What is the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Bible?

April 19, 2024

feast of unleavened bread

Have you ever read through the Old Testament and wondered, what is this Feast of Unleavened Bread I keep reading about?!

As interesting as the name is, most of us know little about this special holiday, which God called the Hebrew people to observe back in the time of Moses. We might glance over passages that mention it, but it doesn’t really click in our heads what it means or how it was important.

Does this sound like you?

If so, I have great news.

Learning about this festival — what it is, how it came to be, and why it matters — is a huge blessing that can positively affect your understanding of God and salvation in a deeper way. 

In 2024, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on April 22 and ends on April 30. It has deep significance for both Jews and Christians.

After reading this article, I hope you see why!

Before we begin, here is what we will cover:

  • What the Feast of Unleavened Bread is in the Bible

  • Why this festival came to be, plus the way it was celebrated

  • Why it matters, both in the Bible and today!

So, are you ready to dive in?

Let’s go!

What is the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

what is the feast of unleavened bread

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is a spring festival that lasts seven days and takes place every year around March or April. It is one of the seven feasts of the Lord, and dates back to the exodus from Egypt when God set His people free from slavery. God instructed His people (through Moses) to commemorate this deliverance with a yearly celebration. 

How were the Hebrews to do this?

You’ve got it:

With a feast! 

The first time this festival is named in the Bible is in Exodus 12:17, but if we go back a few verses, we see a description of this holiday and how it was to be observed. Here’s what Exodus 12:14 through 16 says:

This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.

You must eat unleavened bread for seven days. On the first day, you must remove yeast from your houses. Whoever eats what is leavened from the first day through the seventh day must be cut off from Israel. 

You are to hold a sacred assembly on the first day and another sacred assembly on the seventh day. No work may be done on those days except for preparing what people need to eat—you may do only that.”

Then God names this holiday the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Exo. 12:17). 

Later, God commanded His people to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a yearly ordinance:

Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.” Leviticus 23:6.

Now, you may wonder: why unleavened bread? Why was bread made without yeast the symbol God used as a reminder to the Hebrews? What did He want them to remember?

Let’s find out:

Why Unleavened Bread?

why unleavened bread

If we read the story of Exodus as a whole, we see that when the time finally came for the Israelites’ liberation, it all happened quickly.

As in overnight

Picture it:

One moment the Hebrews were slaves, the next they were fleeing from Egypt in the early hours of the morning, with bread dough they hadn’t finished preparing wrapped in clothes thrown over their shoulders (Exodus 12:34). 

Everything that God had said came to pass! The Egyptians, terrified at the losses of their firstborn animals and children (and probably still suffering all the residual effects of those dreadful plagues), wanted the Israelites gone immediately and the Israelites complied. But they had no time to bake their bread or make any other provisions for themselves; they simply grabbed what they could and left (Exodus 12:39).

Later, when they had reached a safe distance, they could stop to prepare food. And what did they have with them?

You guessed it:

Flat, unleavened bread

“They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.” Exodus 12:39.

God’s command to commemorate this event by eating unleavened bread for seven days makes sense now

Pretty exciting. And we’ll talk more about this in sections below.

But first, let’s turn back to Exodus 12, where God gives instructions for celebrating the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 

If you read the chapter in its entirety, you’ll notice another feast named and described in this passage: the Lord’s Passover

If it sounds familiar, it’s because Passover is mentioned OFTEN throughout Scripture: not just in this chapter, but throughout the Bible, even through the New Testament. In fact, we may remember that the last supper Jesus shared with His disciples was actually a Passover meal. 

But I’m jumping ahead!

While we won’t be doing a deep-dive into what Passover is in this article, we are going to see how these two feasts are closely connected and how they relate to each other. 

Let’s check it out:

Is the Feast of Unleavened Bread the same as Passover?

is the feast of unleavened bread same as passover

In the eventful chapter of Exodus 12, God gives Moses a list of instructions regarding two important celebrations that He wanted His people to commemorate every year. Both celebrations are referred to as feasts and both are related to the same event (the exodus from Egypt).

However, when we look closer at these passages, we see that though they are tied together, they are two distinct feasts. They highlight different aspects of the story.

Here is the breakdown:

What is the difference between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

What is the difference between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread go hand in hand. Both are a memorial of the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery. However, Passover commemorates how God passed over the Israelites in the tenth plague (when the “death angel” came and all the Egyptian firstborn died) while the Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the hastiness of when the Israelites left Egypt.

Yet the two are celebrated together. In fact, Passover “kicks off” the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Therefore, Scripture refers to both feasts as Passover: 

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.” Luke 22:1.

Do the feast days overlap?

According to the Hebrew calendar, Passover (or Pesach) began on the 14th of Nisan (the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar) when the sacrificial lamb was sacrificed and eaten. In temple tradition, a day was from one sundown to the next. After this, on the fifteenth day of the month, came the Festival of Unleavened Bread, lasting seven days. (During this is another feast — the feast of first-fruits — but that’s a story for another day!) 

Pretty fascinating, right? 

Now, before we talk about the true meaning of this feast, let’s briefly go over how the feast was actually celebrated.

How is the Feast of Unleavened Bread Celebrated?

How is the Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated?

While Scripture doesn’t give us a super detailed picture of how this feast was celebrated, we know it happened yearly, that the Israelites would travel to Jerusalem to sacrifice the Passover lambs, that the holiday was book ended with two sacred assemblies (also known as a holy convocation) where no work was done, and that they could eat only unleavened bread for seven days.

