Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 6:5

When He broke the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come." I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Animals;   Famine;   Horse;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Remnant;   Thompson Chain Reference - Balances, Divine;   Divine;   The Topic Concordance - Day of the Lord;   Seals;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Horse, the;  
Dictionaries:
Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Color, Symbolic Meaning of;   Prophet, Prophetess, Prophecy;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Balance;   Colour;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Balance;   Zechariah, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Black;   Horse;   Horseman;   Number Systems and Number Symbolism;   Revelation, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Beast;   Colours;   Famine;   Olive;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Arts;   Colours;   Eschatology;   Famine;   Horse;   Voice;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Balances;   Black;   Horse;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Balances;   Horse;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Balance;   Color;   Horse, Black;   Revelation of John:;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The third beast - That which had the face of a man.

A black horse - The emblem of famine. Some think that which took place under Claudius. See Matthew 24:7; the same which was predicted by Agabus, Acts 11:28.

A pair of balances - To show that the scarcity would be such, that every person must be put under an allowance.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-6.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come. And I saw and behold a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, A measure of wheat for a shilling, and three measures of barley for a shilling; and the oil and wine hurt thou not.

Practically all commentators find here a symbol of great "economic difficulty and inequality.[24] The specter of bread being sold by the ounce is enough to make this nearly certain.

The oil and wine hurt thou not ... There are two ways of construing these words. Some have seen in them an indication that while wheat and barley are priced almost out of the reach of the poor, the rich still have their oil and wine. As Hendriksen put it, "The rich enjoy their abundance, but the poor have hardly enough to hold body and soul together."[25] The other view, that of Beckwith, is that the words are "merely intended as a limitation on the severity of the famine."[26] It is believed that the latter interpretation is correct. (1) It corresponds with the limitation placed upon the pale horse. (2) It is hard to understand why an order from the living creatures should have promulgated an edict favoring the rich. (3) The identification of "oil and wine" as pertaining to the rich only is unsound. "Oil and wine were not luxuries, but part of the basic commodities of life."[27]

The black horseman of this seal still rides in the world today, the fact being that at perhaps no other time in human history were more people threatened by the specter of starvation than at this very moment. Is the present, therefore, in any exclusive way to be identified with the rider? No. The black horseman has been riding in all generations and will continue to do so until the end. As Lenski said:

Men attempt to abolish war without abolishing the sin, wickedness and injustice in their hearts; so they determine to abolish ... injustice and poverty ... without abolishing the moral cause back of them. The black horseman is ever riding in the whole world.[28]

[24] Michael Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), p. 71.

[25] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 123.

[26] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 521.

[27] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), p. 521.

[28] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 229.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And when he had opened the third seal,.... Of the sealed book:

I heard the third beast say, come and see; this living creature was that which was like a man, who was on the south side of the throne, as the standard of Reuben, which had the figure of a man, was on the south side of the camp of Israel; this was not the Apostle Paul, as Grotius thinks, to whom was made a prophecy of a famine in the days of Claudius Caesar; nor Tertullian, who made an apology for the Christians in the times of this seal, as Brightman conjectures; but the ministers of the Gospel, whose voice was neither the voice of the lion nor of the ox, but of a man, which was still lower, but yet they retained their humanity, reasoning prudence, and wisdom; and these are represented as calling upon John to come and see, and take notice of the following hieroglyphic:

and I beheld, and lo a black horse; an emblem either of the afflicted state of the church, still answering to the Smyrnaean one, being black with persecutions, schisms, errors, and heresies, which were many; or particularly of the heresies and heretics of those times, who might be compared to a horse for their pride and ambition, speaking great swelling words of vanity, and to a black one, for their hidden things of dishonesty, and works of darkness, for the darkness in themselves, and which they spread over others; or rather of a famine, not in a spiritual sense, of hearing of the word, but in a literal sense; see Lamentations 4:7; not what was at the siege of Jerusalem, or in the times of Claudius Caesar, Acts 11:28; but in the times of the Emperor Severus, and others, as the historians of those timesF1Spartianus in Vita Severi, & Lampridius in Vita Alexandri. , and the writings of Tertullian show; when the Heathens ascribed the scarcity that was among them to the wickedness of the ChristiansF2Apolog. c. 40. & ad Scapulam, c. 3. , whereas it was a judgment upon them for their persecution of them:

