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 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’” (NKJV).

In Revelation 6:1-8 we have the infamous “Four horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They represent “four judgments” that will be executed upon the earth during the terrible “Tribulation Period” that will last seven years. These “seal judgments” are only the beginning of a series of twenty one judgments (chapters 6-18), with each succeeding judgment being more severe. After the final judgment the Lord Jesus Christ will be revealed from heaven to establish His Millennium kingdom (Revelation 19:11-20:6).

In the passage we are considering there will be a WORLD-WIDE FAMINE. John saw a “black horse” for the color black is a well-known symbol for famine, as we see in Lamentations 5:10: “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine” (KJV). Famine is usually the result of war and thus it is important to note that the preceding judgment was pictured by a “red horse” that speaks of WORLD-WIDE WAR. Verse 4 states, “And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.”

During the famine, the government will need to ration the food and this is pictured by the rider of the horse having “a pair of scales in his hand.” Food will be so expensive that “a quart of wheat” will cost a “denarius.” Back in Biblical times a denarius was a full day’s wages for the common laborer and a quart of wheat was equal to enough food for one person. Normally one could buy up to 12 quarts of wheat with a denarius. So, in this devastating famine a man will only be able to afford food for himself, though if he has a family he could resort to eating barley and thus provide food for three people. There will no doubt be families with more than three people which means some will go hungry and some will actually starve to death. This is borne out in the next judgment, for verse 8 declares, “So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it is Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with HUNGER, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (NKJV).

We then see that this particular judgment will only affect the poor, for “the oil and the wine,” which are luxuries that only the rich can afford, will not be “harmed.” In other words, they will still be in great abundance and the rich will still have money to buy them. (252.9) (DO)