Revelation 6:8
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
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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 I looked, and behold a pale horse - - ἵππος χλωρὸς hippos chlōros. On the horse, as an emblem, see the notes on Revelation 6:2. The uniqueness of this emblem consists in the color of the horse, the rider, and the power that was given unto him. In these there is entire harmony, and there can be comparatively little difficulty in the explanation and application. The color of the horse was "pale" - χλωρὸς chlōros This word properly means "pale-green, yellowish-green," like the color of the first shoots of grass and herbage; then green, verdant, like young herbage, Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 9:4; and then pale yellowish (Robinson, Lexicon). The color here would be an appropriate one to denote the reign of death - as one of the most striking effects of death is paleness - and, of course, of death produced by any cause, famine, pestilence, or the sword. From this portion of the symbol, if it stood with nothing to limit and define it, we should naturally look for some condition of things in which death would prevail in a remarkable manner, or in which multitudes of human beings would be swept away. And yet, perhaps, from the very nature of this part of the symbol, we should look for the prevalence of death in some such peaceful manner as by famine or disease. The red color would more naturally denote the ravages of death in war; the black, the ravages of death by sudden calamity; the pale would more obviously suggest famine or wasting disease.

And his name that sat on him was Death - No description is given of his aspect; nor does he appear with any emblem - as sword, or spear, or bow. There is evident scope for the fancy to picture to itself the form of the destroyer; and there is just that kind of obscurity about it which contributes to sublimity. Accordingly, there has been ample room for the exercise of the imagination in the attempts to paint "Death on the pale horse," and the opening of this seal has furnished occasion for some of the greatest triumphs of the pencil The simple idea in this portion of the symbol is, that death would reign or prevail under the opening of this seal - whether by sword, by famine, or by pestilence, is to be determined by other descriptions in the symbol.

And Hell followed with him - Attended him as he went forth. On the meaning of the word rendered here as "hell" - ᾍδης Hadēs, Hades - see the Luke 16:23 note, compare the Job 10:21-22 notes; Isaiah 14:9 note. It is used here to denote the abode of the dead, considered as a place where they dwell, and not in the more restricted sense in which the word is now commonly used as a place of punishment. The idea is, that the dead would be so numerous at the going forth of this horseman, that it would seem as if the pale nations of the dead had come again upon the earth. A vast retinue of the dead would accompany him; that is, it would be a time when death would prevail on the earth, or when multitudes would die.

And power was given unto them - Margin, to him. The common Greek text is αὐτοὶς autois - "to them." There are many mss., however, which read αὐτῷ autō - "to him." So Prof. Stuart reads it. The authority, however, is in favor of them as the reading; and according to this, death and his train are regarded as grouped together, and the power is considered as given to them collectively. The sense is not materially varied.

Over the fourth part of the earth - That is, of the Roman world. It is not absolutely necessary to understand this as extending over precisely a fourth part of the world. Compare Revelation 8:7-10, Revelation 8:12; Revelation 9:15, et al. Undoubtedly we are to look in the fulfillment of this to some far-spread calamity; to some severe visitations which would sweep off great multitudes of people. The nature of that visitation is designated in the following specifications.

To kill with sword - In war and discord - and we are, therefore, to look to a period of wax.

And with hunger - With famine - one of the accompaniments of war - where armies ravage a nation, trampling down the crops of grain; consuming the provisions laid up; employing in war, or cutting off, the people who would be occupied in cultivating the ground; making it necessary that they should take the field at a time when the grain should be sown or the harvest collected; and shutting up the people in besieged cities to perish by hunger. Famine has been not an infrequent accompaniment of war; and we are to look for the fulfillment of this in its extensive prevalence.

