Poole on Revelation 6:6: The Third Seal, Part 2

Verse 6:[1] And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure (the word χοῖνιξ/chœnix signifieth a measure containing one wine quart, and the twelfth part of a quart) of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and (Rev. 9:4) see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.

[A voice, etc.] Either, 1. of Agabus to Paul[2] (Grotius); or, 2. of God (Durham), sitting upon the throne (Ribera); or, of the Lamb, as it is evident from a comparison with Revelation 5:6 (Ribera, Pareus, Durham), and because He commands with authority, Hurt not, etc. (Ribera).

[A bilibra,[3] etc., χοῖνιξ σίτου δηναρίου, καὶ τρεῖς χοίνικες κριθῆς δηναρίου] A chœnix (or, measure [Ethiopic, English]) of wheat for a denarius (one [Erasmus]) and three chœnices of barley for a denarius (Montanus, Erasmus, Beza, Piscator, etc.) one (Erasmus, etc.), understand, shall be sold (Piscator, Zegers). This so singular circumstance signifies a great providence. For not only is the dearness of provisions (which is actually famine to Cicero) indicated, but also what would be the future price, both for wheat, which is σῖτος/grain par excellence; and for barley. Feeding upon barley is not as good. Therefore, it was wont to be given to soldiers as a punishment, as we learn from Livy[4] and Vegetius[5] (Grotius). The measure of a chœnix is uncertain and various (Mede’s Works 550, similarly Drusius), according to the reckoning of nations, places, and men (Mede’s Works 550). It consists of four Roman pounds[6] to Budæus, three Roman pounds to Pollux,[7] two and a quarter to Agricola[8] (Gagnæus); two sextarii,[9] or four cotylæ[10] or Roman pounds, to Budæus (Ribera, Pareus). A military chœnix (as I pass over the smaller chœnices of shepherds, farmers, and vintners) was of four sextarii (Mede’s Works 550); in the Greek-Latin Lexicon it is a semimodius[11] (Mede, Drusius, similarly Grotius), that is, the military chœnix doubled (Mede’s Works 550): indeed, to the Hellenists, Ezekiel 45:10, 11, it is a Bath[12] (Mede, Drusius), the largest measure of the Hebrews (Mede), equal to the Ephah. Fannius’ Concerning Measures,[13] But one Sextarius takes in a two Cotylæ (which, if it should please, it is permitted to call Heminæ[14]); which Sextarius, taken four times, makes a Chœnix, after the Greek name (Drusius). Now, the chœnix (of wheat [Grotius], by the confession of all [Durham]) is as much as a healthy man requires for a day (Grotius, similarly Erasmus, Vatablus, Camerarius, Zegers, Gua., Ribera, Forbes, Hammond, Durham, Menochius, Pareus), as Budæus relates out of Herodotus[15] and Suidas (Zegers), and others out of Hippocrates[16], Lærtius,[17] and Athenæus[18] (Grotius). Now, a denarius (which consists of three and a half solidi[19] [Vatablus, thus Gagnæus out of Budæus], which is of the value of ten asses[20] [Ribera, Pareus, Camerarius], or a drachma[21] [Camerarius]) is as much as a man, laboring strenuously, was able to earn in a day (Grotius, similarly Ribera, Forbes, Pareus, Hammond, Durham), as it appears in Matthew 20:2.[22] Now, if a poor man, who was earning a denarius for a day, should have a wife and children, certainly he was not able to feed them ἐκ τῆς χοίνικος, from the chœnix. Indeed, even the unmarried man was constrained merely to survive, was compelled either to eat less than nature would require, or to be without house, garments, and furniture, all which must be bought out of that daily pay (Grotius, similarly Hammond). Among us a loaf, worth two English denarii, abundantly suffices for daily fare, but the price of labor is of the value of a solidus.[23] Therefore, the sense is: Whatever thing is six times more costly than it was previously (Hammond). The measure of daily food will hardly be acquired for a day’s labor: nothing will be stored for the next day. He predicts, therefore, the costliness of provisions (Pareus), or the famine (Forbes, certain interpreters in Ribera, Gravius), which happened partly under Maximinus, when there were no harvests for some years, partly under Antonius and Decius[24] (Gravius). This does not satisfy; for this famine would have been common, when neither wheat is lacking, nor barley, and the wine and oil are not harmed. But no common evil is designated here, as in Matthew 24, but all things are unusual and amazingly terrifying. That a recondite or mystical sense, therefore, lurks, I do not doubt (Ribera). A famine, therefore, is here understood, not of bread, but of the word of God (Pererius, Ribera, similarly Cluverus), concerning which Amos 8:11 (Pareus). By wheat here he understands the word of God (Cluverus), or doctrine pure (Pareus), and elegant, and an explanation of the mysteries of Scripture (Ribera), or sound Teachers (Pareus), or sons of the kingdom (Cluverus), as wheat signifies the elect in Matthew 13:30 (Pareus), in whose hearts is contained the word of God, and who, as they are unequal in the grace of gifts, so they are reckoned by the name of wheat or barley. Thus grain or wheat is taken, Jeremiah 23:28; 31:12; Hosea 2:22; 14:7, 8; Amos 9:9; Matthew 3:12; 13:25, 29, 30 (Cluverus). In barley, which is the food of beasts of burden, is indicated a rude and bare understanding of that doctrine which is necessary for salvation. Now, he says three…of barley, so that the proportion of barley to wheat might be preserved: for the price of wheat is wont to be double or triple to the price of barley. The sense is: by the energy and impositions of heretics (Ribera), and by the sluggishness of the Bishops (Pareus), pure and elegant doctrine will be rare (Ribera, Pareus), sound Teachers rare (Pareus), as in 1 Samuel 3:1; the faithful will be diminished, as in Psalm 12:1 (Cluverus); scarcely with great labor will barley loaves be furnished, or the comforts of Christian doctrine of any kind (Pareus). Others: Since the measure of a chœnix is uncertain, how is it possible thence to elicit anything concerning famine? I take the Chœnix here for any daily ration whatsoever, and the Denarius for any price whatsoever of the ration (Mede’s Works 550): or, I take the Chœnix here to be the Syrian kind, which is said to contain four Cotylæ, while the other Chœnix contains only two, and yet is called ἡμερότροφις, the daily ration (Mede’s Works 1123). I understand this passage of the notable management of the grain supply during these times; that is to say, It will be provided for from the resources of the grain supply in such a way that provision will be purchased at a price fair, and at which anyone would be capable of paying. A Chœnix of wheat for a Denarius, that is, a daily ration of wheat is sold for the daily pay or stipend or income of labor: that is, it would not be needful to pay more for victuals on a daily basis than is at hand for payment. That also, three Chœnices of barley for a Denarius, may be able to appear to pertain to the equality of the price according to the quality of the merchandise (Mede’s Works 551). Now, what I thus take as the price of provisions, a Chœnix of wheat and three of barley for one and the same Denarius, and for an addition of such size there is a sufficiency of oil and wine, that is, There will be a full sufficiency of things for the price of a day’s labor (Mede’s Works 1123). Others: This type exhibits the wretched state of the Church, in which there would be great scarcity and costliness of provisions, or of things necessary for life; yet in such a way that some things, even the best, remain, such as wine and oil, by which men are gladdened, Psalm 104:15. Now, the intention of the type is that it signifies the calamities of the Church from persecutions, errors, etc. (Durham) [concerning which it was previously spoken].

