When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be 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 wine!”
It’s understood by most prophecy scholars that the rider on the black horse brings famine with him when he rides. But it’s more than that—this rider also brings economic inequality, slavery, and a financial yoke that subjects the world to the control of a newly formed, global government.
The Greek word translated “scales” is ζυγός (zygos). In this context, a set of scales makes perfect sense. The rider on the black horse causes economic hardship; when food is scarce, prices go up and everything is more expensive. A denarius in the first century AD was equal to one day’s wages for a laborer. The amount of wheat and barley described is just enough to keep one person alive.
Imagine earning just enough wheat or barley for eight hours’ work to keep you alive for a day. Just you—nothing left over for your spouse or children. Then you have to do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Forget about weekends off unless you plan to fast every Saturday and Sunday.
And such a wage leaves nothing for housing, utilities, transportation, or medical expenses.
Harsh, grinding poverty. Desperation. That’s what we’re talking about here.
The sense of Revelation 6:6 seems pretty plain: When the rider on the black horse comes along, people struggle to survive and they often fail. But we need to go back for a closer look at that Greek word zygos. It’s only used in six verses in the New Testament, so it’s easy to check its use in other contexts.
It turns out that zygos is translated “scales” in only one of those six verses. In every other case the English word is “yoke,” the wooden crosspiece used to harness oxen to a cart or a plow. For example:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:29–30; emphasis added)
What John conveyed in Revelation 6:6 is both senses of the Greek word zygos: A pair of scales balanced on a wooden crosspiece similar to a yoke, and, at the same time, an instrument of bondage. The rider on the black horse brings not just famine, but economic slavery as well.
As Paul noted, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” God is obviously aware of this, and this is why He directed Moses to include certain rules of economic justice in the Law.
At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. (Deuteronomy 15:1–3)
God directed the Hebrews to cancel all debts every seven years. In our modern age of ten-year auto loans and thirty-year mortgages, this is inconceivable!
And that is precisely the point: Bankers, with the help of powerful friends in government, have rigged the game to fix a zygos onto our necks. Too many of us have willingly become economic slaves; yoked to banks by easy credit for clothes, cars, homes, even our educations—in debt and financial servitude, for our entire adult lives.
For instance, the student loan debt burden in the United States is currently $1.54 trillion. The average debt is more than $35,000, the monthly payment is about $400, and, on average, it will take college graduates in America today more than twenty-one years to repay their debts.
Sadly, recent college grads naively believe they’ll have their loans paid off in about six years. Imagine their shock when they realize they’ll be in their forties before they make their last payment. Imagine the further shock when they discover that student loans, unlike nearly every other kind of debt, normally cannot be discharged through bankruptcy in the United States.
Credit card debt is also bad, but for different reasons. Cards are relatively easy to get, charge outrageously high interest rates, and exploit opportunities to hit consumers with extra fees. The average American credit card balance is $6,194. To pay off that balance by making the minimum monthly payment, and using the average interest rate of 14.87 percent, it would take more than six years—and add about $3,521 in interest charges.
Tragically, it’s often when people are most desperate that they reach for the plastic, hoping that their temporary situation can be sorted out when things get better. But for some, better days never come. Often, the highest average credit card debt in the US rests on the backs of those who have the least—households with a net value of zero or less.
This, as much as famine, is the work of the rider on the black horse. In a very real way, this is a return to Babel.
Nimrod is usually identified as the builder of the Tower of Babel. Our best guess is that he lived sometime between 3800 and 3100 BC, during the Uruk Expansion. During its heyday, the city-state of Uruk dominated Mesopotamia. Around 3800 BC, the emerging Uruk culture developed the world’s first mass-produced product, a primitive type of pottery called the beveled-rim bowl. These bowls are described as “the simplest and least attractive of all Near Eastern pots…among the crudest vessels in the history of Mesopotamia pottery.”
