Revelation 6:5


King James Version (KJV)

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.

American King James Version (AKJV)

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.

American Standard Version (ASV)

And when he opened the first seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand.

Basic English Translation (BBE)

And when the third stamp was undone, the voice of the third beast came to my ears, saying, Come and see. And I saw a black horse; and he who was seated on it had scales in his hand.

Webster's Revision

And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living being 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.

World English Bible

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, "Come and see!" And behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a balance in his hand.

English Revised Version (ERV)

And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, Come. And I saw, and behold, a black horse; and he that sat thereon had a balance in his hand.

Clarke's Revelation 6:5 Bible Commentary

The third beast - That which had the face of a man.

A black horse - The emblem of famine. Some think that which took place under Claudius. See Matthew 24:7; the same which was predicted by Agabus, Acts 11:28.

A pair of balances - To show that the scarcity would be such, that every person must be put under an allowance.

Barnes's Revelation 6:5 Bible Commentary

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:


Wesley's Revelation 6:5 Bible Commentary

6:5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature - Toward the south. Saying, Come. And behold a black horse - A fit emblem of mourning and distress; particularly of black famine, as the ancient poets term it.And he that sat on him had a pair of scales in his hand - When there is great plenty, men scarce think it worth their while to weigh and measure everything, Genesis 41:49 . But when there is scarcity, they are obliged to deliver them out by measure and weight, Ezekiel 4:16 . Accordingly, these scales signify scarcity. They serve also for a token, that all the fruits of the earth, and consequently the whole heavens, with their courses and influences; that all the seasons of the year, with whatsoever they produce, in nature or states, are subject to Christ. Accordingly his hand is wonderful, not only in wars and victories, but likewise in the whole course of nature.

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