Exegetical look into Revelation 6: 5-8


  • Black horse represents famine, and the scales and amounts expressed refer to restrictions by God’s grace even in judgment, as He is limiting the devastation and suffering (Zech 6:2-6).
  • Pair of scales referred to a small wooden beam with scales hung from either end and balanced in the middle. The measurement was by the counter weights of pre-measured stones.
  • Wheat is the staple of a basic diet for a person’s sustenance. One quart means just enough for one person when you had a large family to feed. This is not necessarily referring to inflation or market economy as indicators to Christ’s coming. Rather, it is a symbol for being prepared for famine. The pricing is not monetary prediction (although inflation does go along with famine and shortages and thus will apply as so); rather, it is referring to the severity, as it will be harsh.
  • Denarius/day’s wages refers to inflation, indicating that the cost of products and services may rise ten times, and all will be affected. We may not be able to partake in the abundances and excesses as we once did because of tribulations and judgments. Nothing is immune from judgment.
  • Three quarts of barley. This amount of barley was a ration and not enough for a family; barley was cheaper and less desirable than wheat. This meant family members might die of starvation, as often happened in sieges and war.
  • Oil, symbolizing riches and affluence and not crucial for ones sustenance, will not be as affected for a time, or it is God’s grace that some good things are left for us to enjoy by His blessing. Oil was very important but not essential; it was used for lighting, cooking, skin care, washing, anointing, and religious observances. In other words, judgments will affect daily life and comfort; no one is immune! It is interesting to note that olive tress and grape vines are more drought resistant because they have deeper roots, whereas wheat will wither and die quickly. We are more resistant in tough times when we have deeper ties and trust in our Lord!
  • A pale horse, a Jewish image for the Angel of Death or the “ashen” appearance of the dead. As pale is the color of death and decay, like a dead leaf or person (Jer. 14:12; 24:10; 27:8; Ezek. 6:11; 7:15; 12:16; 14:21; Rev. 1:18; 20:13-14).
  • Its rider was named DeathHades was following, referring that he symbolizes death; from the Greek Hades and the corresponding Hebrew, Sheol (Matt. 16:18).
  • Given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth…This may seem harsh but consider that the horseman only have the power that God, through His wise judgment and grace, allows. His grace and protection are here. Some see “fourth of the earth as a coming global catastrophe, but some scholars say the Greek meaning is sometimes mistranslated (although debated) as it is here in the NIV. It rather means the four corners, or the four parts of the earth, and not necessarily one fourth, but authority over all, all areas of the globe. This also does not mean that one fourth will die, but they have the power to kill one fourth. If this means a fraction, the context denotes that they have full power to as much as Christ will allow, and He has limits to suffering.

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