Friday, November 2, 2018

The Parable of the Leaven

A study of the parable of the leaven that Jesus gave in Matthew 13:33.   This parable is not about the miraculous growth of the Kingdom of God.

  • Intro / Review
  • The Parable of the Leaven
  • What is Leaven?
  • Leaven in the Old Testament
  • Leaven in the New Testament
  • The Pharisees and Herod
  • The Woman
  • Matthew 13:33
  • Matthew 13:41
  • Luke 13:20-21
  • Exodus 12:15-20
  • Exodus 34:25
  • Leviticus 2:11
  • Leviticus 23:16-17
  • Matthew 16:6-12
  • Luke 12:1
  • 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
  • Galatians 5:6-9
  • Mark 8:14-17
  • Revelation 17:3-6
  • Acts 20:29-31
Who knows what the term expositional constancy means?
This is a fancy term used in bible interpretation to mean that symbolism in scripture tends to be consistent.  It is a term used to convey to us that the use of symbolism and idioms in Scripture is consistent.  This definition remains consistent through-out the Bible.  Expositional Constancy only applies to words that are used symbolically.  And it shouldn’t be used for hyperboles.
  • Jesus is the “the Word”.


The Kingdom

God is going to establish a future Kingdom on earth in which the saints will rule with Jesus.  This was His original goal with Adam and Eve.  He wanted to have His will implemented on earth through humans.  This is still the plan.
Our hope is not in us rehabilitating the world but in God who is building a kingdom in this world.

The Parable of the Leaven

Matthew 13:33
He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."
  1. One view is that the parables is that Christianity will spread and eventually permeate the entire earth so that it’s all Christian.  
  2. Another view of this parable is that corruption will be introduced into “the church” and eventually be spread throughout the entire church.
The first view claims that the kingdom of heaven being like leaven.  Leaven has the ability to permeate a large loaf of bread. The church started out very small, and it is gradually going to develop and grow until it influences the whole world for good.  They teach that this will be the influence of the church. It will ultimately permeate and influence the entire world.  
The other interpretation is Jesus is warning that evil influences will permeate through the entire church.   The influences could be doctrinal errors, or the acceptance of worldly ways, man made traditions that make God’s word of no effect.

The Other Matthew 13 Parables

We have looked at 2 parables about the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13
  1. Parable of the Soils
  2. Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

Parable of the Sower

In the Parable of the Sower Jesus tells us about 4 types of soil:
  1. The Path
  2. Rocky Soil
  3. The Thorns
  4. Good Soil
Only one of these 4 soils is good.   Only one of these soils produces fruit.   In the other 3 soils the word of God is impeded and they produce no benefit to the Kingdom.  
This parable of the Kingdom is describing undesirable things that will happen in relation to the Kingdom.  Jesus said that understanding this parable unlocks the others.

Parable of the Weeds

The parable taught us:
  • Satan introduced evil into the earth
  • We saw that the weeds included the religious leaders, false prophets, and those whose lawless deeds had not been forgiven
  • Jesus said He would remove the evil doers from His Kingdom when He returns
Matthew 13:41
41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
In this parable God's work is being opposed.   The good seeds and the evil seeds will grow together. It will be a corrupting influence within the church.  
This parable of the Kingdom is describing undesirable things that will happen in the Kingdom.
  • Jesus gives these two parables to foretell of certain situations that would affect God's church.
  • Both of these parable describe bad things happening in regard to the Kingdom
Expositional constancy - would Jesus switch His teaching part way in?
Because of expositional constancy and because Jesus said the parable of the Sower unlocks the other parables it’s likely that leaven is not referring to a good trait of the Kingdom.

What is Leaven?

Leaven is like yeast
Yeast is used to make bread and alcohol
Physically, leaven is a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation, or a substance that causes dough to rise (yeast).   Fermentation is the process of turning carbohydrates like sugar and alcohol into carbon dioxide.   Carbon dioxide is the poisonous gases that is harmful to people.
You would usually have a piece of dough saved from a previous batch that is already fermented and mix it into the new batch.    Leaven changes the nature of the substance you add it to.  It's like mold on cheese or fruit.


Leaven usually symbolizes sin or corruption in the bible.  A reason for leaven's negative symbolism is the idea that fermentation implies a process of corruption. In the Old Testament, it is generally symbolic of sin and evil.
In every other context that leaven appears in the Bible, it represents evil.  Some would argue that Jesus' use of leaven in this parable is the only exception. Knowing its Old Testament significance, why would Jesus use it differently in an analogy?  
No one asked Him to explain this analogy, so all the disciples would have gotten their understanding from their previous context.

