Food in the Bible: Matthew 3:4

I’ve decided to go through the Second Testament parallel with the First Testament for two reasons: 1) I was beginning to get sort of bored and bogged down by going through Genesis and tackling the Bible completely linear 2) the beginning of Matthew was very appropriate considering it is advent.

Matthew 3:4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Just before we get this description of John, the narrator tells us that he is the one Isaiah spoke of when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” Many of the readings throughout Advent are from various points in Jesus’ life, primarily not the birth narratives. This text often makes us think of Jesus’ arrival at his birth, but Matthew places this announcement after Jesus and his family have returned from Egypt where they were hiding out from Herod’s massacre of infants.

It’s interesting that this is the forerunner, the announcer, of Jesus’ arrival on the scene. He was probably an Essene. This put him on the fringes of Judaism and society in general. Essenes were still considered Jews, but they isolated themselves from the rest of society.

John the Baptizer was the original freegan. He got his food from what he found around him, bugs and wild honey. The description is so sparse that it might lead you to think that he didn’t even try to feed himself. Maybe a locust just flew in on accident. Maybe he stumbled on a hive that had fallen. His clothes were perhaps found in the same manner. A stray camel dead in the wilderness becomes a coat and a belt.

It’s interesting that within two chapters we have both Jesus and John described in terms of how they related to, and dealt with food. What does it mean that both spurn traditional ways of feeding themselves at the beginning of this gospel? We’ll explore more later as we consider who Jesus eats with and feeds.

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