Third Seal

The third seal releases the rider on the black horse, producing economic hardship – Revelation 6:5-6

When the “Lamb” opens the third “seal,” once again, one of the “four living creatures” summons its rider, this time on a “black horse.” Apparently, it represents economic distress and food shortages. As before, his task is declared by one of the four “living creatures,” along with limitations on how much damage he may afflict.

The rider is carrying a “pair of balances in his hand.” Possibly, this points to the careful rationing of foodstuffs during times of shortages and famine.

But measuring grain by weight was the normal way of transacting business in the marketplace. In and of itself, nothing in the verse suggests economic collapse or starvation due to warfare, natural catastrophes, or other causes.
  • (Revelation 6:5-6) – “And when he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature, saying, Go! And I saw, and behold, a black horse, and he that was sitting thereon holding a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard as a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, a quart of wheat for a denary, and three quarts of barley for a denary, and the oil and the wine do not harm.

A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius.” A denarius is a small silver coin equal to a day’s pay for a laborer in the late first century.  A “quart of wheat” is enough to meet the daily needs of one person for bread. “Barley” is a less expensive grain used for bread by the poor.

The quantities of grain do not point to famine, but to the amount of food necessary to meet the daily needs of an average person.


I heard as a voice in the midst of the four living creatures.” Previously, the “four living creatures” were observed, “in the midst and around the throne.” This “voice” may be the collective voice of the four “living beings.” More likely, it is the voice of the “Lamb” or the “Lord God” who is “sitting on the Throne.” Once again, the “four living creatures” are associated closely with the first four seal openings.

The oil and the wine do not harm.” If economic distress or starvation is the point, the voice limits its effect. Olive oil is necessary to bake bread, and otherwise, is essential to daily life.

Likewise, the “wine.”  In chapter 18, “oil and wine” are paired as two of the commodities cut off from the “merchants of the earth” by the downfall of “Babylon.” In that case, the supply of such things is shut down completely. In contrast, the “rider on the black horse” is commanded explicitly NOT to harm the “oil and wine” - (Revelation 18:13).

The “black horse” may represent economic distress and deprivation. If so, inflated prices for basic commodities will impact all citizens, including Christians.  Previously, several of the congregations in Asia had experienced economic hardship. The image here may allude to attempts by local magistrates to coerce Christians to conform to their demands through economic pressure - (Revelation 2:9).

The voice from the “midst of the four living creatures” limits the impact of any economic distress and ensures that sufficient supplies of foodstuffs will be available to support the daily needs of the average resident of Asia, though what is allotted by the voice does not suggest an overabundance of food.

What the “voice” indicates is a concern for the physical well-being of certain groups. Whether they consist of Christians or pagans is not clear. Regardless, the point is to ensure that daily needs are met in times of adversity. The “saints” might suffer hardship and persecution, but they will not die of starvation.



Silence in Heaven

Sorrow Not