Matthew 3:4
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
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(4) His raiment of camel’s hair.—The dress was probably deliberately adopted by the Baptist as reviving the outward appearance of Elijah, who was “a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather” (2Kings 1:8); and the “rough garment,” that had been characteristic of the prophet’s life even at a later period (Zechariah 13:4), as contrasted with the long garments” of the Pharisees (Mark 12:38), and the “gorgeous apparel” of the scribes who attached themselves to the court of Herod (Luke 7:25). The Nazarite vow of Luke 1:15 probably involved long and shaggy hair as well.

Locusts and wild honey.—Locusts were among the articles of food permitted by the Law (Leviticus 11:21), and were and are still used by the poor in Palestine and Syria. They are commonly salted and dried, and may be cooked in various ways, pounded, or fried in butter, and they taste like shrimps. It is needless, when the facts are so clear, to go out of the way to seek the food of the Baptist in the sweet pods of the so-called locust-tree (Ceratonia Siliqua), with which it has been sometimes identified. The “wild honey” was that found in the hollows of trees (as in the history of Jonathan, 1Samuel 14:25), or in the “rocks” (Deuteronomy 32:13; Psalm 81:16). Stress is laid on the simplicity of the Baptist’s fare, requiring no skill or appliances, the food of the poorest wanderer in the wilderness, presenting a marked contrast to the luxury of the dwellers in towns. The life of Banus, the hermit-master of Josephus, who lived only on herbs and water (Life, c. 2) presented analogous though not identical features.

Matthew 3:4. And the same John — The following description of John is added, that it might appear he did not live in obscurity, but was sufficiently known to all: had his raiment of camel’s hair — Not, as some have supposed, a camel’s skin, raw and undressed, but a kind of sackcloth, coarse and rough, made of the raw long hair of camels, and not of their fine and soft hair, dressed and spun into thread. The difference between these two is as great as that between flax rude or unprepared, and the same dressed or spun; or between that which we now call hair cloth, made of undressed hair, and camlet, that is made of it when it is softened, and spun, and prepared; in imitation of which, though made of wool, is the English camlet. Elijah seems to have wore a similar garment, and therefore was called a hairy man; which expression is supposed to refer to his clothing rather than his body. Most of the ancient prophets wore such garments, whence we read of the false prophets putting on a rough garment to deceive, Zechariah 13:4; and of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, Revelation 6:12; and Revelation 11:3. And a leathern girdle about his loins — In this respect, also, being like Elijah, in whose spirit and power he came, Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:17. Hereby, as also by his spare diet, he gave an example of repentance, and of his expectation of a heavenly kingdom. And his meat was locusts — The insects called locusts are undoubtedly intended, a kind of large-winged grasshoppers. See Revelation 9:3; Revelation 9:7; Revelation 9:9. It is true, according to Sandys (Trav. p. 183) and many others, it appears there is, in these parts, a shrub termed the locust tree, the buds of which resemble asparagus; yet it is not probable that this is here meant, nor the wild fruits of any trees, nor the tops of herbs and plants, as some, both ancients and moderns, have supposed; because the original word here used, in the LXX. and elsewhere, generally signifies the animal which we call a locust, which it is certain the law allowed the Jews to eat, and which, Pliny assures us, made a considerable part of the food of the Parthians and Ethiopians. Dr. Shaw tells us that when sprinkled with salt and fried they taste much like the river cray-fish. See his excellent Travels, p. 258. And wild honey — Such as, in those parts, was often found in hollow trees, or in the clefts of the rocks, 1 Samuel 14:26; Jdg 14:8; Psalm 81:16. John used such a diet and such clothing as was cheap and easily obtained. He drank no wine, and frequently fasted, not through poverty, for he was the only son of a priest, but of his own free-will, as well that his severe and mortified manner of life might correspond with his doctrine, which enjoined frequent fasting to his disciples, as that in this way he might fortify both his body and mind, and prepare himself to undergo dangers, imprisonment, and death undauntedly. As the months of April and May are the time when locusts abound, it has been conjectured that John began his ministry about that season of the year, which might also seem more convenient for receiving, and especially for baptizing, so great a number of people, than the winter could have been.