And with death - Each of the other forms - "with the sword and with hunger" - imply that death would reign; for it is said that "power was given to kill with sword and with hunger." This word, then, must refer to death in some other form - to death that seemed to reign without any such visible cause as the "sword" and "hunger." This would well denote the pestilence - not an infrequent accompaniment of war. For nothing is better suited to produce this than the unburied bodies of the slain; the filth of a camp; the want of food; and the crowding together of multitudes in a besieged city; and, accordingly, the pestilence, especially in Oriental countries, has been often closely connected with war. That the pestilence is referred to here is rendered more certain by the fact that the Hebrew word דבר deber, "pestilence," which occurs about fifty times in the Old Testament, is rendered θάνατος thanatos, "death," more than thirty times in the Septuagint.

And with the beasts of the earth - With wild beasts. This, too, would be one of the consequences of war, famine, and pestilence. Lands would be depopulated, and wild beasts would be multiplied. Nothing more is necessary to make them formidable than a prevalence of these things; and nothing, in the early stages of society, or in countries ravaged by war, famine, and the pestilence, is more formidable. Homer, at the very beginning of his Iliad, presents us with a representation similar to this. Compare Ezekiel 14:21; "I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence," דבר deber - Septuagint, as here, θάνατον thanaton. See also 2 Kings 17:26.

In regard to the fulfillment of this there can be little difficulty, if the principles adopted in the interpretation of the first three seals are correct. We may turn to Gibbon, and, as in the other cases, we shall find that he has been an unconscious witness of the fidelity of the representation in this seal. Two general remarks may be made before there is an attempt to illustrate the particular things in the symbol:

(a) The first relates to the place in the order of time, or in history, which this seal occupies. If the three former seals have been located with any degree of accuracy, we should expect that this would follow, not very remotely, the severe laws pertaining to taxation, which, according to Mr. Gibbon, contributed so essentially to the downfall of the empire. And if it be admitted to be probable that the fifth seal refers to a time of persecution, it would be most natural to fix this period between those times and the times of Diocletian, when the persecution ceased. I may be permitted to say, that I was led to fix on this period without having any definite view beforehand of what occurred in it, and was surprised to find in Mr. Gibbon what seems to be so accurate a correspondence with the symbol.

(b) The second remark is, that the general characteristics of this period, as stated by Mr. Gibbon, agree remarkably with what we should expect of the period from the symbol. Thus, speaking of this whole period (248-268 a.d.), embracing the reigns of Decius, Gallus, Aemilianus, Valerian, and Gallienus, he says, "From the great secular games celebrated by Philip to the death of the emperor Gallienus, there elapsed twenty years of shame and misfortune. During this calamitous period every instant of time was marked, every province of the Roman world was afflicted by barbarous invaders and military tyrants, and the ruined empire seemed to approach the last and fatal moment of its dissolution," i.135.

In regard to the particular things referred to in the symbol, the following specifications may furnish a sufficient confirmation and illustration:


8. pale—"livid" [Alford].


Hell—Hades personified.

unto them—Death and Hades. So A, C read. But B and Vulgate read, "to him."

fourth part of the earth—answering to the first four seals; his portion as one of the four, being a fourth part.

death—pestilence; compare Eze 14:21 with the four judgments here, the sword, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts; the famine the consequence of the sword; pestilence, that of famine; and beasts multiplying by the consequent depopulation.

with the beasts—Greek, "by"; more direct agency. These four seals are marked off from the three last, by the four living creatures introducing them with "Come." The calamities indicated are not restricted to one time, but extend through the whole period of Church history to the coming of Christ, before which last great and terrible day of the Lord they shall reach highest aggravation. The first seal is the summary, Christ going forth conquering till all enemies are subdued under Him, with a view to which the judgments subsequently specified accompany the preaching of the Gospel for a witness to all nations.

A pale horse; a horse of the colour of his rider,

Death, which makes men look pale, and bringeth them into the state of the dead, (here translated hell), whether heaven or hell, as they have lived.

And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth; over a great part of the earth.

To kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth; to kill men all manner of ways, with the sword, famine, pestilence, and by throwing them to wild beasts. Interpreters judge that here was prophesied what should happen to the Roman empire, and the church within it, from the time when Maximinus was made emperor, which was about the year 237, to the time of Aurelianus, which was about 271. Some extend it to Dioclesian’s time, which ended about 294; but Mr. Mede rather reserveth that for the fifth seal. If the former time only be taken in, there was within it the seventh, eighth, and ninth persecutions; Dioclesian began the tenth and greatest of all. Within this time this prophecy was eminently fulfilled: Maximinus destroyed all the towns in Germany, for three or four hundred miles. There was a plague lasted fifteen years together in the time of Gallus, who had the empire Anno 255. Three hundred and twenty thousand Goths were slain by Flavius Claudius. Maximinus and Gallienus were both great butchers, both to their own subjects that were heathens, and to Christians. Gallienus is said to have killed three or four thousand every day. Such wars and devastations could not but be followed with famine; besides that we are confirmed in it, both by the testimony of Eusebius and Cyprian, the latter of whom lived within this period.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse,.... An emblem either of the state of the church, pale not with persecution, as some think, for through that it was red; but with the hypocrisy and superstition of many of its members, who were paving the way for the man of sin, and on account of whom the church was grown sickly and dying; or rather this is an emblem of the sickly and dying state of the Pagan Roman empire, through a complication of judgments upon it, hereafter mentioned, as war, famine, pestilence, and wild beasts:

and his name that sat on him was Death; not Satan, who has the power of death, but death itself; who is represented as a person, as he elsewhere is, sometimes as a king, Romans 5:14; and as an enemy, 1 Corinthians 15:25; see Isaiah 28:15; and this was a very ancient way of speaking of death among the Heathens; in the theology of the Phoenicians, according to Sanchoniathon (k), who wrote before the Trojan wars, a son of Saturn by Rhea was called Muth, whom the Phoenicians sometimes called Death, and sometimes Pluto; which is manifestly the same with the Hebrew word "death"; the name of the rider of this horse may well be called Death, both with respect to the various kinds of death under this seal, and with respect to the short lives of the emperors; for in less than fifty years' time, which is the period of this seal, namely, from Maximinus, A. D. 235, or 237, to Dioclesian, A. D. 284, or 286, there were more than twenty emperors, and who most of them were cut off by violent deaths; besides the thirty tyrants who sprung up under one of them, as so many mushrooms, and were soon destroyed. This is the only rider that has a name given him; and from hence we may learn what to call the rest, as the rider of the white horse "Truth", or Christ, who is truth itself; the rider of the red horse "War"; and the rider of the black horse "Famine": and because both the last, with other judgments, meet together under this seal, the rider of this horse is emphatically called "Death":

and hell followed with him: that is, the grave, which attended on death, or followed after him, and was a sort of an undertaker, to bury the dead killed by death; so these two are put together, Revelation 1:18;

and power was given unto them; to death and hell, or the grave, or rather to death only, for the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, read, "to him": and the power that was given him reached

over the fourth part of the earth; not of the church, which is never called the earth in this book, but is distinguished from it, Revelation 12:16; nor the land of Judea, but the Roman empire; some understand it of Europe, the fourth part of the world:

to kill with the sword; Maximinus, with whom this seal begins, was of a very barbarous disposition, and a more cruel creature, it is said, was not upon earth; and besides his persecution of the Christians, he acted a most inhuman part to the Pagan Romans themselves, so that the senate dreaded him; and the women and children at Rome, having heard of his barbarities, deprecated his ever seeing that city; and he was called by the names of the worst of tyrants; more than four thousand men he killed without any charge or judicial process against them, and yet his blood thirsty mind was not satisfied (l): Gallienus, another emperor after him, emptied many cities entirely of men, and killed three or four thousand a day of his own soldiers, whom he understood had thoughts of a new emperor (m); under him thirty tyrants sprung up together in the empire, who made great havoc before they were cut off; and in his time the Alemanni (a people in Germany) having wasted France, broke into Italy; Dacia, which beyond the Danube was added by Trajan (to the Roman empire) was lost; Greece, Macedonia, Pontus, and Asia, were destroyed by the Goths; Pannonia was depopulated by (the people called) Sarmatae and Quadi; the Germans penetrated into Spain, and took the famous city of Tarracon; the Parthians having seized Mesopotamia, began to claim Syria to themselves; so that, as the Roman historian observes (n), things were now desperate, and the Roman empire was almost destroyed: not to take notice of the multitudes that were killed in after wars and persecutions, under other emperors, during this seal:

