Jesus intentionally associates the prophecy of [Malachi 3:1] with John the Baptist, during John’s imprisonment in [Matthew 11:10]: οὗτός γὰρ ἐστιν περὶ οὗ γέγραπται, Ἰδού, ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου ἔμπροσθέν σου | “For this is he [John] of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’”

  • Would Jesus finally be revealing why his cousin John’s diet consisted of Locusts ( ἀκρίδες ) to fulfill the remainder of Malachi’s prophecy?

[Malachi 3:11] “ and I will banish the locusts from you, so that they will not destroy the yield of your soil; and your vines in the field shall no longer miscarry—said YHVH of Hosts. ” ( וְגָעַרְתִּ֤י לָכֶם֙ בָּֽאֹכֵ֔ל וְלֹא־יַשְׁחִ֥ת לָכֶ֖ם אֶת־פְּרִ֣י הָאֲדָמָ֑ה וְלֹא־תְשַׁכֵּ֨ל לָכֶ֤ם הַגֶּ֙פֶן֙ בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה אָמַ֖ר יְהֹוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת )

Rashi seems to think the “Devourer” ( בָּֽאֹכֵ֔ל ) Ba-Okel was a metaphor describing Locusts “in-[the] Food” :

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sake. The finishing locusts and the shearing locusts, which devour the grain of your field and your vines.
[ https://www.sefaria.org/Malachi.3.11?lang=bi&with=Rashi&lang2=en ]

  • The Septuagint changes the meaning of “Devourer” (בָּֽאֹכֵ֔ל) to simply refer to “food” (βρῶσιν) .

Based on John’s ministry in Matthew 3:4, we are told John’s dietary choices are Locusts ( ἀκρίδες ) without any explanation why a wealthy Levite in the order of Abijah would willingly leave his temple duties to eat kosher bugs: [Matthew 3:4]  Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ Ἰωάννης εἶχεν τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τριχῶν καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ ἡ δὲ τροφὴ αὐτοῦ ἦν ἀκρίδες καὶ μέλι ἄγριον

Were the Locusts ( ἀκρίδες ) of Matthew 3:4 suppose to represent the banished Devourer ( בָּֽאֹכֵ֔ל ) of food from Malachi 3:11?

  • 1
    +1 I was contemplating this verse today and wondering the same. Also looking into the symbology of honey which is mentioned symbolically in various places such as Psalm 81
    – Marshall
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


I think a stronger case would need to be made that eating locusts was a symbol of devouring the devourer. There might something to it, but I haven't found evidence of this in any commentary.

Traditional commentary is that the diet was

  • a symbol of poverty

as locusts were eaten only in emergency situations by starving Bedouin - that is the poorest of the poor, just as he renounced the Temple, Jerusalem, family, privilege, rank, station, and wealth, thus setting an example for total repentance.

  • foreshadowing the end of the sacrificial system

By refusing to eat the meat offered for sacrifice in the temple, John was prophesying that the sacrificial system was about to end, and spiritually did end with the baptism of Jesus (John 1.29). Thereafter a 3 1/2 year period of grace was allowed after which the veil was torn in two and the sacrifices were no longer accepted:

It has been taught: Forty years before the destruction of the Temple

the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson,

and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand.

Neusner, J. (2008). The Jerusalem Talmud: A Translation and Commentary. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

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