Notes on Mark 1, verses 6-11
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Mark 1:6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
Both Mark and Matthew (Matt 3) have a similar description of John’s clothing, a garment of camel’s hair and a “girdle” or belt around his “loins” or midsection. This is close to the description of Elijah in 2 Kings 1:8. Camels were unclean under the Law of Moses for food, but there is no record that camel’s hair was forbidden for garments. One wonders how anyone would have the patience to process or “work” those hairs into clothing.
Locusts were indeed permitted under the Law for food, plus a few others (see Leviticus 11:22). The New International Version (NIV) has an interesting translation of that verse. The OT mentions honey several times and the only restriction was that it was not to be used as a grain (“meat”, KJV) offering (Lev.2:11).
Oddly enough, honey is seldom mentioned in the NT except as part of John’s diet. Where, by the way, would there have been enough beehives or nests where John could have obtained this food? The clear answer is that God provided—and He did!—even if we don’t have all the details. He’ll do the same thing for us, too (Matt 6:33, Phil. 4:13, e.g.)!
7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
Here John combines two complementary thoughts: the first, that someone (Someone) was to come after John, but at an unspecified time (notice that John didn’t give a definite time when this would happen).
The second was that John was placing himself in a very lowly place. Several books on Bible customs and manners stated that a household slave or servant would be given the job of removing shoes from the feet of guests when the guest/s would arrive at the house. Jesus Himself would demonstrate this, years later, when He washed the feet of each disciple—including Judas Iscariot (John 13).
Interestingly, only twice in the Bible was someone commanded to remove his shoes: Moses, in Exodus 3 and Joshua in Joshua 5. In both cases, these men were literally in the Presence of God and they were on holy ground.
8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
John concludes this part of his message with a reminder and a prediction. He said, correctly, he “baptized” people with water (he lowered people into the Jordan River and raised them up) and prophesied that the One coming after him would baptize people with the Holy Ghost (the same as the Holy Spirit. Some well-meaning folks believe there is a difference between the Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit but to the best of my knowledge, the same word in the original language is used for “ghost” and “spirit”.
Jesus also referred to these words in Acts 1:4-5, just before He ascended back to Heaven.
Other contrasts: John, at the time; Jesus, as it turned out, in a future time would do the baptizing; John used literal water from and in the Jordan River but Jesus would baptize believers with the Holy Spirit; John’s ministry was basically limited to the area in which he baptized (excepting the 12 men who had somehow made their way to Ephesus, see Acts 19) but Jesus baptizes any believer, in any locale, when he or she receives the gift of salvation. The Book of Acts gives numerous examples.
9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
This means in the days when John was baptizing. Verse 5 mentions Judea and Jerusalem but Jesus was living in Nazareth (see Luke 2:51) before He made His way to where John was baptizing.
Then, John baptized Jesus. To be sure, John objected at first (Matthew 3:13-15) but followed through with Jesus’ request. What a privilege, to minister to the very Son of God!
10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
This indicates Jesus had been lowered into the Jordan River—how else could He or anyone else “come up out of the water”? The remainder of this verse, and the next verse, confirm what Matthew and Luke recorded (Matt 3:16-17 and Luke 3:21-22, respectively).
11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Seldom has any person heard the Voice of God the Father audibly, such as here. This was one of those times. The other New Testament occurrence took place in John 12, when, incredibly, some people mistook the Voice of the Father for thunder. The children of Israel may have heard the Voice of God when they camped near Mount Sinai but the text is unclear what they actually heard (Exodus 19). Certainly the best example was that of Adam and Eve who heard the voice of God “in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8)”—this instance was after the Fall (they ate the forbidden fruit); how often they had fellowshipped with the LORD God before this is never specified.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).