The moed of Chag HaMatzot [the Feast of Unleavened Bread] occurs the day after Pesach and gives us a picture of removing sin from our lives immediately as we are set free from bondage in Egypt. In this moed we can see the sinless Messiah and the sanctifying work of G-d's Holy Spirit.
As we remove the physical leaven from our homes we should also strive to remove the spiritual leaven of sin from our lives.
Consider what Scripture says about this festival and the commandments surrounding it: what are we to do and when are we to do it? And we should never forget the One for whom we do all of it: our Maker and Redeemer.
We should also consider the millennia-old traditions associated with the moed and see how those traditions can enhance our celebration and understanding of the event. Before we reject traditions wholesale we should consider what Scripture says about tradition.
We should "open our eyes" to see our Messiah in the moedim. Scripture was given to speak of Him and we should listen and hear its voice... His voice... during these times.
What Scripture Says About Chag Hamatzot
Who: All the congregation of Israel. (Exodus 12:3)
The Hebrew word translated as "congregation" is עדה, (edah- Strong's #5712) literally means an "assembly" or "congregation". Exodus 12:3 is the very first time in Scripture that this word is used.
Normally references to Israel as a group are made as "the children [benei] of Israel". Why is edah used instead of benei? Maybe because it wasn't just "the Jews" that G-d brought out of Egypt. There was a mixed multitude of many peoples who came out of Egypt with children of Israel (see Exodus 12:38) and it was this entire group that comprised the "congregation" or edah.
What: cease from having and eating leaven.
Here are the specific commandments regarding the moed:
- Unleavened bread [מצה, matzah, plural matzot, Strong's #4682] shall be eaten for seven days (Exodus 12:15, 13:6-7).
- Unleavened bread [מצה, matzah] is to be eaten from the fourteenth day of the first month (i.e. Pesach) until the twenty-first day of the month at evening (Exodus 12:18).
- In all your dwellings [מושׁב, moshav] you shall eat matzah (Exodus 12:20).
- For seven days you shall eat matzah (Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17).
- Leaven [שׂאר, seor, Strong's #7603] shall be removed from your home on the first day (Exodus 12:15).
- Whoever eats anything leavened [חמץ, chamets, Strong's #2557] from the first day until the seventh day shall but cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:15).
- Seven days there shall be no leaven [seor] found in your houses (Exodus 12:19).
- Whoever eats what is leavened [מחמצת, machmetset, literally "that which is leavened"] shall be cut off from the congregation [edah] of Israel, whether an alien [ger] or a native [ezrach] of the land (Exodus 12:19).
- You shall not eat anything leavened [machmetset] (Exodus 12:20).
- Nothing leavened [chametz] shall be seen among you nor shall leaven [seor] be seen among you in all your borders (Exodus 13:7).
- On the first day is to be a holy assembly [מקרא-קדש, miqra qodesh] (Exodus 12:16).
- On the seventh day is to be a holy assembly [miqra qodesh] (Exodus 12:16) and a feast to the LORD (Exodus 13:6).
- No work [מלאכה, melakhah] is to be done on the first and seventh days except the work of preparing food (Exodus 12:16).
- Chag Hamatzot is to be observed because on that day the Israelites were brought out of Egypt (Exodus 12:17).
- Chag Hamatzot is to be observed throughout all generations as a permanent ordinance [chuqat olam] (Exodus 12:17).
- The first night is to be observed to the LORD for having brought them out from the land of Egypt (Exodus 12:42).
- On the first day shall be a holy convocation [miqra qodesh] and no "laborious work" (NASB) or "servile work" (JPS) [מלאכת עבדה, melakhet avodah] shall be done (Leviticus 23:7, Numbers 28:18).
- The seventh day is a holy convocation [miqra qodesh] and no "laborious work" [melakhet avodah] shall not be done (Leviticus 23:8, Numbers 28:25).
- There is to be a "solemn assembly" [עצרה, atsarah] on the seventh day and no work shall be done on it (Deuteronomy 16:8).
- The week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is one of the three times when all the males of Israel are required to appear before the Lord G-d (Deuteronomy 16:16).
- The men shall not appear before the Lord empty handed (Deuteronomy 16:16).
The offerings were made once the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) was built.
- For seven days you shall present an "offering by fire" [אשּׁה, isheh] to the Lord (Leviticus 23:8).
- The "offering by fire" [isheh] includes the following:
- Two bulls and one ram and seven male lambs one year old without defect (Numbers 28:19).
- A grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil; three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram (Numbers 28:20), and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs (Numbers 28:21).
- A male goat for a sin offering [חטאת, chata'at] to make atonement (Numbers 28:22).
