israelites from their captivity.

The  date of Israel's initial entry into Egypt and the  date  of their departure was no accident nor was it arbitrarily chosen by God. Remember that the sun, moon, and stars were placed in  their specific orbits in order for man to be able to calculate the time of  year to observe God's commanded assemblies,  observances,  and festivals.

The  symbolic value of the number 430 shows the  great  care  and planning that was necessary to bring the nation of  Israel  to this  exact  place and time in history. The  number 400 is the product of 8 x 50. One of the meanings  of the number 8 is a new beginning. The number 50 is the product of 5 x 10:  5 is symbolic of grace, and 10 is symbolic  of God's law. It is through God's grace and his law that one finds a new beginning and a release from one's old ways. The number 50, is therefore, symbolic of deliverance, release, freedom, and rest.

The number 30 is the product of 3 x 10. One of the symbolic meanings  of  3 is divine perfection. Therefore,  the  number  30 denotes in a higher degree, the perfection of divine order such as the perfect timing of an event (e.g., Christ began his ministry at age 30, Lk.3:23).

The  symbolic  meaning  of the number 430  constitutes  a  divine perfection of time and the culmination of an event that is divinely guided.  And this event (the Israelites leaving Egypt) was divinely guided in order  to  initiate God's  plan  for the salvation of humanity, which is shown through the literal, prophetic, and symbolic meanings of the Passover and the annual festivals.

A FESTIVAL OF BEGINNINGS

"Three  times you shall keep a feast to me in the year. You  shall keep  the  feast of unleavened bread: (you shall  eat  unleavened bread  seven days, as I commanded you, in the time  appointed of the month Abib; for in it you came out from Egypt: and none shall appear before  me empty:) And the feast of  harvest,  the  first fruits of your labors, which you have sown in the field: Three times  in the  year all your males shall appear before  the  Lord God" (Ex.23:14-17 KJV).

"Three times in a year shall all your males appear before the Lord your  God  in the place which he shall choose; in  the  feast  of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast  of tabernacles:" (Deut.16:16 KJV).

The  Days of Unleavened Bread begin the annual festivals of  God. These  days are unique because they picture five major beginnings within the plan of God for the  salvation of humanity:

1. The beginning of the process of salvation through Jesus Christ as the sacrificial Passover lamb of God—the Savior of   humanity.

2. The beginning of coming out of a life of bondage and slavery  to sin through repentance.

3. The beginning of the process of spiritual growth by  remaining sinless and practicing righteousness.

4. The Lift offering through which Jesus Christ is  revealed  as the beginning of the Father's new creation—his first-born son.

5. The  beginning of the counting toward the Festival  of  Weeks (Pentecost—count 50), which pictures those of the first resurrection and their  transformation into sons of God through the power of the holy spirit.

Exodus 12:14-17 KJV

"And this day shall be for you a memorial; and you shall keep  it a  feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall  keep it a feast by an ordinance forever" (v14).

A Memorial And A Festival

The Hebrew word 'hag' that is translated into English as 'feast' in verse 14,  has the connotation of demanding that  a  celebration  or festival be kept.

The day on which the Passover was eaten (the first day of Unleavened Bread) was to be a memorial festival commemorating the  day of Israel's departure from Egypt and it was to be observed forever.

A Seven Day Festival

"Seven  days shall you eat unleavened bread; even the  first  day you shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever  eats leavened  bread  from the first day until the seventh day,  that soul shall  be cut off from Israel" (v15).  See  also  Ex.34:18; Num.28:17.

There are three very important things to note in verse 15

1. Unleavened bread must be eaten during all seven of the days of Unleavened Bread.

2. Leavening products must be removed from the houses sometime before the beginning of the first day of the feast.

3. Anyone who eats leavened bread during these seven days will  be cut off from Israel.

Notice the warning of punishment in the last part of verse 15 for anyone who  eats leavened bread during these seven days. Why did God consider the eating of leavened bread during these days such a serious violation?

