Revelation 6:6: The End Times Famine & Cost of Food

revelation 6

You may wonder how much more expensive food items like wheat and barley will become during the end times after reading Revelation 6.

It’s beneficial for us to have some idea of how much more expensive food items like wheat and barley may cost at that time. This knowledge may give us some idea of what global conditions will be like at that time and it what kind of price shocks we’ll experience in the future.

In this article, I will share my research concerning the end time cost of food and famine revealed in Revelation 6:5-6.

Revelation 6:5-6

Revelation 6:5-6 are the key verses to focus on when trying to quantify the end time cost of food. These verses give us information about the price of food items like wheat and barley:

“(5) And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. (6) And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:5-6)

The Greek word for “measure” is choenix, which is equivalent to a dry quart.

  • A dry quart of wheat is approximately enough to make 1.5 to 1.875 loaves of one-pound bread or the average amount of bread a person living in the Roman Empire ate per day.1
  • Meanwhile, the Greek word for “penny” is denarius, which was a coin that was used during the time of the Roman Empire.

The first century A.D. was a time when one denarius was approximately the amount of money some workers were paid for a full day of work. For instance, Matthew 20:2-9 suggests workers were paid one denarius (penny) for 8 hours of labor or a full work day:

“(2) And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. (3) And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, (4) And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. (5) Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. (6) And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? (7) They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. (8) So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. (9) And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.” (Matthew 20:2-9)

Some commentators use this detail to state that Revelation 6:5-6 implies that a dry quart of wheat will cost a person a whole day’s worth of wages.

  • Some Bible versions go as far as to change the words “A measure of wheat for a penny” (KJV) to “a quart of wheat for a day’s wages” (NIV) in Revelation 6:6.
  • A few Bible versions and some commentators go as far as to say that a loaf of bread will cost a person an entire day’s worth of wages.

Since I am using the King James Bible in this article, I’ll work under the assumption that Revelation 6:6 states “a measure of wheat for a penny” instead of a “quart of wheat (or a loaf of bread) for a day’s wages”.

The Value of a Denarius in Christ’s Time

We can get some idea of the significance of Revelation 6:6’s wheat price by examining how much bread a denarius could buy during Christ’s time.

We can figure out how much a loaf of bread cost back in the time of Christ by examining Mark 6:35-6:44. Before Christ performed a miracle to feed at least 5,000 people His disciples asked Him whether they should go buy 200 pennyworth (denarri-the plural for denarius) of bread to feed the people:

“(35) And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: (36) Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. (37) He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? (38) He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. (39) And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. (40) And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. (41) And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. (42) And they did all eat, and were filled. (43) And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. (44) And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” (Mark 6:35-44)

If we divide 5000 loaves of bread by 200 denarri, we’ll find that one denarius bought 25 loaves of bread in Christ’s time. 2 Conversely, if we divide 200 denarri by 5000 loaves of bread, we’ll find that 0.04 denarius bought 1 loaf of bread.

  • Therefore, a worker could afford to buy 25 loaves of bread after an 8-hour workday in the time of Christ.
  • The typical loaf of bread weighed 1 lbs during the Roman Empire, so we’ll assume that these loaves of bread weighted 1 lbs each. 3

Why Do People Say There’s Famine in Revelation 6:5-6?

Many teach that the third seal describes a great famine. I wondered why so many taught this when I was younger. After doing the research to write this article, there’s no doubt in my mind that these people are correct.

If you consider the context of the first century A.D., John clearly predicted a very dramatic increase in the price of wheat.

  • A person reading Revelation 6:5-6 in the first century A.D. would have read that a denarius would buy only enough wheat to make 1.5 to 1.875 1 lbs loaves of bread instead of 25 loaves of bread.
  • This would represent between a 1333% and a 1667% increase in price!4

The very dramatic rise in the price of wheat that John described indicates a great food shortage will come. Food prices rarely rise this much without a major supply shortage.

Here are two ways this shortage could arise:

  • Weather across the world could become very bad for growing crops.
  • The wars after the opening of the second seal (Revelation 6:4-4) could lead to a significant decline in crops grown.

A Day of Work for a Loaf of Bread?

