THE THIRD SEAL: THE BLACK HORSE AND ITS RIDER (6:5-6). Some believe this rider cannot be a person since its name is “Death.” However, Jesus has many similar names; He is “the Life.”
Historicists see the fiscal oppression imposed by some of the emperors of the third century in this horse and rider. Taxes could be paid either in money or in produce— particularly in grain, oil, and wine. Others place the economic deprivation of Diocletian, who greedily raised real estate taxes to an unprecedented level.
Preterists find this seal to be the food shortage of besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70, citing passages like Leviticus 26:26; Deuteronomy 28:53; Luke 21:20-23; 23:28-29.
Idealists see famine arising from the war waged by the previous rider on the fiery red horse, or simply a God-ordained drought (Deuteronomy 28:23-24).
Futurists also see famine because of the opening of the previous seal, which causes an economic upheaval with inflation, recession, panic—the justification that the Antichrist will use to impose rigid controls over buying and selling (Revelation 13).
SYMBOLISM. Denarius was the average laborer’s daily wage. The oil and wine constitute luxuries, whereas grain is a staple of survival. The olive and grape need no cultivation; hence, their ruthless destruction is forbidden. Black indicates death, diseases, malnutrition from famine; it is the color of suffering. Famine always follows war. Pair of scales was the common measuring device, having two small trays hung from each end of a balance beam. It points to the shortage of food and barley, usually fed to animals, and cheaper than wheat. A day’s wages bought eight to twelve quarts before this seal. One quart will feed one person.