The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. —Exodus 12:33-34 (NIV)
I’ve read the story of the Exodus at least once a year since I got my own bible in third grade. I’ve read about the Ten Plagues and the Israelites leaving after the Angel of Death visiting each home of the Egyptians while the Israelites were saved because they had the special marks on their doorways. I’d read about the feast of unleavened bread and not having yeast in their homes for a week.
This week, reading it again I noticed the people of Israel having to pack up in the middle of the night and carry their bread wrapped up in their cloaks before the bread could rise, possibly before the yeast could be added.
Yeast is a living thing that feeds on sugar and makes air bubbles. Yeast in the time of the Israelites was probably a small jug of starter that was kept alive and added to bread a little at a time, with little bits of extra added back to the jug every so often to keep it healthy.
Bread is a basic necessity, and so yeast is as well.
Imagine a people who leave in the middle of the night, carrying only what they can on their backs. These people are headed out into the desert where they will wander for forty years to learn who and whose they are.
They have left their starter yeast behind because they are going out to start a new life.
This new life will be different down to the bread they bake. It won’t taste like the bread of Egypt because they won’t have any of Egypt’s yeast to put in their loaves. Even this incremental change will be hard to take, and they will complain about not having bread. God will provide them with bread that is sweeter than what they have ever tasted. And soon enough they will tire of that as well.
But they will learn to make new bread in a new land. They will start a new home in the land that is promised to them. And they will gather a bit of yeast from a neighbor and create a new starter jug for the bread that will sustain them through their lives.
They will become a new people. Little by little. Even down to their bread.