I want to address the idea that Revelation 6:5-6 implies that a day’s wages will only be enough to buy a choenix of wheat or a loaf of bread. I do not fully agree with this view. Here’s why:

  • Revelation 6:5-6 focuses on the price of items in terms of money instead of labor. You could argue that John tried to convey the idea that an entire day’s wages would only be enough to buy a choenix of wheat. However, why did John choose to quote the price of food in terms of money instead of time worked?
  • Saying that a whole day’s wages will only be enough to buy a choenix of wheat or a loaf of bread implies that everyone will earn the same for their work during the end times. This idea seems unlikely unless Communism takes over the world.

Nonetheless, I calculated how much a choenix of wheat would likely cost at the minimum in the United States today if a day’s wages could only buy one choenix of wheat:

  • The federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 an hour (each state has their own minimum wage laws, so I’ll use the federal minimum wage to make a generalization about the entire country).
  • The standard work day in the United States is around 8 hours.
  • A choenix of wheat would cost $58 ($7.25 x 8) today if third seal conditions were prevalent in the world right now and we assume a day’s wages could only buy a choenix of wheat.
  • A choenix of wheat costs approximately $0.13 given a $4.33 wheat price per bushel, so prices would need to rise by an astronomical amount.5

We can confirm from all this that Revelation 6:5-6 does describe extreme famine conditions around the world after the third seal is open.

Are Wheat Prices Near Third Seal Famine Levels?

As I said, I disagree with the idea that a whole day’s wages will only be enough to buy a choenix of wheat or a loaf of bread.

I believe Revelation 6:6 tells us that a denarius will only be worth enough to buy a choenix of wheat or three choenixes of barley during the third seal famine. Using this interpretation, you may wonder if the world is seeing or close to seeing the third seal famine.

I believe we can measure if we are seeing or close to seeing third seal famine conditions. We can do so by using the Bible and price data. We will do this next.

The Value of a Denarius Now

We do not use the denarius as money today, but it still has value. The denarius’s value now comes from the metal content or the value of the metal it is made from.

Below I provide denarius values for 70 A.D. and for 95 A.D.: the two dates most people associate with the writing of the Book of Revelation.

The Denarius of Vespasian (70 A.D.)

A denarius weighed approximately 3.36 grams and had 91.25% silver purity during the reign of Vespasian.6

  • This translates to nearly 3.066 grams of silver or 0.099 troy ounces of silver.

Using this information, we can estimate the current value of a denarius:

Denarius Value Under Vespasian

Silver Purity in Denarius91.25%
Weight of Denarius (in grams)3.36
Grams of Silver in a Denarius (3.36 x 91.25%)3.066
Grams in a Troy Ounce of Silver31.1
Troy Ounces of Silver in a Denarius (3.066/31.1)0.0986
Silver Price Per Ounce (As of April 6, 2019)$15.09
Metal Value of Denarius (Silver Price Per Ounce x 0.0986)$1.488

The Denarius of Domitian (95 A.D.)

A denarius weighed approximately 3.51 grams and had 93.50% silver purity during the reign of Domitian.7

  • This translates to nearly 3.28 grams of silver or 0.1055 troy ounces of silver.

Using this information, we can estimate the current value of a denarius.

The calculation is shown in the table below:

Denarius Value Under Domitian

Silver Purity in Denarius93.50%
Weight of Denarius (in grams)3.51
Grams of Silver in a Denarius (3.51 x 93.5%)3.28185
Grams in a Troy Ounce of Silver31.1
Troy Ounces of Silver in a Denarius (3.066/31.1)0.1055
Silver Price Per Ounce (As of April 6, 2019)$15.09
Metal Value of Denarius (Silver Price Per Ounce x 0.1055)$1.592

The Choenix/Denarius Ratio (CDR) for Wheat

The price for a choenix of wheat will be equal to the value of a denarius after the opening of the third seal. This statement is shown in the equation below:

Price for a Choenix of Wheat = Value of a Denarius

We can rearrange this equation to create a ratio between the price for a choenix of wheat and the value of a denarius. We’ll call this ratio the “choenix/denarius ratio for wheat” or CDW.