and with hunger; or famine; there was a grievous famine in the times of Gallus and Volusianus, which Dionysius bishop of Alexandria makes mention of (o); and Cyprian, who lived under this seal, also speaks of famine, and indeed of all these three, war, famine, and pestilence, as then imputed to the Christians, and to their irreligion, which charge he removes (p):

and with death; that is, with the pestilence, which, by the Targumist (q), and other Jewish writers (r), is commonly called "death", because it sweeps away and carries off such large numbers with it: now in the reign of the last mentioned emperors was a very noisome pestilence, which raged most cruelly; the Roman historian says (s), that their reign is only known, or was famous, for the pestilence, diseases, and sicknesses; Hostilianus, who was created emperor by the senate, died of it (t); Dionysius of Alexandria has given a most shocking account of it, who lived at the same time (u); it began in Ethiopia, and went through the east, and through all parts of the Roman empire, and lasted fifteen years; to which perhaps, for its large extent and long duration, there never was the like:

and with the beasts of the earth; by which many of the Christians were destroyed in the persecutions of those times; and is also one of God's four judgments, and which goes about with the sword, famine, and pestilence, Ezekiel 14:21, and may be literally understood of destruction by wild beasts, as Arnobius, who lived at this time, observes (w); or allegorically, of men comparable to wild beasts, as Herod is called a fox, and Nero a lion; and such savage creatures were most of the Roman emperors, and particularly the thirty tyrants under Gallienus: so the Targum on Jeremiah 3:12; interprets "the beasts of the field", , "the kings of the nations". The Alexandrian copy reads, "and upon the fourth part of the beasts", as if the power of death reached to them as well as to men. Under this seal all the judgments of God on Rome Pagan meet together; and it is observable that Maximinus, a Roman emperor, and one of the last of the Pagans, boasted, that for worshipping of the gods, and persecuting Of the Christians, neither pestilence, famine, nor war, were in his times, when on a sudden all these three came together at once (x); to which may be added the following observation, that though the several steps and methods which God took to punish, weaken, and destroy the Roman Pagan empire, were remarkably seen in the distinct periods to which these first four seals belong, yet they must not be entirely restrained and limited to these periods, as if they were not made use of in others; so though the Gospel proceeded with remarkable success under the first seal, in the times of the apostles, to the subduing of multitudes in the Roman empire, it was also preached with great success under the following seals; and though there were most grievous wars under the second seal, in the times of Trajan and Adrian, so there were also in after times; that was not the only period of war, though it was remarkably so; likewise there was a famine in the times of Claudius, under the first seal, Acts 11:28; and in the time of Trajan, under the second seal (y), and of Commodus (z) as well as under the third; and there were pestilences also in those times, as well as under the fourth seal; and because God did by each of these weaken, break, and at last bring to ruin that empire, they are showed to John one after another.