and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand; by whom is meant not some noted heretic, or heretics, who had balances of deceit in their hands to prove their tenets by, such as spurious writings, &c. or who made pretensions to the Scriptures, the balance of the sanctuary, to weigh doctrines in; nor Christ, whose name heretics shrouded themselves under, and professed, and who overruled and made use of their heresies for the good of his people, that they might be made manifest. Mr. Mede thinks that Septimius Severus, the Roman emperor, who came from Africa, from the south, on which side was the living creature that spoke to John, is intended, and in which country black horses were in great esteem; and he was the only African that ever was emperor of Rome beforeF3Cassiodor. Chronicon. & Eutrop. Hist. Roman. l. 8. : and the same author thinks, that his having a pair of balances in his hand expresses the strict justice that emperor was famous for; but rather it signifies famine, and such a scarcity as that bread is delivered out by weight to men; see Leviticus 26:26.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-6.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

4 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

(4) The third sign with declaration is that God will destroy the world with famine, removing all food: which is by Synecdoche comprehended in wheat, barley, wine and oil.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-6.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Come and see — The two oldest manuscripts, A, C, and Vulgate omit “and see.” B retains the words.

black — implying sadness and want.

hadGreek, “having.”

a pair of balances — the symbol of scarcity of provisions, the bread being doled out by weight.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-6.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

A black horse (ιππος μελαςhippos melas). Lust of conquest brings bloodshed, but also famine and hunger. “The colour of mourning and famine. See Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 8:21; Malachi 3:14, where mournfully is, literally, in black” (Vincent).

Had (εχωνechōn) as in Revelation 6:2.

A balance (ζυγονzugon). Literally, a yoke (old word from ζευγνυμιzeugnumi to join), of slavery (Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1), of teaching (Matthew 11:29), of weight or measure like a pair of scales evenly balancing as here (Ezekiel 5:1; Ezekiel 45:10). The rider of this black horse, like the spectral figure of hunger, carries in his hand a pair of scales. This is also one of the fruits of war.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-6.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Come and see

Omit and see.

Black

The color of mourning and famine. See Jeremiah 4:28; Jeremiah 8:21; Malachi 3:14, where mournfully is, literally, in black.

Pair of balances ( ζυγὸν )

Rev., a balance. Properly, anything which joins two bodies; hence a yoke (Matthew 11:29; Acts 15:10). The cross-beam of the loom, to which the warp was fixed; the thwarts joining the opposite sides of a ship; the beam of the balance, and hence the balance itself. The judgment of this seal is scarcity, of which the balance is a symbol, representing the time when food is doled out by weight. See Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-6.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature — Toward the south.

Saying, Come. And behold a black horse — A fit emblem of mourning and distress; particularly of black famine, as the ancient poets term it.

And he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand — When there is great plenty, men scarce think it worth their while to weigh and measure everything, Genesis 41:49. But when there is scarcity, they are obliged to deliver them out by measure and weight, Ezekiel 4:16. Accordingly, these scales signify scarcity. They serve also for a token, that all the fruits of the earth, and consequently the whole heavens, with their courses and influences; that all the seasons of the year, with whatsoever they produce, in nature or states, are subject to Christ. Accordingly his hand is wonderful, not only in wars and victories, but likewise in the whole course of nature.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-6.html. 1765.

Scofield's Reference Notes

beast living creatures. (See Scofield "Ezekiel 1:5").

Come and see Come! Omit "and see." So Revelation 6:1; Revelation 6:3; Revelation 6:7.

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Revelation 6:5". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/revelation-6.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

Ver. 5. A black horse] Famine discolours and denigrates, Lamentations 4:7-8. It accompanies war for the most part, and in sieges is very extreme, as at Samaria, where an ass’s head was worth four pounds; at Rome, where this proclamation was made in the market, Pone pretium humanae carni; Place a reward on the flesh of a man, at Scodra, where horses were dainty meat, yea, they were glad to eat dogs, cats, rats, &c. At Antioch in Syria, where many Christians (in the holy war, as they called it) were glad to eat the dead bodies of their late slain enemies. (Turk. Hist.)

Had a pair of balances] Gr. ζυγον, the beam of scales. To show that bread should be delivered out by measure, as is threatened, Ezekiel 4:16; Deuteronomy 28:59-68, and men should be stinted and pittanced.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-6.html. 1865-1868.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

The third seal opened, sets forth the great calamity which should befall the church by famine, which some understand literally, others figuratively and mystically.