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.His raiment of camel's hair - His clothing. This is not the fine hair of the camel from which our elegant cloth is made called camlet, nor the more elegant stuff brought from the East Indies under the name of "camel's hair," but the long shaggy hair of the camel, from which a coarse cheap cloth is made, still worn by the poorer classes in the East, and by monks. This dress of the camel's hair, and a leather belt, it seems, was the common dress of the prophets, 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4.

His meat was locusts - His food. These constituted the food of the common people. Among the Greeks the vilest of the people used to eat them; and the fact that John made his food of them is significant of his great poverty and humble life. The Jews were allowed to eat them, Leviticus 11:22. Locusts are flying insects, and are of various kinds. The green locusts are about 2 inches in length and about the thickness of a man's finger. The common brown locust is about 3 inches long. The general form and appearance of the locust is not unlike the grasshopper. They were one of the plagues of Egypt Exodus 10. In Eastern countries they are very numerous. They appear in such quantities as to darken the sky, and devour in a short time every green thing. The whole earth is sometimes covered with them for many leagues, Joel 1:4; Isaiah 33:4-5. "Some species of the locust are eaten until this day in Eastern countries, and are even esteemed as a delicacy when properly cooked. After tearing off the legs and wings, and taking out the entrails, they stick them in long rows upon wooden spits, roast them at the fire, and then proceed to devour them with great zest. There are also other ways of preparing them. For example: they cook them and dress them in oil; or, having dried them, they pulverize them, and, when other food is scarce, make bread of the meal. The Bedouins pack them with salt in close masses, which they carry in their leather sacks. From these they cut slices as they may need them. It is singular that even learned men have suffered themselves to hesitate about understanding these passages of the literal locust, when the fact that these are eaten by the Orientals is so abundantly proved by the concurrent testimony of travelers.

One of them says they are brought to market on strings in all the cities of Arabia, and that he saw an Arab on Mount Sumara who had collected a sackful of them. They are prepared in different ways. An Arab in Egypt, of whom he requested that he would immediately eat locusts in his presence, threw them upon the glowing coals; and after he supposed they were roasted enough, he took them by the legs and head, and devoured the remainder at one mouthful. When the Arabs have them in quantities they roast or dry them in an oven, or boil them and eat them with salt. The Arabs in the kingdom of Morocco boil the locusts; and the Bedouins eat locusts, which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April, when they are easily caught. After having been roasted a little upon the iron plate on which bread is baked, they are dried in the sun, and then put into large sacks, with the mixture of a little salt.

They are never served up as a dish, but every one takes a handful of them when hungry" (Un. Bib. Dic.). Burckhardt, one of the most trustworthy of travelers, says: "All the Bedouins of Arabia and the inhabitants of towns in Nejd and Hedjaz are accustomed to eat locusts." "I have seen at Medina and Tayf locust-shops, where these animals were sold by measure. In Egypt and Nubia they are only eaten by the poorest beggars The Land and the Book, ii. 107). "Locusts," says Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, ii. 108), "are not eaten in Syria by any but the Bedouin on the extreme frontiers, and it is always spoken of as an inferior article of food, and regarded by most with disgust and loathing tolerated only by the very poorest people. John the Baptist, however, was of this class either from necessity or election." It is remarkable that not only in respect to his food, but also in other respects, the peculiarities in John's mode of life have their counterparts in the present habits of the same class of persons. "The coat or mantle of camel's hair is seen still on the shoulders of the Arab who escorts the traveler through the desert, or of the shepherd who tends his flocks on the hills of Judea or in the valley of the Jordan. It is made of the thin, coarse hair of the camel, and not of the fine hair, which is manufactured into a species of rich cloth. I was told that both kinds of raiment are made on a large scale at Nablus, the ancient Shechem. The 'leathern girdle' may be seen around the body of the common laborer, when fully dressed, almost anywhere; whereas men of wealth take special pride in displaying a rich sash of silk or some other costly fabric" (Hackett's Illustrations of Scripture, p. 104).

