Let’s read Revelation 6:5-6, “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 hands. 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’” (NKJV).

This passage speaks of the future “Tribulation Period” when God will be pouring out His judgments upon a godless and Christ-rejecting world. In the first four judgments (verses 1-7) we have the well-known “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Each “colored horse” represents a certain judgment. The WHITE HORSE in verse 2 speaks of a BLOODLESS CONQUEST. In verse 3 we have a RED HORSE that is able to “take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another, so this speaks of a WAR AND BLOODSHED. As we have seen, the BLACK HORSE is next, and as we shall see, it clearly speaks of a time of FAMINE. And in verse 8 we have a PALE HORSE that represents DEATH by means of war, famine, pestilence and wild beasts. Now let’s take a closer look at verses 5-6.

The man on the black horse had a “pair of scales in his hands.” It is obvious that the scales were used to measure grain for we read next of a “QUART OF WHEAT for a denarius, and THREE QUARTS OF BARLEY for a denarius.” Back in Bible times, the Roman “denarius” was a silver coin which was equal to a “day’s wage” for a common laborer. A “quart of wheat” was equal to one meal for one person and “three quarts of barley” was enough for three meals. This means that in a coming day this famine (food shortage) will be so bad that one will only be able to buy enough to sustain one person with the least expensive of foods. If one has a wife and children they could hardly survive, unless they resort to a strict rationing of food. We can hardly imagine the starvation that will take place at that time. In Lamentations 4:8-9 we have a graphic description of people starving during a famine. It reads, “Now their appearance is BLACKER THAN SOOT; they go unrecognized in the streets; their SKIN CLINGS TO THEIR BONES, it has become as DRY AS WOOD. Those slain by the sword are better off than those who die of hunger; for these PINE AWAY, stricken for lack of the fruits of the field.” How horrible! Yet this will be the experience of millions of people in the coming Tribulation Period. This “time of trouble” (see Jeremiah 30:7 and Daniel 12:1) will last 7 years and it will get so bad that the Lord said this, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

At the end of verse 6 we read, “and do not harm the OIL and the WINE.” What does this speak of? Most commentators agree that “oil and wine” were LUXURIES that only the rich could afford and enjoy. It appears there will be no shortage of these items yet the “common person,” who only makes a “denarius a day” (enough money to buy food for one person), will never experience these “luxuries of life.” It seems then this particular judgment will only affect the poor. But rest assured the rich (who are ungodly and rejectors of Christ) will also be judged in the other judgments mentioned throughout the “seal, trumpet and bowl judgments” of Revelation chapters 6-16, and the judgments seen in chapters 17-19.  (DO)  (513.1)