“When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the third living being say, “Come!” I looked up and saw a black horse, and its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice from among the four living beings say, “A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barley will cost a day’s pay. And don’t waste the olive oil and wine.” Revelation 6:5-6
In verses 5 and 6 the aftermath of war is seen and a great famine is revealed. In his vision John hears the third living creature invite him to come and see. John records that he sees a black horse and one sitting on the horse with a pair of balances in his hand used to weigh different commodities. A voice is heard from the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A measure of wheat for a day’s wage, and three measures of barley for a day’s wage; and don’t waste the oil and wine.
John then witnesses the judgment from the third seal. The rider sits atop a black horse that represents famine. In the rider’s hands are scales that signify that men will eat their bread by measure. Gone are the days of plenty. This judgment will be most harsh upon the poor. For those who can, the cost of a small amount of bread will be exorbitant. When people turn from the spiritual food from God, the judgment is deprivation of physical food.
The third seal is famines and Jesus tells about it in Matthew 24 with Revelation giving more details. “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. “There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” (Matthew 24:7-8) Black speaks of death. Famine and pestilence cause death.
The symbolism therefore indicates a time of famine when life will be reduced to the barest necessities; for famine is almost always the aftermath of war. The somber picture is emphasized by the color of the horse, black being the symbol of suffering. “Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.” (Lamentations 5:10)