Wild honey - This was probably the honey that he found in the rocks of the wilderness. Palestine was often called the land flowing with milk and honey, Exodus 3:8, Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5. Bees were kept with great care, and great numbers of them abounded in the fissures of trees and the clefts of rocks. "Bees abound there still, not only wild, but hived, as with us. I saw a great number of hives in the old castle near the Pools of Solomon; several, also, at Deburieh, at the foot of Tabor: and again at Mejdel, the Magdala of the New Testament, on the Lake of Tiberias. Maundrell says that he saw 'bees very industrious about the blossoms' between Jericho and the Dead Sea, which must have been within the limits of the very 'desert' in which John 'did eat locusts and wild honey'" (Hackett's Illustrations of Scripture, p. 104). There is also a species of honey called wild honey, or wood honey (1 Samuel 14:27, margin), or honeydew, produced by certain little insects, and deposited on the leaves of trees, and flowing from them in great quantities to the ground. See 1 Samuel 14:24-27. This is said to be produced still in Arabia, and perhaps it was this which John 54ed upon.

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.

There are great and insignificant disputes about the habit and the diet of John the Baptist. The evangelists doubtless designed no more than to let us know, that John Baptist’s habit was not of soft raiment, like those who are in princes’ houses, but a plain country habit, suited to the place in which he lived; and his diet plain, such as the country afforded. In vain therefore do some contend that John wore watered stuff, fine and splendid, as art in our days hath improved camel’s hair; and others as vainly contend that he went in a camel’s skin raw and undressed: but he was habited in a plain suit of camel’s hair, such as ordinary persons of that country used, or else such a rough garment as is mentioned Zechariah 13:4, used by the prophets. Elijah had much such a habit, 2 Kings 1:8. There is likewise a variety of opinions about these locusts which John did eat; the most probable is, that they were true locusts, for locusts might be eaten, Leviticus 11:22. Nor is it to be thought that John did eat nothing else; all that is intended is, to let us know that John was a man not at all curious as to his meat or clothes, but was habited plainly, and fared ordinarily, as the men of that country fared; if there were any difference in his habit, it was to proportion himself to Elijah and the habit of prophets. In this the evangelist teacheth us what the ministers of the gospel should be and do. They should be men contemning the gaudery and delicacies of the world, and by their habit and diet, as well as other things, set an example of severity and gravity to others.

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.

And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was {f} locusts and wild honey.

(f) Locusts were a type of meat which certain of the eastern people use, who were therefore called devourers of locusts.

Matthew 3:4. Αὐτός] ipse autem Johannes, the historical person himself, who is intended (Matthew 3:3) by that φωνή of Isaiah.

εἶχεκαμήλου] He had his (distinctive, constantly worn) robe of camels’ hair. The reading is αὐτοῦ, which is neither to be written αὑτοῦ (it is used from the standpoint of the narrator, and without any reflective emphasis), nor is it superfluous. Whether are we to think of a garment of camels’ skin, or a coarse cloth of camels’ hair? Er. Schmid and Fritzsche are of the former opinion. But as hair alone is expressly mentioned as the material[378] (comp. also Mark 1:6), the latter is to be preferred. Even at the present day coarse cloth is prepared from camels’ hair for clothing and for covering tents. See Harmar, III. p. 356. Of clothes made from the hides of camels (probably, however, from sheep and goatskins, compare Hebrews 11:37) there is not a trace to be found among either ancient or modern Oriental saints (Harmar, III. p. 374 ff.).

ΔΕΡΜΑΤΊΝΗΝ] not of a luxurious material, but like Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8, whose copy he was (comp. Ewald, Gesch. d. Volks Isr. III. p. 529). Dress and food are in keeping with the asceticism of the Baptist, and thereby with the profound earnestness of his call to μετάνοια. “Habitus quoque et victus Johannis praedicabat,” Bengel.

ἀκρίδες] Several kinds of locusts were eaten, Leviticus 11:22. Comp. Plin. N. H. vi. 35, xi. 32, 35. This is still the custom in the East, especially amongst the poorer classes and the Bedouins. The wings and legs are torn off, and the remainder is sprinkled with salt, and either boiled or eaten roasted. Niebuhr, Reise, I. p. 402; Harmar, I. p. 274 f.; Rosenmüller, altes und neues Morgenl. in loco. The conjectures of the older writers, who, deeming this food unworthy of John, have substituted sometimes cakes (ἐγκριδες),[379] sometimes crabs (καρίδες), or fruits of the nut kind (ἀκρόδρυα) and other articles, deserve no consideration.

