What does the Bible mean when it says John the Baptist ate locusts?

Hello L,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

The Bible tell us about the diet of John the Baptist, “Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).

According to the above verse and Mark 1:6, the diet of John the Baptist consisted of “locusts and wild honey.” Whether the Gospel writers meant that John ate nothing else, or only that these constituted his main diet, is not given. Some suggest that “locusts and wild honey” were considered to be the distinguishing diet of a prophet, even as “raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle” marked him a successor to the ancient prophets.

Because the English word “locust” (Greek akrides) properly means both an insect and certain kinds of trees, the question normally arises as to what, with honey, constituted the diet of John. In the Scriptures, and in contemporary Greek literature, the word akrides always refers to an insect, the locust.

According to the law of Moses certain kinds of locusts are clean food. “These you may eat: the locust after its kind, the destroying locust after its kind, the cricket after its kind, and the grasshopper after its kind” (Leviticus 11:22). The four insects here listed were commonly used as food in ancient times, as they are today in the Orient. These facts have led commentators to agree on the conclusion that akrides in Matthew and Mark should be understood as designating the insect by the name “locust” rather than a species of tree.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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