The most common artifacts from the Uruk period are these coarsely made bowls. Archaeologists have dug up a lot of them. And, most important, these bowls were probably used to dole out workers’ daily rations of barley and oil. In fact, the Sumerian picture sign for “bread,” NINDA, looks just like a beveled-rim bowl, and the sign for “to eat” is a human head with a beveled-rim bowl at its mouth.
This is what brings us back to the rider on the black horse: Rationed food means a central authority doling out daily bread to the people. It appears that Nimrod and his successors, including the legendary Gilgamesh, controlled their subjects by moving them off the land and into cities, keeping a tight rein on the production and distribution of food and resources.
Things haven’t changed all that much over the last five thousand years.
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A similar situation developed in the last years of the Roman republic. Populist politicians realized they could win the support of the people by expanding the Cura Annonae (“care for the grain supply”). Regular distribution of grain at below-market prices began for the poorer citizens of Rome in 123 BC. It was expanded and made free by 58 BC, and may have supplied grain to as much as 20 percent of Rome by the first century AD. The emperor Tiberius, recognizing the problems a starving population could create, said in AD 22 that neglecting the Cura Annonae would lead to “the utter ruin of the state.”
What may have begun as a temporary solution to a food shortage became a means to ensure a compliant and docile population. And what happened in Uruk and Rome thousands of years ago is happening again today.
Universal basic income (UBI), a guaranteed monthly stipend from the government, is a modern take on the Urukian and Roman grain doles, and it’s getting a trial run during the COVID-19 crisis. Millions of Americans, anyone who filed an income tax return the previous year, received a $1,200 handout from the US Treasury as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The bill passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed by President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020.
While the current crisis may not be the event that brings the Antichrist to power, when it does happen, it will look a lot like this. The world will be in crisis, and people will gratefully place their necks in the yoke of a government led by a dynamic leader who promises a way out of what appears to be a hopeless situation.
This leads us to an obvious question. John identified the rider on the pale horse as Thanatos (Death), and we’ve made our case for the entities riding on the white and red horses being Apollo and Mars. Who, then, is the rider on the black horse?
In the time of Abraham, around the eighteenth century BC, a deity known as Nabû emerged in Babylon as the god of wisdom, writing, prophecy, and scribes. His symbol was a wedge-shaped cuneiform mark, representing a stylus at rest on a clay tablet, the tools of the scribe. He was believed to be the son of Marduk, who began as the city-god of Babylon and eventually replaced Enlil at the top of the pantheon. Marduk, in turn, was the son of Enki, the Sumerian god of fresh water, knowledge, and creation. Some of these traits were eventually ascribed to Nabû, including Enki’s association with the planet Mercury.
By the time of David and Solomon, around 1000 BC, Nabû’s profile had risen in the pantheon. He was considered the vizier of Marduk, the “one who fixes destinies.” As kings in the ancient Near East learned to rely on bureaucracy to administer their territories, the importance of Nabû grew. Bureaucrats require records and communication, leading to the emergence of a scribal class, and thus the god of scribes grew in importance to become the right-hand deity of the chief god, Marduk.
Nabû’s status in the Neo-Babylonian Empire is highlighted by his popularity as the theophoric element (the “god-name”) of the names of the best-known Chaldean kings: Nabopolassar (“Nabû protect my son”), Nebuchadnezzar (“Nabû defend my firstborn son”), and Nabonidus (“Nabû is to be revered”).
And here we come to the connection between Nabû and the zygos, the economic yoke: Not only was Nabû the god of wisdom and writing; as the patron of scribes, he was also the god who kept track of debits and credits. A small temple in Babylon, built during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, was dedicated to Nabû-ša-hare—“Nabû of Accounts.”
Scribes came from the elite class of Mesopotamian society. Their ability to read and write set them apart from most people, who were illiterate. They wrote documents for others, an invaluable skill for preserving the king’s decrees and documenting the mundane aspects of civilization—tax rolls, astronomical observations, property deeds, wills, and even contracts for laundry service.