μέλι ἄγριον] Commonly: honey prepared by wild bees, which in the East flows out of the clefts of the rocks. Euth. Zigabenus: τὸ ἐν ταῖς τῶν πετρῶν σχισμαῖς ὑπὸ τῶν μελισσῶν γεωργούμενον. Bochart, Hieroz. II. 4. 12; Suicer, Thes. II. p. 330; Ewald, Gesch. Isr. III. p. 50. It is still frequently found in abundance at the present day in the Jewish wilderness. Schulz, Leitungen d. Höchsten auf den Reisen durch Eur. As. Afr. V. p. 133; Rosenmüller, I. 1, p. 7; Oedmann, Sammlungen aus d. Naturk. zur Erkl. d. heil. Schr. VI. p. 136 f. Others (Suidas, Salmasius, Reland, Michaelis, Kuinoel, Fritzsche, Schegg, Bleek, Volkmar) understand tree honey, a substance of the nature of honey which issues from palms, figs, and other trees. Diod. Sic. xix. 94; Wesseling in loc.; Plin. N. H. xv. 7; Suidas, s.v. ἀκρίς. Comp. Heyne, ad Virg. Ecl. iv. 30. Similarly, Polyaenus, iv. 3. 32: τὸ ὕον μέλι, the Persian manna. This explanation of tree honey is to be preferred, as, according to Diod. Sic. l.c. and Suidas, the predicate ἄγριον, as terminus technicus, actually designates this honey, whilst the expression μέλι ἄγριον cannot be proved to be employed of the honey of wild bees (which, moreover, is the common honey).

[378] Comp. Josephus, Bell. Jud. xvii. 24. 3 : ὡς ἀντὶ τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐν τάχει περιθήσουσιν ἑαυταῖς ἐκ τριχῶν πεποιημένας.

[379] Epiph. Haer. xxx. 13 quotes from the Gospel according to the Hebrews: καὶ τὸ βρῶμα αὐτοῦ, φήσι, μέλι ἄγριον, οὗ ἡ γεῦσις ἦν τοῦ μάννα ὡς ἐγκρὶς ἐν ἐλαίῳ (conjecture: ἐν μέλιτι). A confusion has here been supposed between ἀκρίδες and ἐγκρίδες, and it has been inferred that that Gospel was derived from Greek sources, especially from the Greek Matthew. So also Credner, Beitr. I. p. 344 f.; Bleek, Beitr. p. 61; Harless, Erl. Weihnachtsprogr. 1841, p. 21. Comp. Delitzsch, Entsteh. u. Anl. d. kanon. Ev. I. p. 20. But that passage from the Gospel to the Hebrews contains only one kind of sustenance employed by John, the μέλι ἄγριον, the taste of which is described according to Exodus 16:31, Numbers 11:8. The Ebionites altogether omitted the locusts, as being animal food, but did not substitute, as Epiphanius erroneously supposes, ἐγκρίδες for ἀκρίδες. The resemblance of the tree honey to the manna could not but be welcome to their Jewish point of view; but because the word ἐγκρίς occurs in the books of Moses in the description of its taste, they adopted it; this has no relation whatever to our ἀκρίδες.

