Revelation 6:5
And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and see a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand.
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(5, 6) When He had opened.—Better, When he opened. The words “and see” are to be omitted here, as in the other seals. And I saw, and behold a horse, black, and he that sat on him having a balance in his hand. And I heard as it were a voice in the midst of the four living beings, saying, A choenix of wheat for a denarius (penny), and three choenixes of barley for a denarius (penny), and the oil and the wine do thou not hurt. “Balance:” There is scarcely a doubt that a balance, or pair of scales, is intended (the Greek word also means a yoke); but the whole imagery of the seal harmonises with the balance, and the passage from Ezekiel (Ezekiel 45:10), cited by Alford, in which there is a “righteous balance” (the LXX. using the same Greek word as here) seems conclusive. It is the emblem of scarcity: food is not weighed out thus in times of abundance. (Comp. Ezekiel 4:16, “Behold I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem, and they shall eat bread by weight and with care.”) The choenix (“measure” in English version) was the amount of food sufficient to support a man for a day. “A choenix is the daily maintenance” (Suidas, quoted by Alford). The denarius (“penny” of English version, here and in Matthew 18:28, and Mark 12:37) amounted to between sixpence and sevenpence of our money, and was the usual daily pay of the labourer, and of the soldier. (See especially Note on Matthew 20:2.) It is difficult to speak of this as other than terribly high prices for food. The whole of a man’s pay goes for food, and even the coarser bread is so expensive that it takes a whole day’s wages to supply food for three adults. It has been thought that the voice calls to the rider to check his devastations, lest the growing famine should exterminate the whole human race. This may be, but the check is at a point which has already wrought the highest misery. The extent of the misery may be imagined by imagining what wretchedness would be entailed were a man obliged to pay three or four shillings for bread sufficient to keep him nourished for a day. Or we may measure it by the estimate of the disciples (Mark 6:37) that two hundred pennyworth of bread would give a short meal to upwards of five thousand people. At the price in this seal, the cost of bread would have so risen that the two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice to feed one thousand. But what is meant by the words, “the oil and wine do not thou hurt”? They were not, like the bread, necessary to life, but among its luxuries and superfluities. There is a kind of irony in times of straitness, when the necessaries are scarcely to be had, and the luxuries remain comparatively low in price. The splendours and comforts of life are held cheap, when hunger is showing that the life is more than the dainty meat, and the body than raiment. The seal then tells the seer that in the ages the Church of Christ must expect to see famines and distress in the world, and luxuries abounding in the midst of straitness. Is it not true that the contrast, which is so ugly, between pampered opulence and indolent, pauperism, is the result of the prevalence of world-principles? Wealth, self-indulgent and heartless, and poverty, reckless and self-willed, are sure tokens that the golden rule of Christ is not understood and obeyed. There is a similar experience in the history of the Church. The red horse of controversy is followed by the black horse of spiritual starvation. In the heat of polemical pride and passion for theological conquest is developed that love of barren dogmatics which forgets the milk of the word and the bread of life, which are the needed food of souls.