[And the wine and oil hurt thou not (thus Beza, Piscator), μὴ ἀδικήσῃς] Afflict thou not with injury (Piscator). There is an allusion here to Luke 10:34 (Ribera). I am unwilling that anything be diminished from the grape or olive harvest. Let those things retain their custom. Ἀδικεῖν by Metalepsis is to hurt, to diminish, as in Revelation 2:11.[25] The heavens are wont to harm all the fruits of injustice. Now, at that time, with Christ dispensing, the fruits necessary for life were failing, those not necessary were flowing forth. The use of oil was for luxuries; water was able to be drunk instead of wine (Grotius). By oil and wine he denotes the word of God (Pererius, similarly Menochius, Ribera, Pareus), and especially the Sacraments, which God allows not heretics, although raging, to remove (Ribera, similarly Menochius, Pareus). This was added for the consolation of the faithful (Ribera, similarly Pareus), lest, with heresies increasing, they should despair. The fundamental heads of the faith shall not be overturned: and God will preserve some heralds and defenders of pure doctrine, lest the elect should be harmed by heretics (Pareus). Oil and Wine serve for medicine and pleasure, Psalm 104:14-16; Isaiah 1:6. See also Judges 9:9; Ecclesiasticus 31:31;[26] etc. By these, therefore, are designed the grace, virtue, consolation and joy, of Christ and the Holy Spirit; which in the Scriptures are often denoted both by oil, as in Psalm 23:5; 45:7; Ezekiel 16:19; 32:14; and by wine, as in Song of Songs 2:5; 5:1; 7:9; Zechariah 9:17; 10:7; Matthew 9:17. It signifies, therefore, that Satan shall have no power against these; that is to say, Although heretics induce a rarity of Teachers and of true preaching, yet the Gospel shall not be spoiled of its spiritual power, nor the Saints of their joy, etc. (Cluverus).