Matthew 3:4. αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰ. The story returns to the historical person, John, and identifies him with the herald of prophecy. “This same John.” Then follows a description of his way of life—his clothing and his food, the details conveying a life-like picture of the manner of the man: his habits congruous to his vocation.—τὸ ἔνδυμα ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου: his characteristic (αὐταῦ) piece of clothing was a rough rude garment woven out of camel’s hair, not as some have thought, a camel’s skin. We read in Hebrews 11:37, of sheep skins and goat skins worn by some of God’s saints, but not of camel skins. Fritzsche takes the opposite view, and Grotius. Euthy., following Chrysostom, says: “Do not ask who wove his garment, or whence he got his girdle; for more wonderful is it that he should live from childhood to manhood in so inhospitable a climate”. John took his fashion in dress from Elijah, described (2 Kings 1:8) as “an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins”. It need not be doubted that the investment is historical, not a legendary creation, due to the opinion that John was Elijah redivivus. The imitation in dress does not imply a desire to pass for Elijah, but expresses similarity of mood.—ἡ δὲ τροφὴ: his diet as poor as his clothing was mean.—ἀκρίδες: the last of four kinds of edible locusts named in Leviticus 11:22 (Sept[13]), still it seems used by the poor in the east; legs and wings stripped off, and the remainder boiled or roasted. “The Beduins of Arabia and of East Jordan land eat many locusts, roasted, boiled or baked in cakes. In Arabia they are sold in the market. They taste not badly” (Benzinger, Hebraische Archäologie). Euthy. reports to the same effect as to his own time: many eat it in those parts τεταριχευμένον (pickled). Not pleasant food, palatable only to keen hunger. If we may trust Epiphanius, the Ebionites, in their aversion to animal food, grudged the Baptist even that poor diet, and restricted him to cakes made with honey (ἐγκρίδας ἐν μελίτι), or to honey alone. Vide Nicholson’s Gospel according to the Hebrews, p. 34, and the notes there; also Suicer’s Thesaurus, sub. v. ἀκρίς.—μέλι ἄγριον: opinion is divided between bee honey and tree honey, i.e., honey made by wild bees in trees or holes in the rocks, or a liquid exuding from palms and fig trees. (On this also consult Nicholson, Gospel of Hebrews, p. 35.) Both were used as food, but our decision should incline to vegetable honey, on the simple ground that it was the poorer food. Bee honey was a delicacy, and is associated with milk in Scripture in descriptions of a fertile land. The vegetable product would suit best John’s taste and state. “Habitatori solitudinis congruum est, non delicias ciborum, sed necessitatem humanae carnis explere.” Jerome.

[13] Septuagint.

4. the same John] Translate, “John himself.”

raiment of camel’s hair] A kind of tunic or shirt coarsely woven of camel’s hair, “one of the most admirable materials for clothing, it keeps out the heat, cold and rain.” Recovery of Jerusalem, p. 445.

his meat was locusts and wild honey] Thomson, Land and Book, pp. 419, 420, states that though tolerated, as an article of food, only by the very poorest people, locusts are still eaten by the Bedawin. Burckhardt mentions having seen locust shops at Medina and Tayf. After being dried in the sun the locusts are eaten with butter and honey. Sometimes they are sprinkled with salt and either boiled or roasted. Thomson adds that wild honey is still gathered from trees in the wilderness and from rocks in the Wadies.

Matthew 3:4. Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάννης, κ.τ.λ., And the same John, etc.) A remarkable description. Even the dress and food of John preached, being in accordance with his teaching and office. Such as should be that of penitents, such was always that of this minister of penitence.—Cf. Gnomon on ch. Matthew 9:14, and Matthew 11:18.—ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου, of camels’ hair) His dress was mean,[121] and rough, and coarsely woven.—Cf. Mark 1:6.—καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, and a girdle of skin around his loins) Thus the LXX. in 2 Kings 1:8, of Elijah, καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περιεζωσμένος τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, and girt around his loins with a girdle of skin. The girdle of John, like that of Elijah, was not of leather, but of skin rudely dressed. It is not without object that Scripture records the dress of many saints, of the Baptist, and of Jesus Christ Himself.—τροφὴ, food) We gather the nature of his drink from Luke 1:15.—ἀκρίδες, locusts) IN Leviticus 11:22, the LXX. render חגב (an animal which the Jews were permitted to eat), by ἈΚΡΊς, locust.—μέλι ἄγριον, wild honey) flowing spontaneously.—See 1 Samuel 14:25.—Locusts might sometimes fail.

[121] “Parabilis.” It is curious to see the changes which took place in the meaning of this word. In classical Latin, it signified (1) procurable, (2) easy to be procured, (3) ordinary, cheap, not costly, mean.—(See Ainsworth, in voc.) In the middle ages, as we learn from the Glossarium Manuale ad Scriptores Mediœ et Infimœ Latinitatis, it had a very different signification. The abbreviator of Du Cange writes thus: “PARABILIS. Testamentum Perpetui Episcopi Turonensis: Equum meum Parabilem, et mulum quem elegeris do, lego. Equus forte qui Gallis dicitur Cheval de parade, ad pompam, ad apparatum.”—(I. B.)

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. Matthew 3:4
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