Is the Leaven Good or Bad in the Parable of the Woman who Hid some Leaven in Three Measures of Flour?

Excerpt From My New Edition of ‘Hold Your Horses’. ©

There are two opposing views concerning the parable about leaven. Some see it in a negative light and they believe the interpretation that I have put forward for the ‘three measures’ representing ‘the first-born son and the many sons of faith to follow’, becomes invalid because of the verse in Matt 13 referenced below.

To see and understand the interpretation about the Three Measures representing ‘the first born son and the many sons of faith’, see this link which will take you to my home page. Scroll down the page and click on the books, which will open the PDF. Go to page 15 for the information about the Three Measures) 

Matthew 13:33. He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took (meaning  ‘to seize’ – ‘take possession of’) and hid (meaning TO MINGLE) in ‘three measures’ of flour, till it was all leavened”.

I would like to take the opportunity to clarify how this verse does indeed fit what I had presented earlier in my first book.

It is interesting that Jesus likens the woman’s leaven and three measures of flour to the ‘kingdom of heaven’. It is to be noted that the parable is not presented by itself but it is spoken of alongside the parable of the mustard seed that grew.

Matt 13:31-32 Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man planted in his field, although it is the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows into the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”.

A significant number of Bible teachers conclude that the birds nesting in the mustard tree must be evil due them being described as ‘the birds of the air’. However Matt 6:26, Matt 10:29, Luke 12:6 Luke 12:24, Psalm 84:3 to name a few, describe the ‘birds of the air ‘as being valuable to God, so much so that he feeds and cares for them. I would like to especially point out that ‘nesting birds’ are of special value when the next verse is considered.

Deuteronomy 22:6,
“If you come across ‘a bird’s nest in any tree’ or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young.

In the Old Testament, Kingdoms are often described allegorically as trees and most times birds are seen flourishing in the trees/kingdoms branches.

Palm 104:16-17. The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.17 In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees.

Here in this passage below God raises up Israel for His Glory and birds of every kind nest and find shelter in her branches.

Ezekiel 17: 22-24. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.

An interesting discovery I have made, is that if the rulers of kingdoms looked after their people the birds would nest in the branches but if they became too proud God would cut the tree (kingdom) down and the ‘birds would flee’. See – Daniel 4:14, Hosea 9:11, Jeremiah 4:25, Psalm 55:6 and Psalm 104:12.

The parable of the mustard seed has no mention of the birds flying away to find rest, nor are they pecking at seed and carrying it away, or devouring any bread. Given the examples referenced earlier it can safely be seen as ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ growing from small beginnings through faith (see Matthew 17:18-20) into a large kingdom ruled by God – especially since the birds are present in the tree – like those of the Old Testament.

Back now to the parable about leaven.

In the New Testament leaven usually refers to the unbelief, or the lack of faith of the Pharisees and Sadducees that polluted their teaching. (Romans 14:23: “Whatever is ‘not from faith’ is ‘sin’.) Here are some verses leading up to Jesus warning about the ‘leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees’.

Matthew 16:1-6 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to ‘take bread’. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

At this point the disciples became CONFUSED!

(Matt 16: continued) 7. They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was NOT talking about BREAD? But be on your guard against the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the ‘teaching’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The portion of Scripture mentioned above needs to be taken in its proper context. The Pharisees and Sadducees were always highly sceptical of Jesus and did not trust Him. They had ‘no faith’ in what He said and continually tried to test Him and catch Him out and this is exactly what they were trying to do on this occasion, they were looking for a sign. Jesus was indignant and refused to give them one as they couldn’t see the significance of the time they were living in nor could they see who He was! Immediately after this clash, Jesus left and went across the lake with His disciples who began worry­ing about how they were going to provide the bread to feed His followers. This was even after witnessing Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of the bread on two other occasions! He was trying to impress upon them about their lack of faith, and bringing in the example of the Sadducees and Pharisees, who just prior to this had been questioning Jesus and demanding a sign because of ‘their lack of faith’ in what he was saying. Jesus warned the disciples to guard against the Pharisees and Sadducees teaching because it came from a position of ‘unbelief’ which is ‘sin’. Romans 14:23. He was instructing the disciples that they needed to have pure ‘FAITH’ in ‘HIM’ and ‘HIS TEACHING so that the bread could be multiplied. The Pharisees and Sadducees took away any faith that people had and this permeated right through the true Bread/Teaching/Word of God.

