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What Defines Leavening?


Just what is leavening?

To understand leavening, we must look at the meaning of the words in Hebrew.

Exodus 12:19 “Seven days shall there be no leaven (H7603) found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened (H2557), even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.”

According to Strong’s, H7603 =  seor = is defined as, “barm or yeast-cake (as swelling by fermentation).”

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, barm is defined as “yeast formed on fermenting malt liquors.”

We see here that seor refers to an old piece of dough that is highly fermented. It’s a piece of dough that is allowed to ferment to the point of becoming sour or acidic and then used to leavenanother piece of dough.

According to Strong’s, H2557 = chamets = is defined as, ferment, (figuratively) extortion: - leaven, leavened (bread).

So we see that chamets is not a leavening agent, but is leavened bread, a product produced from the leavening. It is any grain product that has been leavened.

The following agents are considered leaven:

  • Yeast, known as fresh, compressed, or cake yeast
  • Sourdough starter
  • Active dried yeast, consists of coarse oblong granules of yeast, with live yeast cells encapsulated in a thick jacket of dry, dead cells with some growth medium. Under most conditions, active dry yeast must first be proofed or rehydrated.
  • Rapid-rise yeast, is a variety of dried yeast (usually a form of instant yeast).
  • Instant yeast, appears similar to active dry yeast


The following list is not considered leavening by themselves, but are considered leavening only when found in a product:

  • Baking powder: is a complete leavening agent, meaning it contains both the base (sodium bicarbonate) and acid needed for the product to rise once it’s combined with a liquid.
  • Baking soda: becomes activated when it’s combined with both an acidic ingredient and a liquid. Upon activation, carbon dioxide is produced.
  • Cream of tartar: (potassium bitartrate), when combined with baking soda, it becomes a leavening agent by producing carbon dioxide gas.
  • Sodium bicarbonate: also known as “Saleratus.”
  • Potassium bicarbonate: or potash.
  • Ammonium carbonate: or “baker’s ammonia.”
  • Ammonium bicarbonate: also known as “hartshorn.”
  • Autolyzed yeast: A yeast that has ‘self-destructed’ and is sterile – incapable of leavening.
  • Brewers Yeast: A dead form of yeast that cannot leaven bread; a ‘nutritional’ yeast.
  • Deactivated yeast: is dead yeast which has no leavening value
  • Torula Yeast: A dead yeast that cannot leaven bread, considered a ‘nutritional’ yeast. Also hickory smoked torula yeast. Used as a savory seasoning that imparts smoky aroma to foods.
  • Yeast extract(s): Derivatives of yeast, which are sterile and cannot leaven bread.
  • Tartrate powder: Phosphate powder or sulfate powder – usually added with cream of tartar.


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Let’s now look at soer (H7603) chamets (H2557) as used in Scripture.

Exodus 12:19–20 “Seven days shall there be no leaven (H7603) found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened (H2557), even that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a stranger, or born in the land.  Ye shall eat nothing leavened (H2557); in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.”

Exodus 13:3 “And Moses said unto the people, remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread (H2557) be eaten.”

Exodus 13:7 “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread (H2557) be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven (H7603) seen with thee in all thy quarters.”

Exodus 23:18 “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread (H2557); neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.”

Leviticus 2:11 “No meat offering, which ye shall bring unto Lord, shall be made with leaven (H2557): for ye shall burn no leaven (H7603), nor any honey, in any offering of the Lord made by fire.”

Leviticus 6:17 “It shall not be baken with leaven (H2557). I have given it unto them for their portion of my offerings made by fire; it is most holy, as is the sin offering, and as the trespass offering.”

Leviticus 7:13 “Besides the cakes, he shall offer for his offering leavened bread (H2557) with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings.”

Leviticus 23:17 “Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals: they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven (H2557); they are the firstfruits unto the Lord.”

Deuteronomy 16:3–4 “Thou shalt eat no leavened bread (H2557) with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the morning.”

Amos 4:5 – “And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven (H2557), and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith my Sovereign Lord.”