Revelation 6:5-6. And when he had opened the third seal I heard the third living creature — Which was like a man, and had his station in the south; say — As the two former had done; Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse — A fit emblem of mourning and distress; particularly a black famine, as the ancient poets termed it. And he that sat on him had a pair of balances, or scales, in his hand — Implying that men should eat their bread by weight, and drink their water by measure, or that there should be a great scarcity. For when there is great plenty men do not think it worth their while to weigh and measure what they eat and drink; but when there is a famine or scarcity they are obliged to do it. And I heard a voice — It seems from God himself; in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, A measure of wheat for a penny, &c. — As if he had said to the horseman, Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther. Let there be a measure of wheat for a penny — This may seem, to an English reader, a description of great plenty, but it certainly intends the contrary. The word χοινιξ, chœnix, a Grecian measure, was only about equal to our quart, and was no more than was allowed to a slave for his daily food. And the Roman penny, the denarius, about 7½d. English, was the usual daily wages of a labourer: so that, if a man’s daily labour could earn no more than his daily bread, without other provision for himself and family, corn must needs bear a very high price. This must have been fulfilled when the Grecian measure and the Roman money were still in use, as also when that measure was the common measure, and this money the current coin. It was so in Egypt under Trajan. And three measures of barley for a penny — Either barley was, in common, far cheaper among the ancients than wheat, or the prophecy mentions this as something peculiar. And see thou hurt not the oil and the wine — Let there not be a scarcity of every thing. Let there be some provision left to supply the want of the rest. Lowman interprets this third seal of the scarcity in the time of the Antonines, from A.D. 138 to A.D. 193, and produces passages from Tertullian and the Roman historians, concerning the calamity the empire endured by scarcity in this period. But Bishop Newton supposes this third period commences with Septimius Severus, who was an emperor from the south, being a native of Africa; and was an enacter of just and equal laws, and very severe and implacable to offences; he would not suffer even petty larcenies to go unpunished; as neither would Alexander Severus in the same period, who was a most severe judge against thieves; and was so fond of the Christian maxim, Whatsoever you would not have done to you, do not you to another, that he commanded it to be engraven on the palace, and on the public buildings. These two emperors were also no less celebrated for the procuring of corn and oil, and other provisions; and for supplying the Romans with them, after they had experienced the want of them: thus repairing the neglects of former times, and correcting the abuses of former princes. The colour of the black horse befits the severity of their nature and their name, and the balances are the well-known emblem of justice, as well as an intimation of scarcity. And the proclamation for justice and judgment, and for the procuration of corn, oil, and wine, is fitly made by a creature like a man. This period continued during the reigns of the Septimian family, about forty-two years.6:1-8 Christ, the Lamb, opens the first seal: observe what appeared. A rider on a white horse. By the going forth of this white horse, a time of peace, or the early progress of the Christian religion, seems to be intended; its going forth in purity, at the time when its heavenly Founder sent his apostles to teach all nations, adding, Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world. The Divine religion goes out crowned, having the Divine favour resting upon it, armed spiritually against its foes, and destined to be victorious in the end. On opening the second seal, a red horse appeared; this signifies desolating judgments. The sword of war and persecution is a dreadful judgment; it takes away peace from the earth, one of the greatest blessings; and men who should love one another, and help one another, are set upon killing one another. Such scenes also followed the pure age of early Christianity, when, neglectful of charity and the bond of peace, the Christian leaders, divided among themselves, appealed to the sword, and entangled themselves in guilt. On opening the third seal, a black horse appeared; a colour denoting mourning and woe, darkness and ignorance. He that sat on it had a yoke in his hand. Attempts were made to put a yoke of superstitious observances on the disciples. As the stream of Christianity flowed further from its pure fountain, it became more and more corrupt. During the progress of this black horse, the necessaries of life should be at excessive prices, and the more costly things should not be hurt. According to prophetic language, these articles signified that food of religious knowledge, by which the souls of men are sustained unto everlasting life; such we are invited to buy, Isa 55:1. But when the dark clouds of ignorance and superstition, denoted by the black horse, spread over the Christian world, the knowledge and practice of true religion became scarce. When a people loathe their spiritual food, God may justly deprive them of their daily bread. The famine of bread is a terrible judgment; but the famine of the word is more so. Upon opening the fourth seal, another horse appeared, of a pale colour. The rider was Death, the king of terrors. The attendants, or followers of this king of terrors, hell, a state of eternal misery to all who die in their sins; and in times of general destruction, multitudes go down unprepared into the pit. The period of the fourth seal is one of great slaughter and devastation, destroying whatever may tend to make life happy, making ravages on the spiritual lives of men. Thus the mystery of iniquity was completed, and its power extended both over the lives and consciences of men. The exact times of these four seals cannot be ascertained, for the changes were gradual. God gave them power, that is, those instruments of his anger, or those judgments: all public calamities are at his command; they only go forth when God sends them, and no further than he permits.And when he had opened the third seal - Unfolding another portion of the volume. See the notes on Revelation 5:1.