Leaven in the Parable

Luke 13:20-21
20 And again He said, "To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?
21 "It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."

Three pecks of flour

Three pecks of meal was about a bushel – 56 pounds.  
This was an unusually large amount of meal. It was much more than any normal woman would prepare, and suggests the idea of massive or unnatural size.
  • This would make enough bread for a meal for 100 people

Hid in it

Hid = Enkrupto (Greek)
  • From which comes the English word "encrypt."
  • The root word, krupto, means "to conceal" or "to keep secret."
  • She didn’t want anyone to know
Who works in secret?
  • Satan
The idea of hiding leaven in three measures of meal would have offended any observant Jew.  The natural interpretation would be that of someone contaminating the flour.

This is a Warning

This is not likely a depiction of the church gradually influencing the whole world for good. Rather, in the context of increasing opposition to His work.  Jesus is warning that His kingdom community would also be threatened by corruption and impurity.  
The leaven being hidden in the flour is similar to the weeds being hidden among the wheat.

The Leaven isn’t the Kingdom

In the parable, the leaven alone is not what relates to the kingdom, but the entire concept in the parable.  The leaven is hidden in the meal, representing the way Satan subtly introduces corruption into the church.

Leaven in the Old Testament

  • This would have been the understanding the disciples had
  • Jesus didn’t need to explain this parable
  • God spoke of leaven as bad
Leaven was forbidden during the feast of the Passover.
Exodus 12:15-20
15 '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.
16 'On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.
17 'You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.
18 'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.
19 'Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land.
20 'You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'"
  • Leaven is seen as impure
  • God didn’t want leaven used during Holy periods
  • Not putting leaven in your bread was a sign of obedience to God
  • If you ate leaven you were cut off from Israel

Sin Sacrifice

Exodus 34:25
25 "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread, nor is the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover to be left over until morning.

Grain Offering

The grain offering was worship
Leviticus 2:11
11 'No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD.
  • Both leaven and honey can be fermented
  • Fermentation was used to symbolize corruption
  • It is associated with ungodly desires
No specific amount of grain was required for an offering; people were free to give what they had.

Wave Offering

Leviticus 23:16-17
16 'You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD.
17 'You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD.
Leavened bread could not be used during the sabbath.  It could though be used as an offering afterwards.  
  • Leavened could not be used during the Holy period
  • The wave offering was not to be put on the altar
  • The wave offering was eaten by those who worked in service in the temple

Leaven in the New Testament

What did leaven represent in the New Testament?

Wrong / Dangerous Teaching

Matthew 16:6-12
6 And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, "He said that because we did not bring any bread."
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?
9 "Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up?
10 "Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up?
11 "How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
  • Leaven is bad doctrine
  • Their doctrine was corrupt and would harm the Kingdom


Luke 12:1*
Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Pride, Malice, Wickedness

1 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?
7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
8 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.
  • Leaven represents pride, malice, and evil

False Doctrine

Galatians 5:6-9
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.
9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
  • Paul is teaching against those who told the Gentiles they needed to be circumcised
  • This is a direct use of the analogy of the parable
  • Here it is negative

The Pharisees and Herod

Mark 8:14-17*
14 And they had forgotten to take bread, and did not have more than one loaf in the boat with them.
15 And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."
16 They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread.
17 And Jesus, aware of this, *said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?
  • Corruption from the religious system and the political system


The Roman emperor Constantine who ruled from 306 AD - 337 AD supported (and most say converted to) Christianity greatly helped spread the adoption of Christianity within the Roman empire.
  • He stopped the persecution of Christians
  • He settled disputes and came up with a universal definition of the Church’s teaching
  • Council of Nicea
  • Defined the dates for the holy days - Christmas, Easter
In doing so he merged pagan holidays and  traditions into Christianity
  • Holiday dates were based on the pagan holidays
  • Pagan gods got represented as saints
At that time, two prominent pagan winter festivals were celebrated. The first, starting on December 17 and lasting seven days, honored Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. The second, starting on December 25 and lasting through January 1, commemorated the birth of Mithras, the Persian god of light. Constantine merged many of the traditions from these festivals with the Nativity story in the Bible and Christmas was born. From its beginning, Christmas was a holiday (or holy day), gifts were exchanged, families and friends gathered to feast, and a birth was celebrated; just like in the Roman and Persian festivities.
  • Set the date for Easter - the Sunday after the first New Moon of Spring.

