Revelation 6:5

5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, "Come!" I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand,

Revelation 6:5 Meaning and Commentary

Revelation 6:5

And when he had opened the third seal
Of the sealed book:

I heard the third beast say, come and see;
this living creature was that which was like a man, who was on the south side of the throne, as the standard of Reuben, which had the figure of a man, was on the south side of the camp of Israel; this was not the Apostle Paul, as Grotius thinks, to whom was made a prophecy of a famine in the days of Claudius Caesar; nor Tertullian, who made an apology for the Christians in the times of this seal, as Brightman conjectures; but the ministers of the Gospel, whose voice was neither the voice of the lion nor of the ox, but of a man, which was still lower, but yet they retained their humanity, reasoning prudence, and wisdom; and these are represented as calling upon John to come and see, and take notice of the following hieroglyphic:

and I beheld, and lo a black horse;
an emblem either of the afflicted state of the church, still answering to the Smyrnaean one, being black with persecutions, schisms, errors, and heresies, which were many; or particularly of the heresies and heretics of those times, who might be compared to a horse for their pride and ambition, speaking great swelling words of vanity, and to a black one, for their hidden things of dishonesty, and works of darkness, for the darkness in themselves, and which they spread over others; or rather of a famine, not in a spiritual sense, of hearing of the word, but in a literal sense; see ( Lamentations 4:7 Lamentations 4:8 ) ( 5:10 ) ; not what was at the siege of Jerusalem, or in the times of Claudius Caesar, ( Acts 11:28 ) ; but in the times of the Emperor Severus, and others, as the historians of those times F1, and the writings of Tertullian show; when the Heathens ascribed the scarcity that was among them to the wickedness of the Christians F2, whereas it was a judgment upon them for their persecution of them:

and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand;
by whom is meant not some noted heretic, or heretics, who had balances of deceit in their hands to prove their tenets by, such as spurious writings or who made pretensions to the Scriptures, the balance of the sanctuary, to weigh doctrines in; nor Christ, whose name heretics shrouded themselves under, and professed, and who overruled and made use of their heresies for the good of his people, that they might be made manifest. Mr. Mede thinks that Septimius Severus, the Roman emperor, who came from Africa, from the south, on which side was the living creature that spoke to John, is intended, and in which country black horses were in great esteem; and he was the only African that ever was emperor of Rome before F3: and the same author thinks, that his having a pair of balances in his hand expresses the strict justice that emperor was famous for; but rather it signifies famine, and such a scarcity as that bread is delivered out by weight to men; see ( Leviticus 26:26 ) .


F1 Spartianus in Vita Severi, & Lampridius in Vita Alexandri.
F2 Apolog. c. 40. & ad Scapulam, c. 3.
F3 Cassiodor. Chronicon. & Eutrop. Hist. Roman. l. 8.

Revelation 6:5 In-Context

3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, "Come!"
4 And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, "Come!" I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand,
6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's pay, and three quarts of barley for a day's pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!"
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, "Come!"

Footnotes 1

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.