ESV - 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.
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Leaven (also known as yeast) is what makes a bread rise when you bake it. Without it, the bread you eat will be in its original form - flat bread like Mexican tortilla. Jesus spoke of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod to mean that they add "yeast" to God's will and corrupt it with their human interpretation.
Yeast was frequently used as synonymous with sin.
Yeast, NAVE says, is used in the making of bread, Ex. 12:34, 39; --See "Leaven" in Easton's Bible Dictionary. (1.) Heb. Seor -- שְׂאֹר (Ex. 12:15, 19; 13:7; Lev. 2:11), leftover dough from the preceding baking which had fermented and become acid. Yeasted bread is a type of sin, 1 Cor. 5:6-8. In the Bible, leaven is consistently a symbol of evil. Each Passover season, the Jews had to remove all leaven from their dwellings (Ex. 12:18-20), and leaven was not allowed with the offerings (Ex. 23:18; 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 6:17). The Bible uses leaven as a picture of unjudged sin in the church (1 Cor. 5 -- see above), and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). In this context, Jesus warned them about the teaching (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and the followers of Herod. The Pharisees “said but they did not”;-- (Mt 23:5) in other words, they practiced and encouraged hypocrisy (note Mark 7:6). I memorized Matthew, Mark's parallel: Matthew 15:7-9 Context 15:7 Hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, 15:8 ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, 15:9 and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” The Herodians were a worldly group who catered to Herod, accepted the Roman way of life, and saw in Herod and his rule the promised kingdom for the Jewish nation. If this false teaching got into the hearts and minds of the disciples, it would infect them and pollute the truth Jesus had given them to proclaim about Himself and His kingdom. WW LEAVEN, according to "ISBE," as we called it at Arizona Bible College, standing for International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, says "LEAVEN - lev'-n (se'or, chamets; zume; Latin fermentum): The nomadic ancestors of the Hebrews, like the Bedouin of today, probably made their bread without leaven; but leaven came to play a great part in their bread-making, their law and ritual, and their religious teaching (see Ex 12:15,19; 13:7; Lev 2:11; Lk 12:1; 13:21).
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