This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat! Whoever is needy, let him come and celebrate Passover! Now, we are here; next year may we be in Jerusalem! Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya - the invitation to eat- in the Passover Haggadah)
This article is based on a quick message at our local new moon gathering. You can listen here: New Moon Meeting Nisan 2019
Adonai calls matzah the bread of affliction. He requires His people to eat it for seven days every year to recall the hasty exodus from Egypt, and His mighty judgments that wrought Israel’s freedom. Messiah compared His body to this bread, and also told His followers to partake and remember. (Mt. 26:26) Why does Adonai want us to celebrate by eating bread that reminds us of affliction? Why is this “bread” at the heart of the Passover Seder and the following seven days of unleavened bread?
Dt. 16:3 (NASB) You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat with it unleavened bread, the bread of affliction (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), so that you may remember all the days of your life the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.
Affliction is the Hebrew word oni from the root anah:
H6040 (Brown-Driver-Briggs) עני ‛ŏnı̂y: 1) affliction, poverty, misery 1a) affliction 1b) poverty Part of Speech: noun masculine. A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H6031
Hebrew Word Study H6031 עָנָה ‛ānāh: A verb indicating to be afflicted, to be oppressed, to be humbled. It refers to being oppressed, in a state of oppression. It means to bow down, to humble oneself, to be humbled (Exo 10:3; Isa 58:10). In some senses of the verb, it means to inflict oppression, to subdue, to humble someone: of Israel’s oppression in Egypt (Gen 15:13; Exo 1:11-12); to deal with persons harshly, to oppress them (Gen 16:6); to humble a woman (Deu 21:14); to afflict, humble oneself (Gen 16:9; Lev 16:29; Psa 132:1). It is used of raping a woman (Gen 34:2). It is possible to humble oneself, to afflict oneself by fasting (Ezr 8:21; Dan 10:12). The psalmist was often disciplined by affliction from God (Psa 119:71); the Suffering Servant of Isaiah was afflicted by the Lord (Isa 53:4).
Oni or Affliction
The first mention of oni is in Genesis. Consider the context of the following account:
Gen. 16:4-11 He (Abram) went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence. 7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” 9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.
The second mention is also in Genesis:
Gen. 29:31-32 Now the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah conceived and bore a son and named him Reuben, for she said, “Because the LORD has seen my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.”
In each of these cases, two women are struggling with one another. One man (husband) is involved, and he favors one woman or wife. Each woman has an “affliction” or hardship that she suffers in this life. One, though loved by the man, is childless and barren. The other woman is either unloved or a mere handmaiden given to the man as a surrogate. Adonai gives the handmaid and the unloved wife a child. Both boys are named for Adonai recognizing their “affliction.” Ishmael (Shema – el) means “God hears,” and Rueben (Ra’ah Ben) means “see a son.” YHWH hears and sees affliction and gives new life, as a result.
But the other women, the beloved wives, are not left to wallow in despair and remain childless. They, too, eventually have sons, but not right away. Adonai required them to wait on Him and His timing. Their progeny includes the promised (covenant) son, Isaac (laughter), and Joseph (gather, add, increase) – both types for Messiah.
The third mention involves children as well, but notice the twist:
Gen. 31:42-43 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night. 43 Then Laban replied to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?
Much like Pharaoh, Laban presumes to “own” all that is Israel’s or Jacob’s, including the new life, which is the children and the flocks. Jacob understood that all his toil and labor and changed wages was an oni, or affliction under the rule of Laban. He also recognized, like Hagar and Leah above, that Adonai saw his affliction and acted on his behalf.
The fourth mention:
Gen. 41:51-52 Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Joseph understood Egypt to be the “land of affliction.” Though at the time of the birth of his sons he enjoyed the lofty rank of second in all the land of Egypt and served under a Pharaoh that loved him, Egypt wasn’t home. Being the right hand of the king paled in comparison to being with his family. And yet, that’s where he suffered trouble. His brothers sold him. He was mocked, disliked, and ultimately betrayed by his own flesh and blood. Egypt, for Joseph, began with servitude and then imprisonment. Adonai saw Joseph’s affliction and made him fruitful in a foreign place.
Do you see a theme emerging?
The first four mentions of oni (affliction) are connected to children (fruit), usually their physical birth. Affliction is supposed to have a favorable result – a very favorable outcome – such as children, which are NEW LIFE. We call child birth a delivery. Birth pangs, contractions, sweat, and toil, will accompany new life. The deeper, spiritual message is: deliverance will require the same types of affliction.
