|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-6 After Malachi there was no prophet until John the Baptist came. He appeared first in the wilderness of Judea. This was not an uninhabited desert, but a part of the country not thickly peopled, nor much enclosed. No place is so remote as to shut us out from the visits of Divine grace. The doctrine he preached was repentance; Repent ye. The word here used, implies a total alteration in the mind, a change in the judgment, disposition, and affections, another and a better bias of the soul. Consider your ways, change your minds: you have thought amiss; think again, and think aright. True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, sin and holiness, of this world and the other, than they had. The change of the mind produces a change of the way. That is gospel repentance, which flows from a sight of Christ, from a sense of his love, and from hopes of pardon and forgiveness through him. It is a great encouragement to us to repent; repent, for your sins shall be pardoned upon your repentance. Return to God in a way of duty, and he will, through Christ, return unto you in the way of mercy. It is still as necessary to repent and humble ourselves, to prepare the way of the Lord, as it then was. There is a great deal to be done, to make way for Christ into a soul, and nothing is more needful than the discovery of sin, and a conviction that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness. The way of sin and Satan is a crooked way; but to prepare a way for Christ, the paths must be made straight, Heb 12:13. Those whose business it is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious life, a life of self-denial, and contempt of the world. By giving others this example, John made way for Christ. Many came to John's baptism, but few kept to the profession they made. There may be many forward hearers, where there are few true believers. Curiosity, and love for novelty and variety, may bring many to attend on good preaching, and to be affected for a while, who never are subject to the power of it. Those who received John's doctrine, testified their repentance by confessing their sins. Those only are ready to receive Jesus Christ as their righteousness, who are brought with sorrow and shame to own their guilt. The benefits of the kingdom of heaven, now at hand, were thereupon sealed to them by baptism. John washed them with water, in token that God would cleanse them from all their iniquities, thereby intimating, that by nature and practice all were polluted, and could not be admitted among the people of God, unless washed from their sins in the fountain Christ was to open, Zec 13:1.
Verse 4. - With this verse we begin to meet with matter peculiar to Matthew and Mark. And the same John (αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάνης). (For the phrase, cf. Mark 6:17 Luke 3:23.)
(1) If the Revised Version "Now John himself," holds good, the phrase seems to mean that not only did Isaiah speak of him in terms that implied that he was the forerunner of Messiah, the true Elijah (Mark 1:2), but also he himself had his very food and dress consistent with his office.
(2) But it is safer, with Thayer's 'Grimm' (1:2, a), to take αὐτός as merely recalling the person before mentioned. "Now he, whom I spoke of, John" (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:30). Had; during all that time (εϊχεν). His habitual dress, etc., was as follows. Of (ἀπό) camel's hair. Not, as Dgr Old Lat. a in the parallel passage in Mark, δέῥῤην, pellem, "a camel's hide," but coarse cloth made from the hair. So probably," hairy man" (2 Kings 1:8; el. Zechariah 13:4). And a leathern girdle. Probably of sheep or goatskin, worn over the garment. Mentioned because
(1) it formed another point of similarity to Elijah (2 Kings 1:8);
(2) girdles were frequently very costly (cf. Smith's 'Dict. of Bible,' 1:701). Every part of John the Baptist's dress was for use, not ornament. And his meat; food (Revised Version); τροφή, not βρῶμα. He cared not what he ate, but what nourished and supported him. Was. The right order of the words (ἡ δὲ τροφὴ η΅ν αὐτοῦ) lays slightly more stress on the continuance of this mode of life. Locusts. Used for food in the East from the remotest times until now. Four kinds are permitted in Leviticus 11:22. "The wings and legs are torn off, and the remainder is sprinkled with salt, and either boiled or eaten roasted" (Meyer). They are mentioned in Talm. Bab., 'Ab. Zar.,' 4:0 b, as being sold after preservation in wine. The word ἀκρίδες forbids the identification of these locusts with the pods of the carob, or locust tree, such as the prodigal son would fain have eaten. It seems that Jewish Christians of Essene and therefore vegetarian tendencies read ἐγκρίδες (cakes) here. Such at least is the most natural meaning, accepted by Epiphanius, of a quotation which he gives from the Ebionite Gospel according to the Hebrews (vide Tischendorf, in loc.) (On the theory that John the Baptist was an Essene, cf. Bishop Lightfoot, 'Colossians,' p, 161, edit. 1875.) And wild honey. This apparently simple phrase is, notwithstanding, of doubtful interpretation.
(1) Probably the honey of wild bees. This is still to be found in trees and rocks, and must have been much more common before the greater part of the timber was cut down (cf. Judges 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:25; Psalm 81:16). Bee-keeping was a favourite pursuit of the Essenes (Philo, 2. p. 633), and the Talmud has frequent notices of hives and the methods of taking bees, etc. (vide Hamburger, 'Real-Encyc,' 1. s.v. "Biene"). Hence the need for the addition of some such epithet as "wild," although there seems to be no independent parallel instance of the exact word used (ἄργιον); cf. Pliny's "mel silvestre."
