New American Standard Bible
I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
King James Bible
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.
Darby Bible Translation
And I saw: and behold, a pale horse, and he that sat upon it, his name was Death, and hades followed with him; and authority was given to him over the fourth of the earth to slay with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
World English Bible
And behold, a pale horse, and he who sat on it, his name was Death. Hades followed with him. Authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with famine, with death, and by the wild animals of the earth was given to him.
Young's Literal Translation
and I saw, and lo, a pale horse, and he who is sitting upon him -- his name is Death, and Hades doth follow with him, and there was given to them authority to kill, (over the fourth part of the land,) with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and by the beasts of the land.
Revelation 6:8 Parallel
CommentaryBarnes' Notes on the Bible
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:
LibraryGod's Dealings with the Earth During the Tribulation Period.
The interval of time which separates the removal of the Church from the earth to the return of Christ to it, is variously designated in the Word of God. It is spoken of as "the day of vengeance" (Is. 61:2). It is called "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:7). It is the "hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world" (Rev. 3:10). It is denominated "the great day of the Lord" (Zeph. 1:14). It is termed "the great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21). It is the time of God's "controversy with the …
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Her feet go down to death, Her steps take hold of Sheol.
"When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence."
"And it shall be that when they say to you, 'Where should we go?' then you are to tell them, 'Thus says the LORD: "Those destined for death, to death; And those destined for the sword, to the sword; And those destined for famine, to famine; And those destined for captivity, to captivity."'
'I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers.'"
thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness.
'One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.
'Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the LORD, have spoken.'"
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