“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and 3 quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
The war described in the second seal is now in full force. The scripture above declares that the rider is carrying a pair of scales in his hand, keep in mind when the bible uses a symbol like the scales above, that symbol always has a counterpart on earth, and this particular symbol signifies that food will be in short supply, rapid inflation will sweep the planet. The scripture uses the analogy that a quart of wheat will cost one denarius which more that implies that the cost of one days food per person will cost a days wage. And a lesser quality of food, or 3 quarts of barley will also cost one denarius or a days wage.
Two things result when the world is plunged into uncertainty and wars erupt. First comes inflation, causing the prices of everything to skyrocket. When John wrote this, a denarius was the average pay for a day’s work, and that’s what it will cost to buy a quart of wheat, about enough food for one day. Think of it. For many, a whole days wages will barely buy enough food for that day. The next day it starts all over again. No money left for anything else.
The “denarius” was equal to an ordinary worker’s daily wage, as Jesus illustrates in His Parable of the Laborers (Matthew 20:1-16). These prices, then, give a person an unenviable choice. If a person is single, they can buy the more expensive, more nutritious wheat, yet have nothing left over, or they can buy the cheaper, less nutritious barley and save the remainder for the next day or so. However, if they are married and have children, they can choose to buy more of the cheaper barley in greater quanity to feed all members of a family. None of these choices really allows the person either to get ahead or to stay healthy, especially if he has dependents.
One particular part of the scripture always baffles me “and do not harm the oil and the wine.”
I have researched this subject using the entire passage as keywords, and frankly I can’t find one interpretation that seems to make sense.