The Woman

What does the woman in the parable represent?
The woman “hid” the leaven in the dough

Whenever we find the symbol of an unnamed woman in the Bible, she represents a system of beliefs and practices that influence other people.
By mixing in leaven she is mixing into the church:
  1. Wrong teaching
  2. Hypocrisy
  3. Pride, malice,
  4. False doctrine

Who Is The Woman?

Revelation 17:3-6
 3And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.
  • The woman in the future will be Babylon
  • The woman was, is not, and will be…
  • She is hidden (in plain sight)
  • The woman here is the Mystery Religion of Babylon
In our previous study of the Mystery Religion of Babylon we saw that it is the source of:
  • Easter
  • Christmas
  • Christmas Trees
  • Yule logs
  • And many other Christian traditions
The religion is a system of sin worship and moon goddess worship that has morphed into many incarnations over time.  The Mystery Religion of Babylon was, is and will be the leaven that threatens the church.  Most false religions and false doctrines have some roots in this religious system.
We saw that a major component of the New World Order will be the combining of religion with the political office


Although many commentaries interpret this parable as depicting the spreading influence of the gospel, it is actually a warning.  This parable is warning about dangers that will come from within the church.  It warns of the introduction of bad doctrine into the church.  
In the parable of the sower the word is prevented from bearing fruit in people’s hearts because of: the devil, pride, and an inability to understand the word.  
The parable of the wheat and weeds warns that evil influences will be placed in the world in opposition to the Kingdom.  It warns that evil will grow alongside good.  In the parable of the leaven evil influences are mixed in with the good and will completely spread throughout.
All of these parables show an example of something that started out good but then got corrupted in an unexpected way.  The parable teaches that there will be opposition mixed into the Kingdom.
The parable of the leaven warns against:
  • Wrong teaching
  • Hypocrisy
  • Pride, malice, wickedness
  • False doctrine

Leaven in the Church

Acts 20:29-31
29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
Many teach that the church is going to grow so big that we will influence the whole world.  We may grow large, but as we grow, corruption has been and continues to be, introduced into the church.  Wrong teachings will become more and more pervasive until they become the mainstream teachings of the church.
  • Churches are growing bigger, but divorce is at an all time high
  • The church is becoming tolerant
  • Songs are worshipping the/a Holy Spirit instead of God
  • The church has replaced a focus on the knowledge of God with an emphasis on your experience with God
  • New Age practices are becoming more prevalent
Be cautious if a church/teacher is teaching you that doctrine is not important
  • Be cautious if you’re told that your faith is the ultimate factor in determining whether or not something gets manifested on earth
  • Don’t let faith be your God
  • Be cautious if you’re told your behaviour determines whether or not you get into Heaven
  • Be cautious if you’re told to accept all Christian doctrines for the sake of unity
  • Unity is not more important that accuracy
  • Be cautious if you are discouraged from communicating directly with God
  • Be cautious if you are told that it is up to us to bring the Kingdom of God to earth
It doesn’t matter that we convert the whole world to Christianity, if we’re worshiping the wrong Christ
Author / Instructor: Michael Leadon


Seeds and Bread - Tim Mackey
Grain Offering
Parable of the Leaven
Jack Hibbs
Chuck Smith Commentary
Emperor Constantine
Parable of the Leaven


Bible was
  • First book printed on the printing press
  • First book made electronic
  • Best selling book every year since it was created
  • Guinness book of world records 2015 ranked it as best selling with 5 billion copies
Another necessary ingredient was salt, salt must be added to every sacrifice. Salt has a purifying influence, Salt is the emblem of incorruption and Christ's body saw no corruption (Psalm 16:10).

Wine was not mentioned but was the basis of the drink offering and was symbolic of vigour and refreshment (Psalm 104:15). There were also two substances that were particularly excluded from use in the offering. Leaven was forbidden (verse 11) Where as salt was an emblem of incorruption, a preservative against corruption, leaven is the emblem of corruption. To mix the holy things of God with leaven (evil) is an abomination to the Lord.
Matthew 24:3-13
3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
  • Jesus warns about false prophets increasing in the end time
  • Tribulation will increase

Leaven and Jesus

The presence of leaven in the bread changes its original nature, making it an unacceptable offering. Similarly the presence of sin in our hearts corrupts our new nature.  The grain offering foreshadowed Jesus ... the Bread of Life (John 6:35) … it had to be pure and holy just as He is holy.  It had to be made without leaven.  Just as Jesus remained without sin.

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