There’s a lot of symbolism in the Bible. However, when we read the Bible, we must be careful to recognize the difference between the literate and symbolic. For example, in Leviticus 2:11, the Lord gives the people this rule regarding grain offerings.

“‘ Every grain offering you bring to the Lord must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the Lord'” (emphasis added).

Leviticus 2:11 (NIV)

In the book of Leviticus, the Lord mentions yeast 12 times, and in Exodus, 16 times. Other than the book of Matthew, where yeast is mentioned 6 times, Exodus and Leviticus mention it the most in the Bible. That’s a lot of talk about yeast, which led me to ask, “Does the Lord hate yeast, and if so, why?” 

In the New Testament, yeast is primarily symbolic of teaching. False teaching, for the most part. Thus, whenever yeast is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s used to illustrate how teaching can spread. Like yeast. However, in the Old Testament, whenever yeast is mentioned, it’s talking about yeast. Literally. 

Some say that God didn’t want the Israelites to use yeast because it symbolizes sin, and God hates sin. Therefore, they weren’t to use yeast. Consider this. If God hates sin and doesn’t want his people to sin, which he doesn’t. Then, is sin ever acceptable to God? Is there ever a time when God says, “It’s okay that you sinned. He had it coming!” No, sin is unacceptable to God, but he forgives us of it. Jesus died for everyone’s sins, but it doesn’t mean he likes it. Not even the “smallest” of sins. 

If all sin is unacceptable to God, and he doesn’t want his people to sin or have sin in their lives, and yeast symbolizes sin, why give the people this instruction?

You may bring them to the Lord as an offering of the firstfruits, but they are not to be offered on the altar as a pleasing aroma.

Leviticus 2:12 (NIV)

In verse 11, God prohibits yeast in the burnt offering but accepts yeast in these, the first fruits. Therefore, if we were following the premise that yeast symbolizes sin, verse 12 is counter to the character of God. In fact, it would be like God said, “It’s okay to have some sin in your life.” 

Therefore, it’s not logical to presume that God didn’t want yeast in some offerings but not others because it symbolizes sin. Instead, there must be another reason or reasons. 

Consider what God said about yeast before the first Passover.

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.

Exodus 12:8 (NIV)

Being delivered from bondage in Egypt was a big deal. It wasn’t something that should be glossed over. In fact, it was so important it was going to be celebrated each year. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I was curious, so when I saw my family doing something year after year, like cleaning the house and yard in the springtime, I asked about it. Since the Passover was a big deal and was to be celebrated yearly, God gave the Israelites this instruction.

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.'”

Exodus 12:26-27 (NIV)

Thus, one reason why bread was made without yeast was to remember that the Lord delivered the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Another reason is that it takes longer to bake bread with yeast in it than it does to bake bread without yeast in it. This is practical and logical reasoning that has nothing to do with sin. When the Israelites left Egypt, they did so in haste. They didn’t have the time to bake bread with yeast in it.

I’m not a baker and don’t know much about baking, but I understand that yeast swells in bread and can cause deformation and foul odors. It can even explode (?). In any case, it’s not pleasant to eat, look at, or smell. Thus, it wouldn’t be a pleasing odor with yeast when burnt. To God or anyone else. Again, this reason has nothing to do with symbolism and everything to do with logic. 

The fourth reason why burnt offerings weren’t to have yeast in them deals with the pagans around the Israelites who performed sacrifices to their false gods using things like yeast and honey. Amongst the reasons why God didn’t want yeast in his burnt offerings, this reason comes closest to sin being the cause, but for those of you saying, “Aha! It is because of sin!” Consider what God said about the nations surrounding the Israelites.

Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.

Joshua 23:7 (NIV)

Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Deuteronomy 7:2b-5 (NIV)

“When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.”

Deuteronomy 18:9 (NIV)

The Israelites weren’t to adopt the customs of the nations around them. Even in things that might not seem like a sin, like intermarriage, the Lord didn’t want them to do it because it would lead to idolatry. Adopting their customs would be like inserting yeast into their lives. It would spread throughout and contaminate them. This reminds me of this verse from 1 Thessalonians. 

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)

This verse doesn’t tell us it’s a sin to look like evil things, but adopting the practices of those who do wrong things can lead to doing those things ourselves. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul gives instructions on how Christians ought to live which fits with not adopting the customs of those around us who don’t know Jesus.

When we consider why God didn’t want the Israelites to put yeast into their burnt offerings, we can see that the answer isn’t as simple as “Yeast represents sin.” 

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.