(2) Possibly "tree-honey" (so Weiss, 'Marc.,' p. 44; 'Life,' 1:308), a sweet vegetable juice obtained from dates (vide Josephus, infra) and grapes (as probably in Gem 43:11; Ezekiel 27:17), and perhaps directly from wild trees, such as the manna ash and the tamarisk. So distinctly Suidas (A.D. 1100). "The forerunner ate locusts and wild honey, which is gathered together from the trees, and is commonly called manna." Diodorus Siculus ( B.C. 8) seems to use the epithet "wild" (ἄγριον) to distinguish this vegetable honey from that commonly in use (cf. Nicholson, 'Gosp. Hebrews,' p. 35). Josephus ('Bell. Jud.,' 4:08. 3) states that in the plain watered by the fountain of Jericho, "there are many sorts of palm trees watered by it, different from each other in taste and name; the better sort of them, when they are pressed, yield an excellent kind of honey (μέλι δαψιλὸς ἀνιᾶσιν), not much inferior to other honey. This country withal produces honey from bees (καὶ μελιττοτρόφος δὲ ἡ χώρα)." But the former interpretation seems the more probable.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The same John had his raiment,.... The Evangelist goes on to describe this excellent person, the forerunner of our Lord, by his raiment;
the same John of whom Isaiah prophesied, and who came preaching the doctrine in the place and manner before expressed,
had his raiment of camel's hair; not of camel's hair softened and dressed, which the Talmudists (z) call "camel's wool"; of which wool of camels and of hares, the Jews say (a) the coats were made, with which God clothed Adam and Eve; and which being spun to a thread, and wove, and made a garment of, they call (b) and we "camlet"; for this would have been too fine and soft for John to wear, which is denied of him, Matthew 11:8 but either of a camel's skin with the hair on it, such was the "rough garment", or "garment of hair", the prophets used to wear, Zechariah 13:4 or of camels hair not softened but undressed; and so was very coarse and rough, and which was suitable to the austerity of his life, and the roughness of his ministry. And it is to be observed he appeared in the same dress as Elijah or Elias did, 2 Kings 1:8 in whose spirit and power he came, and whose name he bore, Luke 1:17.
And a leathern girdle about his loins; and such an one also Elijah was girt with, 2 Kings 1:8 and which added to the roughness of his garment, though it shows he was prepared and in a readiness to do the work he was sent about.
And his meat was locusts and wild honey; by the "locusts" some have thought are meant a sort of fish called "crabs", which John found upon the banks of Jordan, and lived upon; others, that a sort of wild fruit, or the tops of trees and plants he found in the wilderness and fed on, are designed; but the truth is, these were a sort of creatures "called locusts", and which by the ceremonial law were lawful to be eaten, see Leviticus 11:22. The Misnic doctors (c) describe such as are fit to be eaten after this manner;
"all that have four feet and four wings, and whose thighs and wings cover the greatest part of their body, and whose name is "a locust."''
For it seems they must not only have these marks and signs, but must be so called, or by a word in any other language which answers to it, as the commentators (d) on this passage observe; and very frequently do these writers speak (e) of locusts that are clean, and may be eaten. Maimonides (f) reckons up "eight" sorts of them, which might be eaten according to the law. Besides, these were eaten by people of other nations, particularly the Ethiopians (g), Parthians (h), and Lybians (i).
And wild honey: this was honey of bees, which were not kept at home, but such as were in the woods and fields; of this sort was that which Jonathan found, and eat of, 1 Samuel 14:25 now the honey of bees might be eaten, according to the Jewish laws (k), though bees themselves might not.
(z) Misn. Negaim. c. 11. sect. 2. & Kilaim, c. 9. sect. 1. Talmud, Bab. Menachot, fol. 39. 2.((a) Bereshit Rabba, fol. 18. 2.((b) T. Hieros. Nedarim, fol. 40. 3.((c) Misn. Cholin. c. 3. sect. 7. (d) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (e) Misn. Beracot, c. 6. sect. 3. Terumot. c. 10. sect. 9. & Ediot. c. 7. sect. 2. & 8. 4. (f) Maacolot Asurot, c. 1. sect. 21. (g) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 30. Alex. ab Alex. l. 3. c. 11. Ludolph. Hist. Ethiop. l. 1. c. 13. (h) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29. (i) Hieron. adv. Jovinian. fol. 26. Tom. 2.((k) Moses Kotzensis Mitzvot Tora precept. neg. 132.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair—woven of it.
and a leathern girdle about his loins—the prophetic dress of Elijah (2Ki 1:8; and see Zec 13:4).
and his meat was locusts—the great, well-known Eastern locust, a food of the poor (Le 11:22).
and wild honey—made by wild bees (1Sa 14:25, 26). This dress and diet, with the shrill cry in the wilderness, would recall the stern days of Elijah.
Matthew 3:4 Parallel Commentaries
Matthew 3:4 NIV
Matthew 3:4 NLT
Matthew 3:4 ESV
Matthew 3:4 NASB
Matthew 3:4 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible