on Matthew 3 :4
His raiment of camel's hair - A sort of coarse or rough covering, which, it appears, was common to the prophets, Zechariah 13:4. In such a garment we find Elijah clothed, 2 Kings 1:8. And as John had been designed under the name of this prophet, Malachi 4:5, whose spirit and qualifications he was to possess, Luke 1:17, he took the same habit and lived in the same state of self-denial.
His meat was locusts - Ακριδες. Ακρις may either signify the insect called the locust, which still makes a part of the food in the land of Judea; or the top of a plant. Many eminent commentators are of the latter opinion; but the first is the most likely. The Saxon translator has grasshoppers.
Wild honey - Such as he got in the rocks and hollows of trees, and which abounded in Judea: see 1 Samuel 14:26. It is most likely that the dried locusts, which are an article of food in Asiatic countries to the present day, were fried in the honey, or compounded in some manner with it. The Gospel according to the Hebrews, as quoted by Epiphanius, seems to have taken a similar view of the subject, as it adds here to the text, Ου η γευσις ην του μαννα, ως εγκρις εν ελαιω. And its taste was like manna, as a sweet cake baked in oil.
on Matthew 3 :4
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.
on Matthew 3 :4