(k) Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 2. p. 38. (l) Capitolinus in Vita ejus. (m) Pollio in Vita Gallieni. (n) Eutropius, l. 9. (o) Apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 7. c. 22. (p) Ad Demetrianum, p. 278. (q) Targum in 1 Chronicles 21.12, 14, 17. & in 2 Chron. 28. & xx. 9. (r) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 8. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 29. 1.((s) Eutrop. l. 9. (t) Victor. Aurel. de Caesaribus, & Epitome. (u) Apud Euseb. l. 7. c. 21, 22. (w) Adv. Gentes, l. 1. p. 13. (x) Euseb. l. 9. c. 8. (y) Aurel. Victor. Epitome. (z) Herodian, l. 1. c. 37.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:8. χλωρός, pale or livid as a corpse.—ἐπάνω αὐτοῦ, for the ordinary ἐπʼ αὐτόν, a grammatical variation which has no special significance. In this Dureresque vignette the spectre of Hades, bracketed here as elsewhere with Death, accompanies the latter to secure his booty of victims. So Nergal, the Babylonian Pluto, is not content with ruling the regions of the dead but appears as an active personification of violent destruction, especially pestilence and war, inflicting his wounds on large masses rather than on individuals (Jastrow, 66, 67). A similar duality of conception, local and personal, obtained in Semitic and Hellenic mythology (cf e.g., Revelation 9:11); only, Death is not here personified as an angel (with Jewish theology, cf. Eisenmenger’s Eindecktes Jud. i. 854 f., 862 f.). As the chief partner in this grim league, he is given destructive power over a certain quarter of the earth (τὸ τέτ. colloquially); his agents are the usual apocalyptic scourges (cf. Ezekiel 14:21, Ps. Sol. 13:2 f., with Plut. Iside, 47 for the Iranian expectation of λοιμὸς καὶ λιμός as inflictions of Ahriman) against which the Jewish evening prayer was directed (“keep far from us the enemy, the pestilence, the sword, famine and affliction”). War, followed by famine which bred pestilence, was familiar in Palestine (Jos. Antiq. xv. 9) during the first century A.D. Indeed throughout the ancient world war and pestilence were closely associated, while wild beasts multiplied and preyed on human life, as the land was left untilled. In Test. Naphth. 8, etc., Beliar is the captain of wild beasts. Note that the prophet sees only the commissions, not the actual deeds, of these four dragoons: not until Revelation 6:12 f. does anything happen. The first four seals are simply arranged on the rabbinic principle (Sohar Gen. fol. 91), “quodcunque in terra est, id etiam in coelo est, et nulla res tarn exigua est in mundo quae non ab alia simili quae in coelo est dependeat”. The four plagues (a Babylonian idea) are adapted from Ezekiel 14:12 f. Contemporary disasters which may have lent vividness to the sketch are collected by Renan (pp. 323 f.).

8. a pale horse] Or livid, lit. green, as in Revelation 8:7, but used constantly of the paleness of the human face when terror-struck, or dead or dying. It is not certain whether it here expresses a possible colour for a real horse: it seems not very appropriate for the “grisled” of Zechariah 6:3. Perhaps it might apply to the colour of the bare skin of a mangy horse.

and his name &c.] Lit. and he that sat upon him, his name was Death.

that sat on him] Alford remarks on the fact that the phrase for “upon him” is different from that used of the previous riders, and may be rendered “on the top of him,” perhaps taking it to suggest that the spectre (or skeleton, or demon?) did not ride astride and manage his horse, but simply sat clumsily on his back.

and Hell] Hades, personified as a demon, as in Revelation 20:13-14. He follows Death, to devour those slain by him.

the fourth part of the earth] No good explanation of this proportion has been given: the best is, that the four riders divide the earth between them, and that the three afflict or decimate their subjects, while the last exterminates his.

with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth] God’s “four sore judgements,” Ezekiel 14:21. For “pestilence” there the LXX have “death,” which fixes the sense of the word in this clause: but the personified Death, the rider, is not to be so limited; he is the sovereign over all four modes of death. The preposition “with the beasts of the earth” is different from those before: it might be rendered “by” instead of “with.”

The first four Seals are distinguished from the rest (a) by Personification; (b) by the part which the four living creatures bear in the representation.

