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Leaven
Excerpt from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, the most advanced Bible dictionary.
A fermented substance that causes dough to rise.The leaven used in ancient Palestine was just a piece of fermented dough kept from a previous baking. The lump of leftover dough was either dissolved in water in the kneading-trough before the flour was added, or it was put into the flour and kneaded along with it, as described in one of Jesus’ parables (Matt 13:33). Bread made in this way was distinguished from unleavened bread, which did not rise. Leaven was supposed to be removed from Israelite houses during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (e.g., Exod 12:15, 19; 13:7). It was also forbidden in grain offerings (e.g., Exod 23:18; Lev 2:11).The figurative uses of leaven in the New Testament sometimes imply that leaven was viewed as a corrupting substance (Matt 16:6). Paul twice says that “a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough” (1 Cor 5:6; Gal 5:9). However, Jesus uses it once in a positive way, referring to the change caused by the kingdom of heaven (Matt 13:33).
Dictionaries
The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Leaven
Leaven (חָמֵץ‎, chamets; שְׂאֹר‎, se'or; ζύμη, zymē). A fermented substance that causes dough to rise.The leaven used in ancient Palestine was just a piece of fermented dough kept from a previous baking. The lump of leftover dough was either dissolved in water in the kneading-trough before the flour was
Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
Leaven
Leaven. Any substance that produces fermentation when added to dough. Leaven may signify the dough already infected by leaven, which was put into the flour so that the leaven could pass through the entire mass before baking; or it may refer to dough that had risen through the influence of the leaven.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised
Leaven
Leaven[Heb śeʾōr; ḥāmēṣ; Gk. zýmē; zymóō; Lat fermentum]. Any agent added to a flour mixture or liquids to produce a state of fermentation. The ancient Hebrews always kneaded with their bread a piece of fermented dough reserved from a previous baking (cf. Mt. 13:33). The leaven may also have
Tyndale Bible Dictionary
Leaven
LEAVEN* Any substance that produces fermentation when added to dough. Leaven may signify the dough already infected by leaven, which was put into the flour so that the leaven could pass through the entire mass before baking, or it may refer to dough that had risen through the influence of the leaven.
The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated)
Leaven
leaven, a fermenting agent that in biblical times was normally added to a batch of bread dough by using an unbaked portion of dough from the previous batch. However, the custom of nomads was to eat unleavened bread, and evidence of this is found in the Bible (Gen. 19:3; Judg. 6:19; 1 Sam. 28:24).Leavened
The New Bible Dictionary, Third Edition
Leaven
LEAVEN (Heb. ’śe’ōr, ‘leaven’, ‘leavened bread’ in Dt. 16:4; ḥāmēṣ, ‘anything leavened or fermented’; cf. maṣṣâ, ‘without leaven’, Lv. 10:12; Gk. zymē, ‘leaven’; cf. Lat.levare, ‘to raise’).In Heb. life leaven came to play an important part, not only in bread-making, but also in law, ritual
Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible
Leaven
LeavenA fermentation agent, in the Bible always leftover dough (sourdough) mixed with new dough to facilitate rising. Yeast has replaced sourdough today, so some translations replace “leaven” with “yeast” yet retain “unleavened (bread).”Unleavened bread is associated especially with the Feast of Passover/
Eerdmans Bible Dictionary
Leaven
Leaven (Heb. ḥāmēṣ,śe˒ōr; Gk. zýmē).† Any substance added to dough to cause it to ferment. Leaven usually consisted of a bit of dough from an earlier batch.The bread and meal sacrifices that went to the altar were to be unleavened (e.g., Exod. 23:18; Lev. 2:11; cf. Amos 4:5). Only two
Catholic Bible Dictionary
Leaven
LEAVEN An agent added to bread dough that causes fermentation. Bread that was leavened contained yeast or a similar substance; it was kneaded and allowed to rise before baking. Leavened bread was forbidden during the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread (Exod 23:18; 34:25) to remind the Israelites
Smith’s Bible Dictionary
Leaven
Leaven. Various substances were known to have fermenting qualities; but the ordinary leaven consisted of a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation, which was mixed into the mass of dough prepared for baking. The use of leaven was strictly forbidden in all offerings made to the Lord by fire.
The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary
Leaven
LEAVEN. A substance added to dough to cause it to rise, from Lat. levamen, that is, “that which rises,” from lavere, “to raise.”
Easton’s Bible Dictionary
Leaven
Leaven(1.) Heb. seor (Ex. 12:15, 19; 13:7; Lev. 2:11), the remnant of dough from the preceding baking which had fermented and become acid.(2.) Heb. hamets, properly “ferment.” In Num. 6:3, “vinegar of wine” is more correctly “fermented wine.” In Ex. 13:7, the proper rendering would be, “Unfermented
Key passages
Ex 12:15–19

You will eat unleavened bread for seven days. Surely on the first day you shall remove yeast from your houses, because anyone who eats food with yeast from the first day until the seventh day—that person will be cut off from Israel. It will be for you on the first day a holy assembly and on …

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Topics & Themes
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