Bible Commentaries
Revelation 6

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-17

Revelation 6. The Opening of the Seals.— When the seals of the book are opened by the Lamb, a number of woes are let loose upon the world. The first four are described under the figure of horses of different colour, the first white, the second blood-red, the third black, the fourth pale or livid. The best interpretation regards these woes as ( 1 ) triumphant militarism, ( 2 ) slaughter, ( 3 ) famine, ( 4 ) death. The other two woes are described without this metaphor— martyrdom and earthquake. The seventh seal is not opened till ch. 8 .

Revelation 6:1 . one of the seven seals: belonging to the book of destiny ( cf. Revelation 5:1).— living creatures: Revelation 4:6 *.— come: to whom was the order addressed? Three answers are possible: ( a) to the seer, ( b) to Christ, ( c) to the rider who appears in answer to the summons. The repetition of the command before the breaking of each of the four seals favours the last explanation.

Revelation 6:2 . a white horse: the metaphor of the differently-coloured horses is suggested by Zechariah 6:1-8. There has been much debate as to the interpretation of “ the white horse.” Some scholars, on the strength of the reference to “ the crown,” and the phrase “ conquering and to conquer.” think that it can only refer to Christ. This interpretation is supported by Revelation 19:11, where one whose name is called the Word of God is represented as riding on a white horse. Others think that it refers not to Christ Himself but to His victorious Kingdom or Church. But these views separate the “ white horse” from the other three, and there is no indication that the writer intended to draw such a contrast. The “ white horse” is one of four. The other three clearly indicate woes that scourge humanity, and we are bound, therefore, to find a parallel meaning for the remaining one. “ A vision of the victorious Christ would be inappropriate at the opening of a series which symbolizes bloodshed, famine, and pestilence.” We must, therefore, regard the “ white horse” as portraying “ conquest” (Scott) or “ triumphant militarism” (Swete).

Revelation 6:4 . a red horse: this symbolizes “ bloodshed” or “ slaughter.” The red horse naturally follows the white. Conquest “ wears another aspect when viewed in the light of the battle-field” (Swete).

Revelation 6:5 . a black horse: i.e. famine, the natural result of war and bloodshed.— a balance: i.e. scales. It is a sign of scarcity when food is sold by weight ( cf. Leviticus 26:26, Ezekiel 4:16).

Revelation 6:6 . a measure of wheat for a penny: a penny, i.e. a denarius (see p. 117 ), was the sum generally earned by a labourer for a day’ s work; a measure of wheat was the amount required by a man for his daily need. The phrase ( a) may be used to indicate the approach of a time of famine when a man’ s utmost earnings would only suffice to purchase the bare necessities of life; or ( b) it may be a proclamation of the cherubim forbidding famine prices. The previous context supports the first interpretation: the following phrase “ the oil and the wine hurt thou not,” [110] the second.

Revelation 6:8 . a pale horse: in natural sequence of the other three, stands for pestilence or death.— fourth part: an indication of the wide extent of the devastation.

Revelation 6:9 . Here the metaphor of the horses stops, and the next two scenes are described without the pictorial element.— underneath the altar: according to Jewish tradition the souls of the righteous were regarded as “ buried under the altar.”— word of God and for the testimony: if these two phrases are to be distinguished, the former would indicate their devotion to the true God in the face of polytheism, the second their witness to Jesus Christ.

Revelation 6:10 . The martyrs’ cry to God for vengeance has led some commentators to regard them as Jews and not Christians. Contrast the prayer of Stephen ( Acts 7:60). We must not, however, assume that all martyrs were able to face death in the spirit of Jesus and Stephen, and this verse is quite in keeping with the general tone of the book.— white robe: cf. Revelation 3:4 f.

Revelation 6:12 . the sixth seal: i.e. earthquake and other cosmical disturbances. These celestial phenomena which precede “ the day of the Lord” are found in all apocalyptic literature ( cf. Joel 2:31, Isaiah 34:4).

Revelation 6:15 . Every condition of life is summarized under these phrases. All ranks and classes of society are to be affected by the great disaster.

Revelation 6:16 . Hosea 10:8.

[110] 1 This expression may have reference to the edict issued by Domitian in A.D. 92, restricting the cultivation of the vine in the provinces of the empire. It led to an agitation in Asia, and was revoked in 93. The prophet is describing a situation in which necessities were at famine prices, while luxuries were abundant.— A. J. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 6". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.