I would like to bring to your attention two exceptions where yeast was added to bread in the Old Testament. One was the ‘peace offering’ and the other the ‘first fruits offering’, both are very significant as they are connected with Christ.  These two portions of Scripture below are very critical in helping to completely understand the meaning of the parable. Note that unleavened and leavened bread are offered to the Lord and they are both considered HOLY.

Leviticus 7:13. 7:11-14, “Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the LORD. 12If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. 13With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of ‘LEAVENED BREAD’. 14And of this he shall present one of every offering as a contribution to the LORD; it shall belong to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the ‘peace offerings’.

Leviticus 23:15-20, You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. 17 You shall bring from your dwelling places TWO LOAVES OF BREAD’ to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked ‘WITH LEAVEN’, as FIRSTFRUITS’ to the Lord. 18 And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 19 And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20 And the priest shall wave them with THE BREAD OF THE FIRSTFRUITS’ as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be ‘HOLY TO THE LORD’ for the priest.

This passage immediately above represents the ‘type’ in the Old Testament.

I will let the ‘antitype’ below from the New Testament (which is the fulfilment of the OT feast) speak for itself to help tie everything together.

Romans 11:16. If the DOUGH offered as ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ is HOLY, so is the WHOLE LUMP, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (This is the same wording as Leviticus 23:17&20 where the leavened bread was also HOLY!)

Christ is the ‘first fruits’, the first raised from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the ‘firstfruits of the Spirit’, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

It was at Pentecost when God gave us his Holy Spirit that two loaves of leavened bread and two spotless lambs were waved before him as a part of the Peace Offerings and Firstfruits Offerings signifying the first of the people, both Jew and Gentile, who were made Holy through the sacrifice of his Son who brought us peace. For more understanding about the two loaves please see this website link.

I am convinced that the woman is the Church in the parable of the woman who ‘took’ and hid leaven in the flour. We the Church (both Jew and Gentile –the new firstfruits grain to the Lord) do not have the leaven of ‘unbelief/sin’ like that of the Pharisees and Sadducees, which Jesus warned the disciples against, but the ‘leaven of FAITH in Christ’ of which Jesus implored the disciples to ‘grasp a hold of’ (‘to seize – take possession of – just like the woman in the parable’) so that the bread could be multiplied. We the woman ‘who were once leavened with sin’, mingle our ’FAITH’ ‘IN’ the ‘DOUGH OF CHRIST’ (3 measures representing the ‘first born son’ and the many sons of faith to follow). We only need a small quantity of faith the size of a ‘MUSTARD SEED’ so that ‘OUR LIVES’ may be ‘HIDDEN’ in ‘HIM’ the ‘FIRST FRUITS’ who died and took on ‘OUR SIN’ and made ‘US’THE WHOLE LUMP of DOUGH HOLY’, and by placing our ‘FAITH in HIM’ through ‘THE HOLY SPIRIT’ the Kingdom of Heaven expands and rises just like bread until the full loaf is leavened with ‘Christ and Him alone, the Church in Him and Him in us fully mingled’. He is our Bread from Heaven who expands His kingdom through the Many Sons of FAITH! – (Col 3:3 & Rom 11:16)  

Just like a mustard tree grows large from a small seed, so through faith the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ grows into a large healthy tree so that others too may find rest/peace and shelter in its branches.

Therefore the ‘Three Measures of the Old Testament’ matches the ‘Three Measures of the New Testament’ – which represents;

‘The First Born son (Christ) and the Many Sons of FAITH to follow’!

The very first mention of ‘three measures’ is where Sarah prepares bread cakes and Abraham and Sarah are given a word from God that Sarah was to have a son, ‘the first born son’ of the many sons of ‘FAITH’ to follow.  The Bread and the Word of God go together. Jesus is the Bread and the Word who brings many sons through ‘faith’ into His kingdom.

May God Bless this Word to you.