I heard the third beast say, Come and see - See the notes on Revelation 4:7. It is not apparent why the third beast is represented as taking a particular interest in the opening of this seal (compare the notes on Revelation 6:3), nor is it necessary to show why it was so. The general design seems to have been, to represent each one of the four living creatures as interested in the opening of the seals, but the order in which they did this does not seem to be a matter of importance.

And I beheld, and lo, a black horse - The specifications of the symbol here are the following:

(a) As before, the horse. See the notes on Revelation 6:2.

(b) The color of the horse: "lo, a black horse." This would properly denote distress and calamity - for black has been regarded always as such a symbol. So Virgil speaks of fear as black: "atrumque timorem" (Aen. ix. 619). So again, Georg. iv. 468:

"Caligantem nigra formidine lucum."

So, as applied to the dying Acca, Aeneas xi. 825:

"Tenebris nigrescunt omnia circum."

Black, in the Scriptures, is the image of fear, of famine, of death. Lamentations 5:10; "our skin was black like an oven, because of the terrible famine." Jeremiah 14:2; "because of the drought Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are in deep mourning (literally, black) for the land." Joel 2:6; "all faces shall gather blackness." Nahum 2:10; "the knees smite together, and there is great pain in all loins, and the faces of them all gather blackness." Compare Revelation 6:12; Ezekiel 32:7. See also Bochart, Hieroz. P. i. lib. ii. c. vii. pp. 106, 107. From the color of the horse here introduced we should naturally look for some dire calamity, though the nature of the calamity would not be designated by the mere use of the word "black." What the calamity was to be must be determined by what follows in the symbol. Famine, pestiilence, oppression, heavy taxation, tyranny, invasion - any of these might be denoted by the color of the horse.

(c) The balances: "and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand." The original word rendered here as "a pair of balances," is ζυγὸν zugon. This word properly means a yoke, serving to couple anything together, as a yoke for cattle. Hence it is used to denote the beam of a balance, or of a pair of scales - and is evidently so used here. The idea is, that something was to be weighed, in order to ascertain either its quantity or its value. Scales or balances are the emblems of justice or equity (compare Job 31:6; Psalm 62:9; Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 16:11); and when joined with symbols that denote the sale of grain and fruit by weight, become the symbol of scarcity. Thus, "bread by weight" Leviticus 26:26 denotes scarcity. So in Ezekiel 4:16, "And they shall eat bread by weight." The use of balances here as a symbol would signify that something was to be accurately and carefully weighed out.

The connection leads us to suppose that this would pertain to the necessaries of life, and that it would occur either in consequence of scarcity, or because there would be an accurate or severe exaction, as in collecting a revenue on these articles. The balance was commonly the symbol of equity and justice; but it was also, sometimes, the symbol of exaction and oppression, as in Hosea 12:7; "The balance of deceit is in his hands; he loveth to oppress." If the balances stood alone, and there were no proclamation as to what was to occur, we should look, under this seal, to a time of the exact administration of justice, as scales or balances are now used as emblems of the rigid application of the laws and of the principles of justice in courts, or in public affairs. If this representation stood alone, or if the black horse and the scales constituted the whole of the symbol, we should look for some severe administration, or perhaps some heavy calamity under a rigorous administration of laws. The reference, however, to the "wheat and barley," and to the price for which they were to be weighed out, serves still further to limit and define the meaning of the symbol as having reference to the necessaries of life - to the productions of the land - to the actual capital of the country. Whether this refers to scarcity, or to taxation, or both, must be determined by the other parts of the symbol.

(d) The proclamation: And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say. That is, from the throne, Revelation 4:6. The voice was not that of one of the four beasts, but it seemed to come from among them. As the rider went forth, this was the proclamation that was made in regard to him; or this is what is symbolized in his going forth, to wit, that there would be such a state of things that a measure of wheat would be sold for a penny, etc. The proclamation consists essentially of two things - what refers to the price or value of wheat and barley, and what requires that care shall be taken not to injure the oil and the wine. Each of these demands explanation.