Revelation 6:8. Χλωρὸς) χλωρὸς, ch. Revelation 8:7, is green; but here it is pale, ὠχρός, which sense is confirmed by Eustathius: as also the Septuagint renders the Hebrew ירק by each of these Greek words.—ἐξουσία ἐπὶ τὸ τέταρτον) There is a similar construction, ἐπὶ with an accusative, ch. Revelation 16:9.—ἐν θανάτῳ) by pestilence. דבר pestilence; Septuagint, θάνατος, Exodus 9:3; 2 Samuel 24:13, and repeatedly. [An accumulation of different calamities.—V. g.]

Verse 8. - And I looked; I saw. The usual expression drawing attention to a new sight or fresh phase of the vision (see on Revelation 4:1; ver. 2, etc.). And behold a pale horse. Pale (χλωρός, "greenish-white, livid"); the colour of one stricken with disease or death, or moved with emotions of terror. The same word is used of the green grass in Revelation 8:7 and in Mark 6:39, and of the vegetation in Revelation 9:4; but, applied to man, it is generally connected with terror, disease, or death. The Greek poets use it as an epithet of fear, and Thucydides thus describes the colour of persons affected by the plague. And his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. The preposition differs from that used in the preceding verses: it is here ἐπάνω,"above," not ἐπί, "upon." And he who was sitting above him, his name [was] Death. Here we have it plainly stated that the vision is a personification of Death - death in general, death in any and every way, as indicated in the latter part of the verse. This supports the view taken of the first three visions of the seals (see on ver. 2). Hades follows with Death, not as a separate infliction, but as the necessary complement of Death in the completion of the vision, swallowing up and guarding, as it were, those seized by the latter. Death is personified in a similar way in Psalm 49:14, "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them;" and Hades in Isaiah 14:9, "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming." The two are also conjoined in Revelation 1:18, "The keys of hell and of death;" and in Revelation 20:13, 14, "Death and hell delivered up the dead." Hades cannot signify the place of torment, as Hengstenberg thinks, since these trials are to be inflicted on Christians, not on the wicked merely. Nor is it consonant with the context to suppose (as Ebrard) that Hades signifies "the dwellers in Hades." And power was given unto them. The reading "them" is supported by A, C, [P], א, n 17, 49 (1.40 e sil) Andreas; while B and the Vulgate read αὺτῷ, "him." The context shows that both are intended. Over the fourth part of the earth. There is a general consensus of opinion that this expression betokens a part of mankind. Why the fourth part is selected is difficult to say. Alford suggests that a reference is intended to the four first seals, each one of which embraces in its action a portion of mankind. But the first seal can hardly be interpreted in this way. Probably the intention is to denote that a part of mankind must be afflicted in this particular way, though no definite proportion is signified. In other words, the second, third, and fourth seals depict troubles which Christians and all mankind will have to undergo; some being afflicted more especially in one way, others in another. The troubles mentioned are not an exhaustive catalogue, but are typical of all sorrows; the selection being probably prompted by the Old Testament passages quoted below, viz. Leviticus 26:23-26; 2 Samuel 24:13; and Ezekiel 14:21. "The fourth part" is an expression found only in this passage. Zullig agrees with Alford in the explanation given above; Hengstenberg, and somewhat similarly Volkmar, think it denotes the partial character of this judgment. Elliott, with very little reason, follows the Vulgate reading, "over the four parts of the earth;" Isaac Williams also thinks the judgment is universal, since that is the idea that the number four signifies, which, however, is a different thing from a fourth part. To kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. The passage is another example of the influence of the prophecy of Ezekiel upon the composition of the Apocalypse. In Ezekiel 14:21 the "four sore judgments" are "the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence? This indicates the signification of θανάτῳ in this place; viz. death by pestilence, not, as in the preceding passage, death in any form (comp. Leviticus 26:23-26, where the judgments threatened are the sword, pestilence, and famine. Cf. also the alternative punishments of David (2 Samuel 24:13); also 2 Esdras 15:5 4 Esdr. 15:5, "the sword, and hunger, and death, and destruction"). The wild beasts of the earth (θηρίων) is very probably a reference to the death of many Christians in the pagan amphitheatres; though the meaning is not necessarily restricted to this form of death. Those to whom the Apocalypse was first addressed would irresistibly be reminded of our Lord's words in Matthew 24:7, 13, "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places... But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." It is as though St. John echoed the words of our Lord, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me" (Luke 24:44); and would say, "I am commissioned to relate these visions of the present and future trials of all in the world, which, however, have been already foretold you by our blessed Lord himself." While, therefore, this passage may be understood literally, since doubtless the Church has suffered all these afflictions at different times, in different members of her body, yet we must understand these four typical judgments to be representative of trouble in all its forms; the fourfold character pointing to its universal nature (see on Revelation 5:9). This has led many writers to see in these inflictions trials of a spiritual nature - a view which may well be included in the proper application, but must not be pressed to the exclusion of any other more literal interpretation. We may thus sum up the results of our investigation of these eight verses. They relate the circumstances attending the opening of the first four seals, and doubtless typify various phases of the trials which are permitted by God to afflict Christians on earth in common with all mankind. Each of the four visions is preceded by the invitation of one of the four living beings, which are representative of creation; and a second feature common to these four visions is the appearance of a rider as the personification of the idea set forth.

