The Festival of Unleavened Bread Chag HaMatzah

Excerpt from: J.K. McKee’s Moedim published 2013 by TNN Press. This resource is available for purchase here.

The Festival of Unleavened Bread/Chag HaMatzah

Concurrent with the remembrance of Passover— and in Jewish tradition witnessed in the New Testament and today often just called by the general season “Passover”—is the Festival of Unleavened Bread:

“Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work” (Leviticus 23:6-8).

The Festival of Unleavened Bread is called Chag HaMatzah in Hebrew. It was instituted so that the Ancient Israelites would remember eating the bread of haste that they had to prepare quickly as they left Egypt. There was no time to let their bread rise, so instead they were forced to eat it unleavened. Unleavened bread or matzah was required to be eaten on the first night of Passover, and then was to be eaten for the week following:

“Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:14-15).

Deuteronomy 16:3 notes how the Ancient Israelites were to eat Unleavened Bread so that they would remember their affliction in Egypt: “You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.”

The Festival of Unleavened Bread is observed by removing all leavened items from one’s house. You are probably aware of the many “Kosher for Passover” items available during this time, as leavening items such as yeast have been removed from many products for use during the Passover season.

As Believers in Messiah Yeshua, the Festival of Unleavened Bread takes on very important meaning for us. Hertz validly states that “Leaven is the symbol of corruption, passion and sin,”[1] which is exactly what Yeshua took upon Himself when He was crucified. The Messiah spoke of leaven in Matthew 16:6 when He said, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the  Pharisees and Sadducees,” in reference to some of their teachings which were non-Scriptural and were no doubt sinful.

The Apostle Paul emphasizes in 1 Corinthians 5:8, in relation to Passover, “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” encouraging Believers that when they celebrate this holiday, they are to get the leaven or sin out of their lives. During the Passover season we participate in Chag HaMatzah by eating unleavened bread for seven days. Each time we pick up a piece of matzah,we should be consciously reminded of Yeshua’s sacrifice for us, as He is the sinless, leaven-less, Bread of Life. Interestingly enough, Yeshua was born in Bethlehem or Beit-Lechem, a name which means “House of Bread.”

As Messianic Believers commemorate the week of Chag HaMatazah or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we must be reminded of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes [Heb. sing. chaburah] we are healed” (KJV). Many Messianics have validly compared this prophecy to the beatings of Yeshua, who was scourged and   mocked and shamed for us (cf. Matthew 27:26-31; Mark 15:15-20).

Those of you who have seen matzah know that it has “stripes” and small holes in it, and it is indeed “flat,” or leavenless. When we partake of matzah, it should hopefully remind us of the true Bread of Life, who is Messiah Yeshua. He was leavenless and without sin as the Bread of Life, and was the atonement for us by His sacrifice. He indeed had to take the punishment due us, incurred by our sin, onto Himself (Colossians 2:14).

We observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread today as a reminder of the Ancient Israelites’ trek from Egypt and the bread of haste that they had to eat. But we also observe it in remembrance of Messiah Yeshua, who came as the leaven-less, or sinless Lamb of God, beaten and bruised for us. Every time we see matzah, we are to be reminded of what He endured for us.

 

Endnote:

[1] J.H. Hertz, ed., Pentateuch & Haftorahs (London: Soncino, 1960), 256.

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