- These sacrifices were brought in addition to the regular morning offering (Numbers 28:23).
- Two bulls, one ram, and seven male lambs were to be offered each day during the seven days of the festival (Numbers 28:24)
There are 4 places in Scripture where we are commanded to tell our children regarding the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt. The telling (Hebrew: הגדה, hagadah) and recollection of G-d's work in removing His people from Egypt is a significant part of the moed.
"And when your children say to you, 'What does this rite mean to you?' you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'" And the people bowed low and worshiped. (Exodus 12:26)
"You shall tell your son on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)
"And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What is this?' then you shall say to him, 'With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery." (Exodus 13:14)
"When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean which the LORD our God commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand." (Deuteronomy 6:20-21)
When: the fifteenth day of the first month (Aviv) through the twenty-first day of the first month.
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread shall be observed at the appointed time in the month Aviv (Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17).
- The Feast shall be for seven days (Exodus 23:15, Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6).
The moed of Chag Hamatzot and the Exodus provides a picture of the physical redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Since G-d had chosen this people and marked them as His own, Egypt drove them out (Exodus 12:30). The Egyptians feared that G-d's selection of the Israelites meant death for them (Exodus 12:33). Leaving their bondage and service to Pharaoh, the Israelites became G-d's slaves and served Him instead. (Exodus 7:16)
This festival is also a picture of the spiritual redemption of believers from bondage to sin. G-d has chosen His people and marked them as His own (Revelation 7:4) and the world hates them, drives them out, and rejects them (John 15:18, 19, 20) because the witness of believers regarding G-d's righteousness and salvation means death for them. Leaving our bondage and service to sin (2 Timothy 2:22), we have become G-d's bond-servants and serve Him instead. (2 Timothy 2:24)
Physical leaven is used throughout Scripture to represent spiritual sin. It should be removed from our homes on the first day (Exodus 12:15)... without delay. Just as G-d removed Israel from bondage to Egypt in one day and just as He removed believers from bondage to sin in one day, we are to remove the leaven from our lives in a single day. We are commanded to remove leaven from all our borders and no leaven shall be seen among us (Exodus 13:7). Note that the leaven is not hidden away... it is removed. Our sin should not be hidden away. We should not put "on a show" of sinlessness. Sin should be removed from our lives.
What is "leaven"?
There are three very specific Hebrew words used in Scripture that provide commandments for this moed:
Chamets is any type of dough made from grain that is allowed to rise. The word chamets is found only 11 times in Scripture:
- Anyone who eats chamets during Chag Hamatzot shall be cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:15).
- Nothing chamets shall be eaten during the festival (Exodus 13:3).
- Nothing chamets shall be seen among you during the seven days of the festival (Exodus 13:7).
- The blood of sacrifices shall not be offered with chamets (Exodus 23:18, Exodus 34:25).
- No grain offerings shall be made with chamets (Leviticus 2:11, 6:17).
- Peace offerings for thanksgiving shall contain cakes of bread with chamets (Leviticus 7:13).
- Two loaves of bread with chamets shall be brought as the wave offering for first fruits (Leviticus 23:17).
- The Passover lamb shall not be eaten with chamets (Deuteronomy 16:3).
- A leavened thank-offering is referenced in Amos 4:5 using the word chamets as well.
Traditionally chamets a product that is (a) made from five types of grains , and (b) has been combined with water and left to stand for longer than eighteen minutes without being baked.1 The five types of grains are the native grains of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, spelt/emmer, rye, and oats. Just about every form of fluffy bread, cake, cookie, etc, fits this definition.
Seor is a leavening agent... something that causes dough to become leavened. The word seor is found only 5 times in Scripture:
- You shall remove seor from your houses (Exodus 12:15)
- Seven days there shall be no seor found in your houses (Exodus 12:19).
- Nor shall any seor be seen among you in all your borders (Exodus 13:7).
- You shall not offer up in smoke any seor or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD (Leviticus 2:11)
- For seven days no seor shall be seen with you in all your territory (Deuteronomy 16:4)
Yeast is probably the most common leavening agent but vinegar, baking powder, and other, similar agents also exist.
The word machmetset is derived from chamets and means "anything leavened". It is found only twice in Scripture:
- For whoever eats what is machmetset, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel (Exodus 12:19).
- You shall not eat anything machmetset... (Exodus 12:20).
A sandwich made with leavened bread would be considered machmetset.
The observance of Chag Hamatzot is so intertwined with the events of Passover that this week-long moed is often called Pesach. The whole Pesach-Chag Hamatzot event is an eight day celebration.
It is believed that the seventh day of Chag Hamatzot is when the Israelites cross the Red Sea.
Next, let's examine the festival for pictures of Messiah...