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DID JOHN THE BAPTIST REALLY EAT INSECTS(LOCUST)?

His name was divinely given. It was to be “John” (Luke 1:13), which derives from a Hebrew term signifying “Jehovah is gracious.” He was known familiarly as “the Baptist” (bearing no relation to the modern sect), which simply means “an immerser, one who administers the rite of immersion” (Matthew. 3:1; 11:11; ..). The Jewish historian Josephus even refers to John by this designation (Antiquities 18.5.2).


The importance of John in the divine scheme of things probably is summed up best in the testimony of Jesus himself. “Among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). Luke does say of John: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). This desert (or deserted) area “stretches from Jerusalem and Bethlehem eastward some 20 miles down to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.” It is “a barren region of rugged hills and valleys” (Earle, 30).

The Demeanor of John the Baptist
The description of John is brief and stark. He was arrayed in a “camel’s hair” garment, secured by a leather belt, and his diet was locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4).

John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey but the “locusts” were not insects as many supposed. In this instance locust most likely refers to the leathery brown root of the Carob tree. Bread made from the Carob bean is known as Locust Bread. Carob is also known as Saint John’s Bread. The Carob tree is an evergreen native to Southern Europe and northern Africa. Used since the ancient times as a natural sweetener, Carob contains Vitamin B complex, is high in calcium and contains no caffeine.
The “hair” cloak might have been a rough fabric woven from camel’s hair, or a camel skin itself. The text is ambiguous. It was, however, quite reminiscent of the adornment of certain Old Testament prophets (Zechariah 13:4), particularly Elijah, who, as we have noted, foreshadowed John (cf. 2 Kings 1:8).

His dietary fare was that generally consumed by the poorer elements of society. He stood in bold relief to the wealthy, indulgent Jews of his day. He was a veritable walking sermon!

Also, John was somewhat reclusive. Jesus once said: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a demon” (Matthew 11:18). “Eating and drinking” stood for socializing. The prophet was not a party-goer. His ascetic life-style appeared almost demonic, like those possessed of evil spirits who apparently frequented the desolate areas (Mark 5:2-3).

He did not seek out the multitudes. Rather, somehow, he attracted them. His influence was phenomenal. Hundreds, if not thousands, were immersed by him. And his success was solely in the message he proclaimed.The multitudes said that he performed no “sign,” though they regarded his message concerning Christ as true (John 10:41).

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