Revelation chapter 6 verses 5 and 6 “When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
Let’s not get put off by the language used here or the 21st century opinion on these parts of Scripture that sadly often joke about them, but let’s take the word of God seriously.
Clearly, this third seal pictures famine stalking the land (see Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11). Biblically, the colour black—unlike our modern conception of it as the colour of evil, as opposed to white—signifies mourning and ill health as a result of scarcity (see Jeremiah 14:2; Lamentations 5:1; Nahum 2:10; all of which, in Hebrew, describe people’s expressions, skins, or faces as “black” due to want). This is in keeping with another use of black or darkness in Scripture: as a sign of God’s judgment for sin (Zephaniah 1:15; Joel 2:2).
The pair of scales, of course, suggests similar things, adding an economic element, as grains or other foods would often be weighed for sale. Scales could also be used, as is likely intended in the third seal, to ration food during a time of scarcity. In the vision, a denarius represents a laborer’s daily wage, and a quart of grain equals a person’s daily nutritional requirement. The third horseman, then, portrays a scenario of hunger and suffering, when the powers that be tightly control the meting out of staple foods at highly inflated prices.
Finally, there is the curious phrase, “do not harm the oil and the wine.” Commentators have been debating the meaning of this command for centuries. It is clearly spoken by God, sitting among the four living creatures, and just as He sets the famine prices of grain, He also decrees that oil and wine be spared any harm. How are we to understand this?
Olive oil and wine are not luxury items, as many take them to be; in the Mediterranean world, they are important supporting elements of the common diet (see Deuteronomy 7:13; Hosea 2:8; Haggai 1:11;). However, while they provide supplementary nutrition, people cannot subsist on them alone. Thus, they are secondary food items, and in the prophecy, they remain plentiful. This leads to two possible conclusions:
- God is limiting the severity of famines, as “the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6) and “these are the beginning of sorrows” (verse 8); or more likely,
- He is indicating a measure of disparity and irregularity in these famines. Some foods will be scarce, while others are abundant. Some people will be sorely affected, while others will hardly suffer. Some areas will be hit hard, while others feel little impact.
This second conclusion suggests human involvement, a wild card in every circumstance, which would fit well with the first two seals. Unlike simple natural disasters, religious deceptions and wars require the decisions and actions of people to bring them about. God hints at a human element in all these disasters, including famine, that occur down through the centuries to remind us of our culpability in them. When man governs without the guidance of God, catastrophe and destruction are not far behind.
This rule flows from government of countries ruling to the leadership team of the business you work for. It also flows to the individual, without God for guidance in a persons life, destruction will be the end.
So as the governments of our world struggle on to find what they believe are solutions, and while our companies battle forwards to find profit and longevity let’s pray for them, not forgetting to first ask God to come into our lives for guidance and for Him to help us to pray!
Have a great week