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; Judges 14:8; Psalms 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.
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