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By Chuck Henry
rev. 4/7/2013



Table of Contents


Scriptural Leavening Defined

Leaven Symbolic of both Bad and Good in Scripture






Exo 12:15

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread [matstsah (H4682)]. On the first day you shall remove leaven [se’or (H7603)] from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread [chametz (H2557)] from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.


1 Cor 5:8

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven [zume (G2219)], nor with the leaven [zume] of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread [azumos (G106)] of sincerity and truth.


            Strong’s Dictionary:


  • 4682. matstsah, mats-tsaw'; from H4711 in the sense of greedily devouring for sweetness; prop. sweetness; concr. sweet (i.e. not soured or bittered with yeast); spec. an unfermented cake or loaf, or (ellipt.) the festival of Passover (because no leaven was then used):--unleavened (bread, cake), without leaven.


  • 7603. se'or, seh-ore'; from H7604; barm or yeast-cake (as swelling by fermentation):--leaven.


  • 2557. chametz, khaw-mates'; from H2556; ferment, (fig.) extortion:--leaven, leavened (bread).


  • 2219. zume, dzoo'-may; prob. from G2204; ferment (as if boiling up):--leaven.


Leavening is fermentation. This occurs as yeast breeds and reproduces in leavened products. Conversely, unleavened is unfermented. Fermentation is what occurs naturally to a ball of dough if it is allowed to sit long enough (or if yeast is manually added to speed the process). The fermentation will cause it to rise and it can then be baked into a loaf of leavened bread.


We have reached the conclusion that Scriptural leavening (Heb. se’or or chametz and Gr. zume) refers to the living organism of yeast causing fermentation; whereas, baking powder and baking soda are chemical agents which cause a chemical reaction different than fermentation. Even so, modern science refers to these agents as “leavening” on modern ingredients panels. From a Scriptural standpoint, we disagree with the modern science labeling.


Having stated that, we nevertheless understand many believers regard baking powder and baking soda as leavening. Therefore, even though we may have products containing baking powder and baking soda in our private home during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, we avoid serving it to other people who observe differently.


Notwithstanding, if se’or, chametz, and zume are truly defined as anything that puffs up, ingredients such as egg whites should be prohibited in our cooking during the week of unleavened bread. Nor should we introduce air into a product by beating or whipping it to make it puffed up – for example, such is the case with whipped cream.


Gordon Hayes, who has been a baker by occupation, included interesting information both from a Scriptural and a baker’s perspective in an email to my wife, Melissa Henry, on 5/8/2010—


Most do not allow baking soda or baking powder to remain in their homes because it is called a chemical leavener by scientists. However, neither of these two ingredients fit the biblical definition of chametz or se'or. …


Many teachers teach that se'or is something that causes another thing to become puffed up. They compare this to sin and pride which puffs us up spiritually. They also say that yeast represents sin in the Scriptures. This is not always true. The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a lump of yeast also in the Scriptures (Matthew 13:33).  Makes for a nice teaching. It just isn’t totally or Hebraicly true. If se'or was truly defined as something that “puffs up,” we would not be allowed to use butter, margarine, shortening, egg whites, air or water in our cooking during the week of Unleaveneds. Each of these ingredients are used in various ways to cause a baked product to puff up.


What Yahua is talking about when he says to remove se'or and chametz from our borders is yeast. Specifically in that time period, it would have been sourdough or pieces of dough kept from one batch and used in the next batch. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.


Yeast, wild or commercial, is a living organism. It breeds and reproduces in leavened products. It causes a product to grow because as it reproduces it puts off gases. Baking soda and Baking powder are not living organisms. They are chemical products that cause a chemical reaction in the product.


This is my understanding of it from a Hebraic and a baker’s standpoint. That is why I do not worry about them being removed during the Feast of Unleaveneds.


Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D., chemistry guide for the website, provides the following information about baking soda and baking powder—


Baking Soda


Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When baking soda is combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g., yogurt, chocolate, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes which call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat!


Baking Powder


Baking powder contains sodium bicarbonate, but it includes the acidifying agent already (cream of tartar), and also a drying agent (usually starch). Baking powder is available as single-acting baking powder and as double-acting baking powder. Single-acting powders are activated by moisture, so you must bake recipes which include this product immediately after mixing. Double-acting powders react in two phases and can stand for a while before baking. With double-acting powder, some gas is released at room temperature when the powder is added to dough, but the majority of the gas is released after the temperature of the dough increases in the oven.


-- Helmenstine, Anne, Ph.D., “What Is the Difference Between Baking Soda & Baking Powder?” Chemistry. Web. 4/6/2013.



An additional point about baking soda and baking powder: If a little dough containing baking soda or baking powder is mixed into a much bigger batch of dough without yeast, it will not cause the entire batch of dough to become leavened. Thus, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:6; Gal 6:9) could not be speaking of a bit of baking soda- or baking powder-enriched dough added in order to leaven the whole lump. This is due to the fact that baking soda and baking powder are dry chemical products that do not breed and reproduce.






Mat 16:5-8, 11-12

5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Yahshua said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 But Yahshua, being aware of it, said to them, O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?

11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?; but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

12 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.


1 Cor 5:8

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.




Mat 13:33

Another parable He spoke to them: The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.