A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny: interpreters are at so great a loss here to fix the sense, that some think this phrase signifies famine and scarcity; others think it signifies great plenty. The Greek word here used, signifieth, say some, half a bushel; others say it signifieth so much bread corn as is sufficient for four loaves; others say, something more than a quart; others, so much as was allowed servants for maintenance for a day: let it be which it will, it signifies no great scarcity; for the word signifying a penny, signified but as much in our money as came to seven pence halfpenny. I think therefore Mr. Mede judgeth well, that by the black horse was signified not a time of famine and scarcity, but of plenty; and the rather, because it is added, hurt not the oil and the wine: and that the balances in the rider’s hands signified not scales to give men their bread by weight, (as in a time of scarcity,) but the balance of justice; nor will the colour of the horse conclude the contrary. The whole therefore of this prophecy seemeth to foretell that this period, from the time of Commodus the Roman emperor, who ruled the empire from the year AD 180 to AD 197, and was followed by Severus, Macrinus, Caracalla, Heliogabalus, and Alexander Severus, the son of Mammeas, who came to the empire AD 222, and reigned to AD 237, should be a time of great plenty and civil justice. Histories tell us of no famine in that time, but large stories of the great care of two of those emperors especially, for supplying their countries with corn, and for the administering of civil justice. The things foretold by the opening of this seal, our famous Mede makes to have had their accomplishment with the determination of the reign of Alexander Severus.

[1] Greek: καὶ ἤκουσα φωνὴν ἐν μέσῳ τῶν τεσσάρων ζώων λέγουσαν, Χοῖνιξ σίτου δηναρίου, καὶ τρεῖς χοίνικες κριθῆς δηναρίου· καὶ τὸ ἔλαιον καὶ τὸν οἶνον μὴ ἀδικήσῃς. [2] Acts 11:28. [3] A bilibra is two Roman pounds, roughly equivalent to a pound and half American. [4]History of Rome 27:13. Titus Livius (c. 59 BC-17 AD) wrote a history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, from its founding to the time of Augustus. [5]De Re Militari 1. Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus was a writer of the late Roman Empire. He wrote Epitoma Rei Militaris, and Digesta Artis Mulomedicinæ on veterinary medicine. [6] A Roman pound is twelve ounces. [7] Julius Pollux (second century AD) was a Greek grammarian and rhetorician. Only his Onomasticon, a dictionary of Attic phrases and an invaluable source of information concerning classical antiquity, survives. [8] Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) was a German scholar; he wrote De Re Metallica, De Mensuris et Ponderibus (on Greek and Roman weights and measures), and other scientific works. [9] A sextarius is about a pint. [10] A cotyle is a half-pint. [11] A semimodius is about a gallon. [12] Ezekiel 45:10, 11: “Ye shall have just balances (מֹאזְנֵי־צֶדֶק; ζυγὸς δίκαιος, in the Septuagint), and a just ephah (וְאֵיפַת־צֶדֶק; καὶ μέτρον δίκαιον, and a just measure, in the Septuagint), and a just bath (וּבַת־צֶדֶק; καὶ χοῖνιξ δικαία, and a just chœnix, in the Septuagint). The ephah and the bath (וְהַבַּת; καὶ ἡ χοῖνιξ, and the chœnix, in the Septuagint) shall be of one measure, that the bath (הַבָּת; ἡ χοῖνιξ, the chœnix, in the Septuagint) may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer.” [13] The authorship of the poem De Ponderibus et Mensuris is attributed by some to the grammarian Rhemnius Fannius Palæmon, but by others to Priscianus. [14] A hemina is a half-pint. [15] Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425) was a Greek historian, sometimes called “The Father of History”. [16] Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC) was a Greek physician, known as “The Father of Medicine”. [17] Diogenes Lærtius was a biographer of Greek philosophers, writing his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers probably sometime during the third century AD. [18] Athenæus of Naucratis (late first-early second century AD) wrote Deipnosophistæ (or Banquet of the Learned), a dialogue in which the characters discuss a wide range of topics including food. [19] A solidus was a gold coin weighing about a quarter of an ounce. [20] An as was a copper coin, originally weighing twelve ounces, reduced to two ounces after the first Punic War, and then to a half ounce. [21] A drachma was a silver coin weighing about four and a quarter grams. [22] Matthew 20:2: “And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny (δηναρίου/ denarius) a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” [23] Formerly an English penny was denoted by a d, which was derived from denarius; twelve pence/pennies made up one shilling. In Medieval Latin, solidus referred to a shilling. [24] EmperorsReignMaximinus235-238Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian I)238Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian II)238Marcus Antonius Gordianus (Gordian III)238-244Decius249-251 [25] Revelation 2:11: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt (οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ) of the second death.” [26] Ecclesiasticus 31:31: “Rebuke not thy neighbour at the wine, and despise him not in his mirth: give him no despiteful words, and press not upon him with urging him [to drink].”


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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