1. A literal famine in Judea, seems here to be prefigured by a person riding on a black horse, with a balance to weigh food in his hand: famine discolours, the face of men, and makes them look black, sad, and dismal; accordingly it is represented by a black horse; and the rider having a pair of scales in his hand to weigh corn by the pound, and not to measure it by the bushel, imports the great scarcity that there should be in bread; and St. John heard a voice saying, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.

The Roman penny was the ordinary wages for a day's work to a labourer, so that the quantity of bread was but sufficient to keep persons alive for one day. Famine is a very sore and terrible judgment, it consumes a people by piecemeal: other judgments cut off suddenly, but this is a lingering and languishing death.

Lord! help us in the midst of our fulness, when we eat the fat, and drink the sweet, to remember how righteously thou mayst cut us short of our abused mercies. How is it that we have not long ago sinned away our plenty, who have so often sinned with our plenty?

2. Others understand the famine, here represented by the black horse, to be meant of a spiritual famine, a scarcity of the word of God, which fell out in the time of the ten persecutions, when the storm fell upon the bishops and most useful ministers in the church, when many bright and burning lamps were extinguished, others hid under a bushel: a dismal, gloomy day, when the church of God did eat her spiritual bread by weight, when all the spiritual food men could get to keep their souls alive from day to day could be but sufficient for that end.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-6.html. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 6:5. ΄έλας) The Greek poets call the famine which this horseman would inflict on men, were he not withheld, αἴθοπα λιμὸν, λιμὸν αἰανῆ, that is, black, gloomy: and the Latins use the same epithets.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-6.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The third beast was he who had the face of a man, who also inviteth John to come and see what came forth upon his opening

the third seal. He seeth

a black horse, and a rider upon him, with

a pair of balances. There is a difference amongst interpreters what should be signified by this black horse; some by it understand famine, because a scarcity of victuals bringeth men to a black and swarthy colour; some understand by it justice, because the rider is said to have a pair of balances in his hand; others understand by it heresies, and great sufferings of the church by heretics and others.

He that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand; either to give men their bread by weight, (as is usual in times of great scarcity), or to measure out every one their due.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-6.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

конь вороной Вороной (черный) конь символизирует голод (ср. Плач 5:8-10). Мировая война уничтожит запасы продовольствия, что приведет к всемирному голоду.

имеющий меру Мера – обычный прибор для взвешивания: две небольшие чаши свисают по одной с двух концов уравновешивающего рычага. Это указывает на то, что нехватка продуктов приведет к распределению и очередям.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-6.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Black; a symbol of devastation, mourning, and woe.

Balances; indicating that food would be but scantily supplied.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-6.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

A black horse followed symbolizing the ravage of war, namely, famine. Antichrist, the cause of this famine, again seems to be the rider (cf. Matthew 24:7 b). He carries a pair of balance scales, a symbol of commerce, indicating his control of commodity prices.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-6.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

The third seal....a black horse. This is also commonly expounded of wars and persecutions, and particularly of famine, by the scales in the rider's hand, and by two pounds of wheat being sold for a penny: a great price, considering the value of money at that time. (Witham) --- The black horse represents the public miseries, famines, &c. which, particularly the latter, the Roman empire frequently experienced during the reign of the persecuting emperors. The balance, which the rider is said to hold in his hand, represents the strict manner in which people would measure out whatever they sold during the time of famine. (Andræas; Hamm; Bossuet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-6.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

beheld = saw, Revelation 6:1.

lo = behold, Revelation 6:2.

black. Signifying famine. See Lamentations 4:4-8, &c.

pair, &c. = balance.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-6.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

And see. So B [ ide (Greek #2396) for blepe]; but A C, Vulgate, omit.

Black - implying sadness and want.

Had - `having.'

A pair of balances - symbol of scarcity: bread being doled out by weight.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-6.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
he had
1; 4:6,7; 5:5,9
a black
Zechariah 6:2,6
had
Leviticus 26:26; Lamentations 5:10; Ezekiel 4:10,16
Reciprocal: Revelation 6:7 - GeneralRevelation 8:1 - And

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-6.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

The third seal was broken and the announcement was made for John to come and see. This time he saw a black horse which symbolized a condition of famine or shortage of food. The same subject was further indicated by the pair of balances that the rider held in his hand. It denoted that the necessities of life would be measured out to the people.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-6.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 6:5

Revelation 6:5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.

