Locusts and Wild Honey

Locusts and Wild Honey

The intake of locusts and wild honey was not a throwaway detail. The food going into John’s mouth represented the message coming out of John’s mouth. Those who received John’s message with faith would taste its sweetness and experience God’s blessing, like honey. Those who refused John’s message would experience God’s judgment, like locusts.

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness and called for people to repent, and those who repented he baptized in the Jordan River (Matt. 3:1-2, 5-6).

So John was a preacher and a baptizer. Aside from these roles, John also dressed and ate in a certain way. It’s good practice for interpreters to notice unexpected details and to ask, “Why is that there? Is there any significance I should see?”

In Matthew 3:4, we’re told: “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” The first part of the verse is about his dress, and the second part is about his diet.

The “garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt” is an allusion to the prophet Elijah. In 2 Kings 1:8, Elijah “wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” The description of this garment and belt connects Elijah with John the Baptist, for John was the Elijah who was to come (see Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:13-14).

Isn’t it intriguing, though, that we’re also informed about John’s diet? He ate locusts and wild honey. If the first part of Matthew 3:4 was an Old Testament allusion, could the same thing be true of the second part?

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