A measure of wheat for a penny - See the margin. The word rendered "measure" - χοῖνιξ choinix - denotes an Attic measure for grain and things dry, equal to the 48th part of the Attic medimnus, or the 8th part of the Roman modius, and consequently was nearly equivalent to one quart English (Robinson's Lexicon). The word rendered "penny," δηναρίον dēnarion - Latin, denarius - was of the same value as the Greek δραχμή drachmē, and was equivalent to about fourteen cents or seven-pence (circa mid-19th century). This was the usual price of a day's labor, Matthew 20:2, Matthew 20:9. The choenix, or measure of grain here referred to, was the ordinary daily allowance for one man (Odyssey xix. 27, 28). See Stuart, in loco. The common price of the Attic medimnus of wheat was five or six denarii; but here, as that contained 48 choenixes or quarts, the price would be augmented to 48 denarii - or it would be about eight times as dear as ordinary; that is, there would be a scarcity or famine. The price of a bushel of wheat at this rate would be about four dollars and a half or 18 shillings - a price which would indicate great scarcity, and which would give rise to much distress.

And three measures of barley for a penny - It would seem from this that barley usually bore about one-third the price of wheat. It was a less valuable grain, and perhaps was produced in greater abundance. This is not far from the proportion which the price of this grain usually bears to that of wheat, and here, as in the case of the wheat, the thing which would be indicated would be scarcity. This proclamation of "a measure of wheat for a penny" was heard either as addressed to the horseman, as a rule of action for him, or as addressed by the horseman as he went forth. If the former is the meaning, it would be an appropriate address to one who was going forth to collect tribute - with reference to the exact manner in which this tribute was to be collected, implying some sort of severity of exaction; or to one who should distribute wheat and barley out of the public granaries at an advanced price, indicating scarcity. Thus, it would mean that a severe and heavy tax - represented by the scales and the scarcity - or a tax so severe as to make grain dear, was referred to. If the latter is the meaning, then the idea is that there would be a scarcity, and that grain would be dealt out by the government at a high and oppressive price. The latter idea would be as consonant with the symbol of the scales and the price mentioned as the other, if it were not for the additional injunction not to "hurt the oil and the wine" - which cannot be well applied to the idea of dealing out grain at a high price. It can, however, be connected, by a fair interpretation of that passage, with such a severity of taxation that there would be a propriety in such a command - for, as we shall see, under the explanation of that phrase, such a law was actually promulgated as resulting from severity of taxation. The idea, then, in the passage before us, would seem to be:


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

black—implying sadness and want.

had—Greek, "having."

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

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. 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 times (a), and the writings of Tertullian show; when the Heathens ascribed the scarcity that was among them to the wickedness of the Christians (b), 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 before (c): 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.

(a) Spartianus in Vita Severi, & Lampridius in Vita Alexandri. (b) Apolog. c. 40. & ad Scapulam, c. 3.((c) Cassiodor. Chronicon. & Eutrop. Hist. Roman. l. 8.

{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.

Revelation 6:5-6. The meaning of the third seal-vision is to be determined according to the same norm as that of the second. The black color of the horse designates not the grief of those who have been afflicted by the plagues indicated by the entire image of the horseman,[2048] especially not the grief of the Church over heresy, as it is symbolized by the horse and horseman; but the black color must correspond to the destructive character of the image of the horseman itself.[2049] Yet it is not perceptible how, by this color, the particular nature of the plague announced, viz., famine, is expressed:[2050] it is sufficient to regard the black color[2051] as an indication that the figure appearing therein is one of a plague, a servant of divine judgment.

First, the special emblem ascribed to the horseman (ἕχ. ζυγὸν, κ.τ.λ.), in addition to the unambiguous exclamation χοῖνιξ σίτου, κ.τ.λ., makes us recognize in the third figure of a horseman the personification of famine.