There are two primary reasons for this severe punishment for  the willful  disobedience  of God's instructions not to eat leavened bread during this festival:

Two Commanded Assemblies

"And  the  first day there shall be a holy convocation,  and  the seventh  day there shall be a holy convocation to you: no  manner of  work shall be done in them, except that which every man  must eat, that only may be done of you" (v17).

On both the first and last days of the  festival there is a commanded assembly of the people and a  prohibition  of all work except that which is done in order  to  prepare food.

"And you shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore  shall you observe this day in your generations by  an ordinance forever" (Ex.12:17  KJV).See also Deut.16:1; Ezk.45:21.

Again,  we see the primary reason that the Israelites are supposed to  keep this  feast  is for the purpose of reminding them of  the  day  in which the Lord brought them out of Egypt.

How  important  was  this day? For the Israelites,  it  was  very important because it pictured their release from years of physical bondage and slavery. Prophetically, it pointed toward humanity's release from the bondage, slavery, and the penalty  of  sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. See also Gal.3:16-19.

Exodus 13:3-10 KJV

This first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover meal was eaten was one of the most important days in human history.   What could be more important than the day that God began his plan through  the nation of Israel to redeem all of humanity from  its self-imposed death penalty?

"And  Moses  said to the people, Remember this day in  which  you came  out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by  strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no more leavened bread be eaten" (v3).

Remember This Day

Just  as God had instructed the Israelites to keep  the  Passover service as a reminder of the meaning of the events that led to their dramatic release from Egypt, he also instructed them to keep  the first day of Unleavened Bread as a  memorial festival to  remind them of their departure from Egypt.

This commanded  festival is  also passed on to the followers of Christ and to  those  who live after his return as King of kings and Lord of  lords to  rule the earth.

"This  day came you out in the month Abib. And it shall  be  when the Lord shall bring 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" (vs.4-5).

Verses 4 and 5 show that one of the reasons God  freed the  Israelites  was  to fulfill his  promise  to their forefathers.

"Seven  days, you shall eat unleavened Bread, and in  the  seventh day shall be a feast to the Lord" (v6).

Unleavened bread must be eaten for seven days and, like on the first day, the seventh day is a day of feasting.

"Unleavened  Bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall  be no leavened bread be seen with you, neither shall there be leaven seen with you in all your quarters" (v7).

Notice  that  not only is it mandatory to  eat  unleavened  bread during  these  seven days but also there is a  prohibition  against having any leavened bread within the boundaries of the Israelites' personal property and the nation as a whole.

"And  you shall show your son in that day, saying, This  is  done because of that which the Lord did to me when I came forth out of Egypt" (v8).

Again,  we see that the events of the Passover and the  subsequent departure of the Israelites were to be rehearsed on this first  day of the festival.

"And  it  shall be for a sign to you upon your hand,  and  for  a memorial  between your  eyes, that the Lord's law may be in  your mouth:  for  with a strong hand has the Lord brought you out  of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year" (vs.9-10).

The  proper observance of this festival  was meant to   keep  the Israelites   continually conscious of God, his laws, and the knowledge that it was God who gave them their freedom.

The First Born

"And  it shall be when the Lord shall bring you into the land  of the Canaanites, as he swore to your fathers, and shall give it to you,  That  you shall set apart all that opens  the  matrix, and every firstling that comes of the beast which you have; the males shall  be  the lord's. And every firstling of an  ass  you  shall redeem  with a lamb; and if you do not redeem it then  you shall break his neck; and all the first-born of man among your  children you shall redeem" (vs.11-13).

Prior to freeing the Israelites from  Egypt,  God proclaimed that the nation was his first-born (Ex.4:22). Here  and in  verses 1-2 of chapter 12, God declares his ownership  of  all the first-born animals and male children of Israel.

"And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come,  saying, What is this? That you shall say to him, By strength of hand  the Lord brought us out of Egypt from the house of bondage" (v14).

The  first  lesson taught by the redeeming of the  first-born  was that the Creator God had claimed Israel as his own and freed them from  slavery.  The second is a two part prophetic  lesson that revealed the following:

1. If  there is no redemption, the death  penalty  must  be administered.

2. The Creator would come to redeem humanity  through  his sacrificial blood, which would provide freedom from sin and its death penalty.