(1) The visions open with a personification of Christianity, and an assurance of the ultimate victory which it will gain over the powers of the world.

(2) Then appears a vision of war, as one of the typical troubles of mankind, which will ultimately be overcome by the triumph of Christianity.

(3) Next follows famine with all its attendant evils, though it is not permitted to extend to the extremity of the extirpation of mankind.

(4) Fourthly comes death in every form - a trial of which every one feels the weight at some time. These four do not picture consecutive events; they may be successive or concurrent; the first is certainly being fulfilled side by side with the others. We may, therefore, be able to point to a particular period or event as a fulfilment of any one of these, but we cannot assign definite times to each as the complete and ultimate fulfilment, since the trials which are signified must extend to the end of time. And, in conclusion, while the first application was doubtless intended for the support of the Christians of St. John's age in their temporal difficulties, we must consider the visions equally intended to console Christians of every age, and even to portray the spiritual conflict, destitution, and apostasy which must and will continually arise while the Church remains in part in the world. Revelation 6:8Pale (χλωρὸς)

Only in Revelation, except Mark 6:39. Properly, greenish-yellow, like young grass or unripe wheat. Homer applies it to honey, and Sophocles to the sand. Generally, pale, pallid. Used of a mist, of sea-water, of a pale or bilious complexion. Thucydides uses it of the appearance of persons stricken with the plague (ii., 49). In Homer it is used of the paleness of the face from fear, and so as directly descriptive of fear ("Iliad," x., 376; xv., 4). Of olive wood ("Odyssey," ix., 320, 379) of which the bark is gray. Gladstone says that in Homer it indicates rather the absence than the presence of definite color. In the New Testament, always rendered green, except here. See Mark 6:39; Revelation 8:7; Revelation 9:14.


Properly, Hades. The realm of the dead personified. See on Matthew 16:18.

Power (ἐξουσία)

See on Mark 2:10; see on 2 Peter 2:11. Rev., better, authority.

With the sword (ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ)

Another word for sword. Compare Revelation 6:4, and see on Luke 2:35.

With death (ἐι θανάτῳ)

Or pestilence. The Hebrew deber, pestilence, is rendered by the Greek word for death in the Septuagint. See Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 21:7. Compare the term black-death applied to an Oriental plague which raged in the fourteenth century.

With the beasts (ὑπὸ τῶν θηρίων)

Rev., by. The preposition ὑπό by is used here instead of ἐν in or with, indicating more definitely the actual agent of destruction; while ἐν denotes the element in which the destruction takes place, and gives a general indication of the manner in which it was wrought. With these four judgments compare Ezekiel 14:21.

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