ζυγόν. As to the expression, ζυγός means properly the beam which unites the two scales, cf. Proverbs 16:11; as to the subject itself, since by the weighing of the grain which otherwise is measured, famine is represented, cf. Leviticus 26:26, Ezekiel 4:16.

ὡς before φωνὴν[2052] corresponds with the circumstance that, to John, the person from whom the voice proceeds[2053] remains unknown.[2054] “Audivi ut vocem,” a Latin would say; i.e., “I heard (something) like a voice.” That the cry sounds forth “in the midst of the four beings,” is, in itself, natural, since the unsealing of the book of fate occurs at the throne of God, which is in the midst of the four beings;[2055] but as it is not without significance that the four beings, as representatives of the living creatures on earth, cry out to John, ἕρχου, so is it likewise significant that in the midst of those beings the cry sounds forth, which accompanies the figure of a plague pertaining to living creatures[2056] The first half of the call sounds just as when any thing is offered for sale.[2057] The gen. δηναρίου is that of the price.[2058] The second sentence contains a command which prescribes to the horseman, not only as the personification of the famine, but as the bearer of the visitation, the limit of the plague ordained by the Lord. Oil and wine are to grow as ordinarily: μὴ ἀδικήσῃς, i.e., “Do them no harm, injure them not;”[2059] although wheat and barley, and therefore the unconditionally necessary means of subsistence, are to be so dear that a day-laborer for his daily labor receives a denarius,[2060] nothing more than daily food for himself,—a choinix of wheat, which is a man’s[2061] daily nourishment. If, therefore, the famine indicated do not reach the utmost extreme of hunger,[2062] yet the grievousness of the plague is obvious to every one who has learned to know the life of the people, viz., of the lower classes, in the neighborhood. That oil and wine remain exempted, is, of course, a mitigation of the famine; but on the other hand, by the plentiful presence of these two means of nourishment, even though in Oriental life they are luxuries far less than among us, the πειρασμός lying in the famine which had entered is essentially strengthened, and the critical force also of these plagues in an ethical respect, which belong to the signs preceding Christ’s coming,[2063] intensified.

[2048] De Wette, Hengstenb., etc.

[2049] Cf. Revelation 6:2; Revelation 6:4; Revelation 6:8.

[2050] Beng.

[2051] Cf. Revelation 6:12.

[2052] See Critical Notes.

[2053] Cf. Revelation 1:12.

[2054] Cf. Revelation 9:13, Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8, Revelation 14:13, Revelation 18:4.

[2055] Revelation 4:6, Revelation 5:6.

[2056] Cf. also Hengstenb.

[2057] Winer, p. 456.

[2058] Winer, p. 194.

[2059] Cf. Revelation 7:2-3, Revelation 9:4; Revelation 9:10; Revelation 9:19, Revelation 2:11.

[2060] Matthew 20:2.

[2061] Cf. Wetst.

[2062] Cf. Joel 1:10 sqq.

[2063] Matthew 24:7. Hengstenb. incorrectly judges, that the famine, Revelation 6:5-6, does not belong to the λιμοί, Matthew 24:7, but is “the prelude of that fulfilment.”

The reference of Revelation 6:5-6, to the famine under Claudius,[2064] or to any other particular dearth,[2065] is decidedly contrary to the sense of the text; since here, as also in Revelation 6:3-4, and Revelation 6:7 sqq., no special fact is meant, especially not one predicted only after its occurrence, but rather, in accord with the fundamental prophecy (Matthew 24:7), a certain kind of plagues is described,[2066] which precede the coming of the Lord. Purely arbitrary is the allegorizing interpretation, e.g., in Beda,[2067] Vitr.,[2068] C. a Lap.,[2069] Stern,[2070] etc. N. de Lyra understands by the black horse, the Roman army; by the horseman, Titus; by the wheat and barley, Jews; by oil and wine, Christians. The acme of arbitrary interpretation is attained by those who, as even Böhmer, understand the wheat and barley properly, and the wine and oil figuratively as a designation of Christians. Any such distinction would have been indicated by the omission of the art. with σίτου and κριθῶν, whereas, on the other hand, it is found with ἕλαιον and οἶνον. But although the art. in the latter case designates simply the class as a whole, this is lacking in the former case just as naturally; since there not the kind of fruit as such, but a quantity, is mentioned, which therefore allows no other designation than that of the mass, which in simple composition is given as χοῖνιξ σίτου.