Here followeth another dispensation of God in the way of his divine providence; and therefore in the opening of this third seal Christ hath a third sort of his ministers; that Isaiah, the third living creature, who had his face like a man. { Revelation 4:7} The deacons who served tables. { Acts 6:2-3} They invited John to come and see.

And behold, and lo, a black horse, &c,

by this black horse, we may understand scarcity of food, some kind of famine. {As Zechariah 6:2; Job 3:1-26; Lamentations 4:8-9; 5:9-10} And with this interpretation agrees the emblem of the pair of balances in the hand of the rider. {as Ezekiel 4:16} And they shall eat bread by weight, &c. { Leviticus 26:25-26} And they shall deliver you your bread by weight. But yet they might buy both wheat and barley with money, as appears in the next verse.

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-6.html.

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Third Seal

Revelation 6:5. And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say: Come. And I saw, and behold a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a pair of balances in his hand. Revelation 6:6. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say: A measure of wheat for a denarius, and three measures of barley for a denarius; and do not hurt the oil and the wine. The blackness of the horse indicates, not as Bengel and others suppose, "black hunger as the Greek and Latin poets called it;" but it is employed simply as the colour of mourning. This appears from the analogy of the black horse in Zechariah 6. It appears also from the fact that it is not hunger which is discoursed of, but only scarcity. This judgment forms only the stepping-stone to the fourth, where hunger in the proper sense enters, in fulfilment of Matthew 24:7. The balances are mentioned here only as a symbol of scarcity. For, according to what follows, the corn is not weighed but measured." Where there is a superfluity, there people count and miss not (Genesis 41:49), but where they weigh anything, it is a sign there is not too much." Original passages are Ezekiel 4:10, "And thy food which thou shalt eat (thou must eat) by weight, twenty shekels a day," and Ezekiel 4:16, "And he said to me, Thou son of man, Behold I break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they eat bread by weight and in sorrow," which passages again rest on Leviticus 26:26. In regard to the voice heard, the only question is, what it proclaimed, not whence or by whom. It is hence unprofitable to seek to determine this. The sound came from "the midst of the four beasts," the midst of the representatives of the living beings on the earth, because the report concerns these. Those who take up wrong views of the Cherubim, who, for example, understand by them the evangelists, or the leading men in the church, or the four offices, know not what to make of" the midst of the four beasts." A measure, choenix, of wheat is stated by Suidas to be the daily support of a man ( ἡ μερή σιος τροθή). Herodotus makes a reckoning in B. VII. c. 187, how much corn was needed for the Persian army, if every one received a choenix of wheat per day and no more, showing that this was the necessary daily allowance. A denarius was the usual day's wages, according to Matthew 20:2. The price of the corn is therefore certainly a high one, but still it cannot be a case of absolute famine. If barley bread were to be eaten, the common food of the poorer sort of people (John 6:9, John 6:13), which is three times cheaper than wheaten bread, a family could still be brought through with difficulty. On the words: "and the oil and the wine hurt not," Bengel remarks, "Barley and wheat are earlier than oil and wine. Here the discourse is of a time which is better for oil and wine than for barley and wheat. This, along with the other, points to a moderate scarcity: take heed, since the deficiency in the one kind can be made good by fulness in the other. Wheat and barley, oil and wine, are the most common and necessary means of life. The use of oil is considerably more common both in oriental and southern countries than with us." Ewald thinks that the wine and oil are here not hurt by a sort of irony. "The greater the want there is of corn, the most necessary of all the means of support, the more painfully we feel a superfluity in a kind of provision, not profitable to us, such as oil." But in this it is overlooked, that in oil and wine countries these productions have a quite different value from what they have with us in the north of Germany. Corn, oil, and wine, are put together as the three chief products of Palestine, and the three essential necessaries of life, in Deuteronomy 28:38-40, Micah 6:15, Ezra 3:7, and even the failure of the two latter we reckon there a calamity to the country. It is father overlooked, that even the wheat and barley are not represented as perfect failures, but only as high priced." Where the means of support are wanting, there certainly it cannot avail, that there is still enough of oil and wine. But here the price is still pretty moderate. Should it come to pass, that oil for the preparation of food and wine retain their usual price, the scarcity is undoubtedly sufficient to press upon the poorer class, but still is not insupportable. But then the fundamental passage of Exodus 9:31-32, is left out of view; on which Züllig remarks, "We have there the seventh Egyptian plague, the hail, smiting the flax and barley, but sparing the wheat and rye; and that because, as is expressly mentioned, the barley was already in the ear and the flax was boiled, while the wheat and the rye being later of growth escaped injury." If the sparing of the wheat and rye is there a mitigation of the divine judgment, so also here must be the sparing of the wine and oil. From the relation too of this seal to the following one, we can only think of a mitigation being intended. The subject here is not of a single divine judgment of the kind indicated, so that we should need to search in history for a particular period of scarcity, during which the representation here given was realized; but the prophecy has respect to an entire species of divine judgments, and the fulfilment is one that runs through all history. We have here just a prelude of the fulfilment of Matthew 24:7, "There shall be famines in divers places." Bad crops and scarcity are one of the scourges in the hand of God, with which he chastises unbelief and enmity to Christ and his church through the whole course of centuries, and punishes and breaks the arrogance of an apostate and rebellious world, so as to prepare the way for Christ's dominion. Bengel: "The balances of this rider serve as a sign, that all the fruits of the ground, and consequently all heaven with its progressive influences, all the seasons of the year and the course of events, with their manifold changes and vicissitudes, are subject to Christ. They do well, who diligently mark the course and issues of things, as connected. among other things, with the divine judgments, which are accomplished through failures of crops, scarcity, pestilence, earthquakes, waterfloods, fire, hail, thunder and lightning; and those chronicles and narratives, which are devoted to the collection of such materials, are to be highly prized. For they celebrate the work of the Most High, whose hand leaves wonderful traces behind it, not only in the operations of war and peace among earthly states, but also in the course of nature."

