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(leeaw' vehn) A small portion of fermented dough used to ferment other dough and often symbolizing a corruptive influence. The common bread of Old Testament times was made with leaven. Such bread was acceptable as wave offerings for the priests and as loaves to accompany the peace offerings (Leviticus 7:11-13 ; Leviticus 23:17 ). However, bread made with leaven or honey, both associated with the process of fermentation and thus a source of corruption, was never to be used as offerings to be burned on the alter (Leviticus 2:11-12 ). Unleavened bread was also prepared in times of haste (1 Samuel 18:24 ) and was required for the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was celebrated in conjunction with the Passover festival (Leviticus 23:4-8 ). This unleavened bread, or bread of affliction, reminded the Israelites of their hasty departure from Egypt and warned them against corruptive influences (Exodus 12:14-20 ).

In the New Testament, leaven is a symbol of any evil influence which, if allowed to remain, can corrupt the body of believers. Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, their teaching and hypocrisy (Matthew 16:5-12 ; Luke 12:1 ). Paul urged the Corinthians to remove wickedness from their midst and become fresh dough, unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:6-13 ). Jesus also used leaven to illustrate the pervasive growth of the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:33 ).

Barbara J. Bruce

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Leaven'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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