We know also that it was a time of remembrance where the people ate roasted lamb (the Pesach), bitter herbs, and presented offerings to God. 

In modern times, Jews and Messianic Jews celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread by removing all leavened bread (including yeast and yeast products) from their home, partaking in a Passover Seder (a traditional Passover meal), and gathering together with friends and family to eat unleavened bread and commemorate the Exodus and their liberation from slavery. 

Which brings us to the question of Christian observance.

Are Christians supposed to celebrate the feast days? Can they?

Let’s find out:

Are Christians obligated to celebrate the feast days?

Are Christians obligated to celebrate the feast days?

We know, according to the book of Galatians, Acts 15, and Romans 7, that we are not under the Mosaic law, nor are we to come under the burden of the law. The feast days fall under the umbrella of the Mosaic law (Leviticus 23:6). Therefore, Christians are not obligated to celebrate the feasts

The feast days were shadows of what was to come: namely, the Messiah!

But does this mean Christians can’t celebrate the feasts? 

A Question of Liberty

In Romans 14, we read about the principles of Christian liberty.

Ultimately, we see how God’s Word gives us the freedom to choose and also how we are not to judge our brothers and sisters on whether they choose to celebrate.

Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord. Whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is for the Lord that he does not eat it, and he gives thanks to God.” Romans 14:5-6

This means that Christians can choose whether to observe these special days.

For myself, I choose to celebrate these feast days because of what they represent and who they point to.


My precious Savior! 

Learning about these holidays — what they truly mean and what they’re really pointing to — has deepened my faith and given me a richer understanding of salvation. Celebrating the feasts also gives opportunities to teach children God’s story in a fun, interactive, memorable way.

But just how do the feasts — specifically the Feast of Unleavened Bread — point to Jesus, you may wonder?

Let me show you:

The Meaning Of The Feast

the meaning of the feast

For God’s people, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was all about remembrance. Remembering from one generation to the next the mighty deliverance God had worked. When the Hebrew children asked their parents the reason for the holiday, parents were to reply, “This is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8)

The significance, however, of the unleavened bread was more than just a reminder of how quickly the Israelites fled from Egypt. It was a symbol. And as with most symbols in the Bible, God had a double-purpose for it. 

So what did the unleavened bread really signify?

The Significance of Unleavened Bread

the significance of unleavened bread

Simply put, the Bible makes it clear that leaven is a type or a picture of sin (Lev. 2:11; 6:17). This is confirmed later by Jesus and in the New Testament (Matthew 16:6-12; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:1-8). 

God wanted His people to understand how they were to come out of the world’s sin (Egypt) and live holy, blameless lives. By eradicating all the leaven from their households, God was saying, “Just as all your dwellings and homes are to be cleansed of leaven, so are your hearts to be cleansed from sin.”

This has been God’s desire for mankind since the beginning. To be holy, even as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). 

So we can see that when God sent a deliverer (Moses) to free His people from bondage, He was showing us a picture of how He would send the Deliverer to free His people from sin! 

This is where we see how this feast points to Christ—and was fulfilled in Him

Stay with me, because this is where it gets good:

How the Feast of Unleavened Bread Points to Jesus

How the Feast of Unleavened Bread Points to Jesus

When we look at the complete story of the exodus from Egypt, Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Moses as deliverer, we see a clear picture emerge of God’s plan of salvation.

Just as the Hebrews were in bondage in Egypt, so was all the world in bondage to sin. God sent Jesus (as He sent Moses) to be the Deliverer! And like the Hebrews cleansing their homes from leaven, so Jesus cleanses our hearts from sin through the Holy Spirit.

Amazing, right?!

In other words, these feast days were like giant arrows pointing the same way to the coming Messiah!

So, does that mean Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Feast of Unleavened Bread, just as He fulfilled Passover! 

And so that there would be no doubt of this, Jesus’ last supper, crucifixion, and resurrection all took place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread

This was meant as an obvious message to the Jews (who had been waiting centuries for their promised Messiah) that the Messiah had come. It was also God’s way of demonstrating what these feasts were really all about.

The Lord wanted His people to understand that Jesus was the promised Savior, the perfect, spotless Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19). Redemption came by His Blood! And only Jesus has the power to truly cleanse our hearts from sin. 

I don’t know about you, but this just takes my breath away!

Frequently Asked Questions

frequently asked questions

Before we wrap up our learning today, let’s go over some frequently asked questions!

Is Passover another name for the Feast of Unleavened Bread?

While intrinsically connected, the two feasts are distinct from each other. Yet we know that Scripture often referred to them as the same holiday. 

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was approaching.” Luke 22:1.

How was the Feast of Unleavened Bread fulfilled in the New Testament?

The Feast of Unleavened Bread took place the same week of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in the New Testament. We know Jesus celebrated Passover and partook of the Passover meal with His disciples the very day of His arrest. Later, He is revealed to be the Passover Lamb. The timing of this festival (Passover week) with Christ’s death was no coincidence. God wanted us to know that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of these feasts. 


As the season draws near where we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is good to study the true meaning of these feasts. Understanding what Jesus did for us on the cross helps us to see that we are no longer under the yoke of sin. Like the Hebrews, God sent a Deliverer (One who lived a sinless life) to set us free!

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? 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. 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.” (1 Corin. 5:6-8)

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