John the Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth (the cousin of Mary, mother of Christ). Both Zacharias and Elizabeth were from the tribe of Levi, so John was the symbol of the Law of Moses. The tribe of Levi did not receive an inheritance in the Holy Land when the Israelites arrived from Egypt. They were to be supported by the people. They received parcels in the cities where they could live and serve, and they had assignments in the temple.
John was so important to God’s work that the angel Gabriel announced his pending birth and prophesied his greatness. Zacharias was struck dumb after the visitation from Gabriel in the temple as he attended to his priestly duties. His voice returned during the brit for John, when John was given a name and received circumcision (8 days after birth).
There is a legend that Zacharias was murdered as he held onto the horns of the temple altar, which is a place of safety and sanctuary. But this story may be incorrect. There is nothing about it in the Bible, and it’s similar to stories about other prophets with the same name.
John was a “forerunner” for Jesus. He prepared the people to hear Jesus and to understand who Jesus was. He was a transition from the Aaronic Priesthood of Moses to the higher priesthood of Christ.
Jesus loved John dearly, but we don’t know from the biblical account how much time they actually spent together. John’s family lived in Judea, and Jesus’ family went down there for every high holy festival in Jerusalem. But the Bible says John was raised in the Judean wilderness. How much time he spent there, we don’t know. The area where John taught and baptized is near Jericho at the north end of the Dead Sea.
In the scriptures, it says that John lived on locusts and honey. Some people like to comfort themselves thinking that John ate from the wild locust trees. But locusts—yes, the ones that are like grasshoppers—are kosher to eat according to the Law of Moses.