Sunday, 22 November 2020
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” Revelation 6:6
As was seen in the previous verse, the rider on the black horse symbolizes both famine and mourning. In his hand there is a pair of scales, signifying to weigh things out by measure. Scripture provided clear instances of that being used as a means of conveying deprivation as well. When measures are used, it is to ensure an exact amount – and nothing more – is doled out. During times of abundance, such things are not even considered as the vats overflow. But during times of deprivation, every kernel of wheat becomes precious.
With that in mind, John begins this verse, saying, “And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures.” This is one of the voices mentioned throughout the book that does not identify its source. However, it can be deduced who it is. The voice is that of the Lord. We can tell this because a similar term is used four times in Revelation – in 4:6, 5:6, 6:6, and 7:17. Each time, it is referring to Him –
1) The Lord God Almighty in verse 4:6 (the Creator);
2) The Lamb who was slain in verse 5:6 (the Redeemer);
3) The Director of judgment in verse 6:6; and
4) The Lamb who is the Shepherd of His people in verse 7:17.
For now, it is a call out either bearing authority to direct (meaning the rider on the horse) or to describe (to the audience the significance of the event). John hears the voice proclaiming, “A quart of wheat for a denarius.”
The word translated as “quart” is found twice, and only in this verse. It is choinix. Vincent’s Word Studies explains its meaning –
“Only here in the New Testament. A dry measure, according to some, a quart; to others a pint and a half. Herodotus, speaking of the provisions for Xerxes’ army, assigns a choenix of corn for a man’s daily supply, evidently meaning a minimum allowance (vii., 187); and Thucydides, speaking of the terms of truce between the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians, mentions the following as one of the provisions: “The Athenians shall permit the Lacedaemonians on the mainland to send to those on the island a fixed quantity of kneaded flour, viz., two Attic quarts (χοίνικας) of barley-meal for each man” (iv., 16). Jowett (“Thucydides”) says that the choenix was about two pints dry measure. So Arnold (“Thucydides”), who adds that the allowance of two choenixes of barley-meal daily to a man was the ordinary allowance of a Spartan at the public table. See Herodotus, vi., 57.”
A denarius (Greek: dénarion) is a small silver Roman coin that, at the time of Nero, weighed 53 grams. The value of it varied from time to time based on the value of silver. However, Matthew 20:2-16 assigns a denarius as an acceptable amount for the daily wages of a man. For example, in verse 2, it says, “Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”
With this understanding, the voice John heard continues, saying, “and three quarts of barley for a denarius.” Wheat is the finer and more desired grain for daily living. Barley is of lesser quality and is eaten by poorer people, and is also used as feed for animals.
The meaning, then, is that a person’s daily wage is just enough to buy a choinix of wheat to sustain himself, or he could buy three choinix and have a larger meal, but it will be of lesser quality grain. Or, if he had a wife and one child, there will be a lack if he bought wheat. However, there will be enough to feed all three if they eat of the lesser quality grain. If the family is larger than three, the food will either be divided into less than subsistence amounts or choices will have to be made about who will do without. There will be no extra money for anything else.
Understanding this brings in the thought of the scales. If a person is spending everything he has made during the day just to eat, he will be absolutely sure to have the grain weighed out so that not a single kernel comes up short. Likewise, the seller would weigh the silver to make sure that it was the exact standard and had not been filed down. There would be a complete lack of trust on both sides of the scales, and measuring out one’s existence, from day to day, would be the standard.
The voice from the midst of the four living creatures then finishes with, “and do not harm the oil and the wine.” This goes back to Deuteronomy 28:51 – “And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you.”
Along with farm animals, oil and wine were considered valuable commodities for daily life, but there will be no such extras in the time of tribulation. The wealthy and elite will bring the masses to a state of complete ruin. Taking all of the property and means of obtaining wealth for themselves.
For the specific term, “do not harm the oil and the wine,” there have been many interpretations and guesses as to what it means. The words don’t especially appear to be directed to the rider on the horse. Rather, like the previous words, they are simply statements of the state of things at the time. The cost will be set for wheat and barley, and the means of obtaining that cost will need to be carefully protected.
In other words, referring again to the parable in Matthew 20, the workers obtained their daily wage from working in the vineyards. A person who is underpaid may sabotage the property of his employer. However, in harming the oil or the wine (meaning the vineyard or the olive trees), he will have no employment at all. It is thus probably a metaphor for the complete subjugation of the masses. To harm one’s mean of livelihood would mean to have no livelihood at all, and thus certain death.
Life application: In the tribulation period, the things we think of as common and easy to obtain will be completely missing. There will be no fish, no vegetables, no ice cream, no French fries, and so on. Today, if we want tater tots, we go to the store and buy them. We take what we have and pass some on to our pets. Dogs eat better now than most of the humans on earth will eat when that day comes.
The daily existence of people will be as in any socialist country seen in the world today. There will be labor with little or no reward. There will be constant deprivation, constant hunger, and constant worry if tomorrow will provide enough to simply get through the day. When someone gets sick, the daily portion will be missed due to the lack of labor. Such is the state of man for rejecting the Lord and throwing their allegiance behind the antichrist.
There will be terror on every side, and there will be sadness in every soul, even to the point of simply desiring death over continued existence. Call on Jesus today. The future has been prophesied, and it will come to pass. Be saved from this horror through belief in God’s provision of the gospel. It is centered on the giving of His Son. It is found in the giving of JESUS.
Heavenly Father, we take the normal commodities of life as a given, and we never consider that a time is coming when they simply won’t be available. The world is heading towards disaster, and we need to spread the word that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. May we impress this on them now! Amen.