The Signs of the Times (12): Hunger

editor - 9 September 2018
“…When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”…”
Revelation 6:5-6 NIV

The Lamb opens the third seal. The third horse appears with its rider who is holding a pair of scales in his hand. There is still something left to weigh, but it isn’t much. And because of the law of supply and demand it is very expensive. A day’s wages for two pounds of wheat or six pounds of barley. This means hunger.

In the wake of war, of lawlessness and of revolution there is always hunger. So are the excessively high prices of the black (!) market. When Jeremiah complains about the fate of Jerusalem, he says that the people look black from hunger and their skin has shriveled on their bones.

Hunger is something horrible. It is slowly dying. Little bits of food prolong being alive, but also prolong suffering. People become predators who steal what the other needs most. Heartbreaking stories of people in concentration and refugee camps confirm this. Yes, even cannibalism and the eating of children takes place.

Hunger and all that comes with it was in Israel a judgment of God. Now the voice says that this judgment must come and go all over the earth. Only the oil and the wine must remain untouched. Luxury must stay. That’s what drives ‘Babylon’. While people are starving, the rich continue their godless lives of luxury and pleasure. But that too will end through this judgment of God.

Still, the oil and the wine are not about the luxury of the rich alone. It was also part of daily meals of ordinary people. But still. It shows a world with more love for pleasure than for God. A world where rich countries continue their luxurious lives at the expense of the poor ones.

A world plagued by wars, hunger and death. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famine (Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11) here and then there. It shows us the general picture during the past twenty centuries that have passed since Jesus’ first coming, but these general signs of the times will increase in intensity and magnitude towards the end. We are heading for a climax.

The weighing refers to scarcity. When Ezekiel has to symbolize the siege of Jerusalem, he may only eat a small, weighed and measured amount of food and water for 390 days, Ezekiel 4:9-12, 16-17.

If one believes in a somewhat later date of origin of about 90 AD for the book of Revelation (though a time before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD can be defended as well!), it would have been around the same time that an order was issued by the Emperor Domitian. In the year 92 AD, he gave the order to turn half of the soil available for agriculture that was used for the production of the oil and the wine for the production and cultivation of wheat. To produce daily food, bread for the hungry masses. But this order has never been followed through, because the rich and decadent Romans rather had their pleasures and indulge in their lavish lifestyle than to relieve the needs of the ordinary people.

The Signs of the Times
Many people are afraid of the future. Will the turmoil in the world lead to World War III? Or is there still hope? What do the ancient prophecies of the Bible teach us? Are we at the beginning of the end of this world? Or are we approaching a new beginning? Could Israel be a sign of hope? In this new series Rev. Willem Glashouwer looks at 52 of the many signs of the times that are mentioned in the Bible.The English edition of ‘The Signs of the Times’ will be published by Christians for Israel International in the coming months.

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