The Hebrew root of oni is anah (defined above). Take a look at its first mention:
Gen. 15:13 (NKJV) Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.
When terror and great darkness fell upon Abram during the cutting of the Covenant of Pieces, he had just been told that he would indeed have an heir that would come forth from his own body – despite Sarai’s barrenness. But, his descendants would certainly be strangers in a land that wasn’t theirs for four hundred years. They would serve this people and suffer affliction at their hand. Can you imagine? Hopefully, we can. This is the pattern for the children of Abraham. Affliction, but also:
Gen. 15:14 “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.
And afterward… This is a phrase we need to remember. Afflictions, trials, and tribulations WILL come. (John 16:33) But that’s not where Adonai wants us to focus. We will eat the bread of affliction just as surely as Messiah is the matzah. We eat it, because it is the staff of life, our sustenance. Though it may be bitter to the stomach (flesh), it is sweet on the tongue of the righteous. (Ezek. 3:1-4, Rev. 10:8-11) Consider Jeremiah:
Jer. 15:15-16 You who know, O LORD, Remember me, take notice of me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience, take me away; Know that for Your sake I endure reproach. 16 Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.
Jeremiah was afflicted by multiple enemies within Israel and without. But he knew that he had to eat the bread, the word of Adonai. And afterward, it “became” a joy and the delight of his heart. All pain, all affliction, is birth pain. It is meant to result in JOY, just like the birth of child. Paul knew this truth very well.
Rom. 5:3-5 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
2 Cor. 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Eating the matzah, the bread of affliction, isn’t a punishment. It teaches the children of Abraham the Way of New Life, Birth. It teaches what comes “and afterward.” As you go through the Seder each year, the matzah is transformed, just as you are spiritually. It ceases to be the bread of affliction; and instead, becomes the bread of faith, hope, renewal, transformation, and new life.
The third step of the seder is eating Karpas dipped in salt water. It is a reminder of the tears and sweat of bondage. The fourth step is Yachatz, the breaking of the middle matzah. The reminder of affliction and the necessary breaking comes before the fifth step, which is the telling or maggid (testimony). Read that again – consider the process.
The order or seder IS our order; it shows the way. We are afflicted and broken. Messiah was afflicted and broken for us. This is the pattern to reach “and afterward” – our testimony and joy. Look at the fifth step, the telling/testimony again:
After the matzah is broken, the larger piece becomes the hidden Afikomen, and the remaining piece is held up high. (Both picture Messiah) Then, a grand invitation is announced to the whole world – this is the beginning of the telling, the testimony:
This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat! Whoever is needy, let him come and celebrate Passover! Now, we are here; next year may we be in Jerusalem! Now, we are slaves; next year may we be free men! (The HaLachmah Anya – the invitation to eat- in the Passover Haggadah)
Ex. 3:7-8 The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. 8 “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.
Adonai sees your affliction. He is aware of your suffering. He has “come down” to deliver you. He will “bring you up” to the Land that flows with milk and honey.
Chag Sameach Pesach!
More on Passover
More Verses on Affliction
Do you see the theme?
Exo 3:17 (NASB) “So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘
Exo 4:31 (NASB) So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.
1Sa 1:9-11 (NASB) Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
Job 36:15 (NASB) “He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression.
Psa 9:11-15 (NASB) Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds. 12 For He who requires blood remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 13 Be gracious to me, O LORD; See my affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 That I may tell of all Your praises, That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in Your salvation. 15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
Psa 22:24 (NASB) For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.
Psa 25:16-18 (NASB) Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses. 18 Look upon my affliction and my trouble, And forgive all my sins.
Psa 31:7 (NASB) I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, Because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul…
Psa 119:50-51 (NASB) This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me. 51 The arrogant utterly deride me, Yet I do not turn aside from Your law.
Psa 119:92-94 (NASB) If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me. 94 I am Yours, save me; For I have sought Your precepts.
Psa 119:153-154 (NASB) Resh. Look upon my affliction and rescue me, For I do not forget Your law. 154 Plead my cause and redeem me; Revive me according to Your word.
Psa 132:1 (NASB) A Song of Ascents. Remember, O LORD, on David’s behalf, All his affliction…
Isa 48:10 (NASB) “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.