[2064] Grot., Wetst., Harenb., Herd., Böhm.

[2065] Cf. Calov., Bengel, Huschke.

[2066] Cf. De Wette, Hengstenb., Ebrard.

[2067] “The black horse is the band of false brethren, who have the balance of a right profession, but injure their associates by works of darkness.”

[2068] “Dearness of spiritual provision, viz., in the time from Constantine until the ninth century.”

[2069] ἵππος = a heretic, as Arius; ὁ καθήμ. = the Devil, or heresiarch; ζυγός and χοῖνιξ = Holy Scripture; δηναρ. = the merit of sound faith and of daily holy life; σιτ. = the gospel; κριθ. = the harsh old law; ἔλ. and οἶν. = the medicine of our Samaritan Christ.

[2070] Personified erroneous doctrine.


XLVIII. Revelation 6:2. ἰππος λευκός

Luthardt: “That is, the Word of God, which was the first in the history of N. T. times to pass victoriously through the world, and whose words flew far like arrows, and penetrated the heart (Psalm 45:6Revelation 6:5-6. The third seal opened = famine.The Third Seal, Revelation 6:5-65. a pair of balances] The primary meaning of the word is a yoke: but no doubt the A. V. is right, as what follows proves that scarcity rather than oppression is to be symbolised. The sense is, that mankind shall be placed on limited rations of bread, like the people of a besieged city; as in Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16.Revelation 6:5. Μέλας) 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.Verse 5. - And when he had opened the third seal; when he opened, as in the case of the other seals (see on ver. 3). I heard the third beast say; the third living being saying. (On the living beings, see Revelation 4:6.) Wordsworth takes the third living being to be that with the human face, and considers it to be typical of the whole vision of the third seal, by symbolizing the source of the next trial of the Church; namely, the rise of heresy, which he thinks is depicted by this appearance. But probably the four living beings represent all creation, and thus invite St. John to witness the troubles in store for mankind in general. (For a full consideration of this point, see on Revelation 4:6.) Come and see. The majority of authorities emit "and see" (see the corresponding passage in vers. 1 and 3, where also is discussed the question as to whom the sentence is addressed). And I beheld, and lo a black horse. The black is typical of woe and mourning - the result of the scarcity foretold in the following words. This vision is typical of famine; it is the second of the three trials foretold - war, famine, death (cf. Ezekiel 14, where the "four sore plagues" are wild beasts, the sword, famine, and pestilence). St. John seems to foretell the recurrence of three of these troubles to try mankind in general, and Christians in particular. Those who interpret the vision to mean scarcity of faith, or in other words the prevalence of heresy, do so on the supposition that the events denoted at the opening of the seals follow each other in historical order. They therefore assign these events to the period subsequent to A.D. , when persecution had ceased, and the rise of heresies took place. Others, accepting the historical view, yet consider the vision to foretell famine; and Grotius and Wetstein point to the famine in the reign of Claudius as the fulfilment. But it is not probable that the meaning of the book is so limited in extent; but rather that its prophecies point to events which have happened, and are recurring, and will continue to recur until the end of the world. We therefore understand that this vision denotes famine in the ordinary sense, as one of the trials awaiting the members of the Church of God at various times during the existence of the Church on earth. This affliction may happen concurrently with, or antecedent to, or subsequent to, any of those trials denoted by the other visions, and even the victorious career of the Church as foretold under the first seal; for by suffering the Church conquers and is made perfect. And he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. Ζυγός is rightly rendered "a balance," as in Ezekiel 45:10; not (as it primarily meant) a "yoke." The idea intended to be conveyed is that of scarcity so great that food is weighed carefully as something very rare and precious, though there is not yet a complete absence of food. Come and see

Omit and see.


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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