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/heg/revelation-6.html.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Third seal—of SCARCITY, Revelation 6:5-6.

5.Black horse—Emblem of want of light, midnight, adversity.

Pair of balances—Or scales. Emblem, not of absolute famine, but of “hard times;” of scarcity of provisions, when every thing is strictly weighed or measured.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-6.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 6:5. The spectral figure of Hunger holds a balance or pair of scales ( . literally = the beam, see reff.) for measuring bread by weight, to personify (Revelation 6:6) bad times, when provisions became cruelly expensive. One of wheat, the usual rations of a working man for a day, is to cost twelve times its normal price, while the labourer’s daily pay will not command more than an eighth of the ordinary twenty-four measures of the coarser barley. Grain is not to disappear entirely from the earth, otherwise there would be no famine. But food-stuffs are to be extremely scanty and therefore dear (cf.Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16). These hard times are aggravated ( adversative) by the immunity of oil and wine, which are, comparatively speaking, luxuries. One exasperating feature of the age would be the sight of wine and oil flowing, while grain trickled slowly into the grasp of the famishing. The best explanation of this realistic exception is to regard it as a water-mark of the Domitianic date (for details see the present writer’s study in Expos. Oct. 1908, 359–369). In 92 A.D. Domitian had made a futile attempt to injure the cultivation of the vine in the provinces, which led to widespread agitation throughout Ionia. His edict had soon to be withdrawn, but not till it had roused fear and anger. Hence the words hurt not the wine have the force of a local allusion to what was fresh in his readers’ minds. The point of the saying lies in the recent events which had stirred Smyrna and the surrounding townships, and which provided the seer with a bit of colour for his palette as he painted the final terrors. It is as if he grimly said: “Have no fears for your vines! There will be no Domitian to hurt them. Comfort yourselves with that. Only, it will be small comfort to have your liquid luxuries spared and your grain reduced almost to starvation point.” Or, the prophet’s meaning might be that the exemption of the vine would only pander to drunkenness and its attendant ills. The addition of is probably an artistic embodiment, introduced in order to fill out the sketch. The cultivation of the olive accompanied that of the vine, and the olive meant smooth times. It is no era of peace; far from that, the prophet implies. But the olive, “the darling of Peace” (as Vergil calls it), flourishes unchecked, so mocking and awry are the latter days. For = “injure” (a country), see reff., Revelation 7:2, and Dittenberger’s Sylloge Inscr. Graec. 557. This Domitianic reference of Revelation 6:6 was first worked out by S. Reinach (Revue Archéolog. 1901, 350 f.) and has been accepted by Harnack, Heinrici, Bousset, J. Weiss, Abbott, Holtzmann, Baljon, and others. There is no allusion to Jos. Bell. Revelation 6:13; Revelation 6:6, or to the sparing of gardens during the siege of Jerusalem (S. Krauss, in Preuschen’s Zeitschrift, 1909, 81–89).

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 6:5". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-6.html. 1897-1910.