Previously: Revelation 6, the red horseman
Verses 5 and 6 describe the third seal:
Then when the Lamb opened the third seal I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” So I looked, and here came a black horse! The one who rode it had a balance scale in his hand. Then I heard something like a voice from among the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
The symbols of the black horse and horseman are as follows: the color black in Scriptures indicates darkness and depression (see here and here). The balance scale is the symbol of commerce or the economy. The Greek word translated “quart” was a dry measure (almost equivalent to a quart); one of wheat and three of barley was a daily ration for one man. The Greek word translated “a day’s pay” is “denarius,” which was a day’s wage for the average person. That one day’s ration of wheat, and one day’s ration of barley would cost one day’s wage indicates severe famine and shortages.
It seems that the famine or shortage or economic collapse would be of a society where wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine were staples in the average person’s diet, as well as olive oil and wine; the wheat and barley would suffer severe shortages but not the olive oil or the wine. That is a lot of specific detail. Since the symbol of horse and horseman is used again, let us look at the Roman Empire, at the result of the civil war which the red horseman symbolized.
The rulers following the five good emperors of the white horse of righteousness usually lived extravagant and decadent lives of every dissipation, with a few exceptions. Commodus, the first emperor of the red horseman, emptied the state treasury on bread and circuses for the citizens, in an attempt to purchase their favor. Subsequent emperors were unable to refill it, and new taxes were devised, which were ever increased. Farmers who could no longer afford to farm left their lands and crowded into Rome where bread was given to the people as welfare, to secure their favor for whatever emperor happened to be on the throne at the time. The weakness of the state spread to the military, and the weakness of the military encouraged barbarian invasions and revolts in the further provinces of the Empire, resulting in the shrinking of the Empire and even less wealth coming into Rome. The unceasing civil wars ruined business, as we saw, and inflation grew apace. Thus on the heels of the red horse and horseman, civil war and violent murder, we find inflation, high taxation, poverty, economic collapse, and famine.
To be continued …
Update: continued in Revelation 6, the pale horseman