In other words, Nabû wasn’t just the god of scribes; he was the god of contracts, law, and ledgers—a spirit who undoubtedly feels right at home in the modern world. Who rules today if not lawyers, accountants, and bankers?
Not surprisingly, the veneration of Nabû continued long after the end of Babylon, surviving into the Christian era. Through contact between the ancient Near East and the western Mediterranean, Nabû was introduced to the West as Hermes in Greece and Mercury in Rome. As with Nabû, whose name basically means “the announcer,” Hermes/Mercury was considered by the Greco-Roman world to be the herald of the gods. The Greeks believed Hermes was also a god of trade and merchants (and thieves). The Romans did, too, but they were more specific, as Mercury’s name was based on the Latin root merx, from which we get the modern English words “merchant,” “merchandise,” and “commerce.”
So, Mercury/Hermes/Nabû is a god of scribes (meaning records, ledgers, and accounts), merchants, and trade, closely associated with the Neo-Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar that represents the end-times religion of the Antichrist, Mystery Babylon. The economic slavery and poverty represented by the zygos, the scales and yoke, carried by the rider on the black horse of Revelation 6, will compel the world to accept the Antichrist’s solution to a world in turmoil—a government dole in exchange for liberty, the same deal offered by Nimrod and the emperors of Rome.
Here’s one last piece of the puzzle. It may be coincidence, or it could be the spirit realm having a laugh at our expense: In April 2009, following the global economic meltdown touched off by the subprime mortgage crisis, MasterCard introduced a new fee on all transactions with its credit card. That fee is currently set at just under two cents per transaction. The fee is non-negotiable and paid directly to MasterCard. (VISA, Discover, and American Express have their own variants of this fee.)
We can only assume that whoever came up with the name of this fee for MasterCard has an odd sense of humor or was perhaps guided from beyond in their choice. The acronym is ominously relevant to this chapter; dealing, as it does, with the financial shackles used by the banks of the world, and their allies in government, to turn free people into debt slaves.
You see, for more than a decade, businesses have been billed a small amount by MasterCard for every credit or debit card transaction. This charge was formerly called the “Acquirer Access Fee.”
But in April of 2009, it was renamed the “Network Access and Brand Usage” fee—the NABU.
How prophetically appropriate.
 1 Timothy 6:10.
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 It is possible, but rare. The filer has to prove financial hardship and meet certain other conditions.
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 James R. Lewis. The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2003), p. 442.
 Joachim Schaper. “The Death of the Prophet: The Transition from the Spoken to the Written Word of God in the Book of Ezekiel,” in Michael H. Floyd and Robert D. Haak, eds., Prophets, Prophecy, and Prophetic Texts in Second Temple Judaism (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2006), p. 72.
 “Nabopolassar.” BiblicalTraining.com, https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/nabopolassar, retrieved 5/29/20.
 Edward E. Hindson and Daniel R. Mitchell. Zondervan King James Version Commentary: Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), p. 557.
 “Nabonidus.” BiblicalTraining.org, https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library/nabonidus, retrieved 5/29/20.
 Eleanor Robson. “The Production and Dissemination of Scholarly Knowledge,” in K. Radner and E. Robson (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 560.
 Laurie E. Pearce. “The Scribes and Scholars of Ancient Mesopotamia,” Civilizations of the ancient Near East IV (1995), p. 2265.
 Caroline Waerzeggers. “Neo-Babylonian Laundry,” Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale 100 (2006), pp. 83–6.
 Mark, op. cit.
 L. H. Martin. “Hermes,” in K. van der Toorn, B. Becking, & P. W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 405.
 Donald L. Wasson. “Mercury (Deity),” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 6, 2018. https://www.ancient.eu/Mercury_(Deity)/, retrieved 5/29/20.
 Ben Dwyer. “NABU Fee—Network Access Brand Usage,” CardFellow, April 6, 2020. https://www.cardfellow.com/blog/nabu-fee-network-access-brand-usage/, retrieved 5/29/20.