Leviticus 23:4-8 KJV

"These  are the feasts of the Lord, Even holy convocations,  which you shall proclaim in their seasons, In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord's Passover. And  on  the fifteenth day of the same month is  the  feast  of unleavened bread to the Lord: seven days you must eat unleavened bread. In the first day you shall have a holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. But you shall offer an offering made  by fire to the Lord seven days: in the seventh day in an holy convocation: you shall do no servile work therein" (vs.4-8). See also Num. 28:17-25.

The Passover and the first and last  days  of Unleavened   Bread are noted as  mandatory assemblies for the  people of Israel.  On both these festivals, work is  prohibited and sacrificial offerings by fire must be made.

Deuteronomy 16:1-8 KJV

"Observe  the month (new moon) of Abib and keep the  Passover  to the  Lord  your God: For in the month of Abib the Lord  your  God brought you forth out of Egypt by night. You shall therefore sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God, of  the  flock and the herd, in the place which  the  lord shall choose to place his name there" (vs.1-2).

When  Moses was given instructions about when and how to  observe the  Passover, he was also shown which day was the first  day  of the first month of the year (i.e., the first New Moon  of the sacred  year) (Ex.12:1-2). Because the first day of each month was  to  be observed with sacrificial offerings, it seems logical that,  in verse 1,  God says the Israelites must observe the new moon and the Passover in the place that he sanctifies for its observance.

Bread of Affliction

"You  shall eat no leavened bread with it; seven days  shall  you eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for you  came forth out of the land of  Egypt in haste: that you  may remember the day when you came forth out of the land all the days of your life" (v3).

The  English  word  'affliction' is translated  from  the  Hebrew word 'oni', which expresses a state of pain or punishment resulting  from affliction. Sin results in pain and punishment (Rom.6:23). It can be seen from verse 3 that God  speaks  of the unleavened bread which was to  be  eaten  for seven days as a symbolic reminder of the pain and agony that  the Israelites endured in Egypt.

The instructions concerning God's observances and festivals that are a part of the covenant relationship between God and his people  are repeated many times throughout the Bible. In verses 4 through 8 there is a final summation of these instructions for the observance of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread:

"And  there shall be no leavened bread seen with you in all  your coast seven days; neither shall there be any thing of the  flesh, which  you  sacrificed the first day at even,  remain  all night until the morning. You  may  not sacrifice the Passover within any of  your  gates, which  the Lord gives you: But at the place which the  Lord  your God shall choose to place his name in, there you shall sacrifice the Passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that you came forth out of Egypt. And you shall roast it and  eat it  in the place which the Lord your God shall choose:  and then you shall turn in the morning, and go into your tents. Six days you shall eat unleavened bread: and on the seventh  day shall be a solemn assembly to the Lord your God: you shall do  no work therein" (vs.4-8).

SUMMARY

The  Creator  God  who would become Jesus  Christ  delivered  the Israelites out of years of bondage and slavery through his  mighty power;  then, he established  them as a nation under  his laws  and protection through which they would receive many benefits.

Summarized below  are  some important points that  are  revealed through  the instructions for ancient Israel's observance of  the Festival of Unleavened Bread:

The first day of Unleavened Bread was to be the following:

The last day of Unleavened Bread was also a day on which there was to be a commanded assembly and a day of rejoicing, feasting,  and worshiping before their God in gratitude for his  great mercy and blessings.

There is some speculation that Israel passed through the Red  Sea on  the  seventh day of Unleavened Bread. Although this cannot be  proved through the scriptures, the Israelites' deliverance from the Egyptian  army at the end of the Days of Unleavened Bread would fit well  within the prophetic  and symbolic meaning of the  seventh  day, which is  symbolic  of the complete salvation and departure from sin and evil that is symbolized by Egypt.

Although the  celebration of the Festival of Unleavened  Bread  had great  meaning  and significance to those of the  Exodus and their descendants, its  meaning and importance was not intended to be for the nation of Israel alone. Within the prophetic and symbolic meaning of these days, the first phase of  God's plan for the salvation of all of humanity can be found.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w46