The CDW is shown in the equation below:

Price for a Choenix of Wheat = 1
Value of Denarius

The CDW will equal 1 when we see third seal conditions since the value of a denarius will be the same as the price for a choenix of wheat. In addition,

  • The CDW will be less than 1 when the value of a denarius is greater than the price for a choenix of wheat. This means that a denarius can buy more than a choenix of wheat.
  • The CDW will be greater than 1 when the value of a denarius is less than the price for a choenix of wheat. This means that a denarius is not enough to buy a choenix of wheat. This occurs when famine conditions are worse than the famine of the third seal.

I found a dataset from the World Bank that has monthly wheat price data and silver price data as far back as 1960.8 9 This data allows me to create a graph tracking the CDW as far back as 1960.

Revelation 6:6 wheat chart

The CDW has stayed well below 1 in recent decades. This suggests we have not seen the famine that will occur after the third seal is open.

A Different Measure

The size of a choenix varied throughout the Roman Empire. Keep this in mind because the size of a choenix does impact its weight.

Most Bible commentaries mention the Attic choenix in relation to Revelation 6:5-6.

The city of Flaviopolis used an alternative choenix measure. The choenix at this city was 1.5 liters while the Attic choenix was 1.087 liters.10 11

The difference is big enough that I also looked at the CDW since 1960 using the Flaviopolis choenix instead of the Attic choenix like in the prior graph:

Revelation 6:6 wheat alternative chart

The CDW was above 0.8 in 1973 amid a major global food crisis triggered by poor harvests (aided by bad weather) and growing food demand from developing countries.

Equalizing the CDW

We can get an idea of how much the price of wheat may rise in the future by finding how much the price has to rise to get the CDW equal to 1. The tables below show how much higher wheat prices would be versus current prices if third seal conditions were here now.12

Wheat Price if 3rd Seal Began Now (V. Denarius)

InformationA. ChoenixF. Choenix
Denarius Value (Vespasian)$1.49$1.49
Value of Denarius = Value of Choenix$1.49$1.49
Choenix Weight in Lbs1.8432.543
Price Per Lb (Choenix Value/Choenix Weight)$0.81$0.59
Price Per Bushel (Price Per Lb x 59.74 lbs)$48.22$34.95
Wheat Price Per Bushel (as of April 6, 2019)$4.33$4.33
Price Appreciation (Price Per Bushel/Current Price)1114%807%

Wheat Price if 3rd Seal Began Now (D. Denarius)

InformationA. ChoenixF. Choenix
Denarius Value (Domitian)$1.59$1.59
Value of Denarius = Value of Choenix$1.59$1.59
Choenix Weight in Lbs1.8432.543
Price Per Lb (Choenix Value/Choenix Weight)$0.86$0.63
Price Per Bushel (Price Per Lb x 59.74 lbs)$51.62$37.41
Wheat Price Per Bushel (as of April 6, 2019)$4.33$4.33
Price Appreciation (Price Per Bushel/Current Price)1192%864%

The price rises shown in each table are staggering. These figures suggest that we are still not yet close to seeing the type of shortages and prices that will come during the third seal famine.

Are Barley Prices Near Third Seal Famine Levels?

The Choenix/Denarius Ratio (CDB) for Barley

Revelation 6:6 tells us that the price for three choenixes of barley will be equal to the value of a denarius after the opening of the third seal. This statement is shown in the equation below:

3 x Price for a Choenix of Barley = Value of a Denarius

We can rearrange this equation to create a ratio between the price for a choenix of barley and the value of a denarius. We’ll call this ratio the “choenix/denarius ratio for barley” or CDB.

The CDB is shown in the equation below:

3 x Price for a Choenix of Barley = 1
Value of Denarius

The CDB will equal 1 when we see third seal conditions since the value of a denarius will be the same as the price for three choenixes of barley. In addition,

  • The CDB will be less than 1 when the value of a denarius is greater than 3 times the price for a choenix of barley. This means that a denarius can buy more than 3 choenixes of barley.
  • The CDB will be greater than 1 when the value of a denarius is less than 3 times the price for a choenix of barley. This means that a denarius is not enough to buy 3 choenixes of barley. This occurs when famine conditions are worse than the famine of the third seal.

I used the same dataset from the World Bank, which includes barley price data as far back as 1960. This data allows me to create a graph tracking the CDB as far back as 1960.

Attic Choenix

Revelation 6 Barley Chart

Flaviopolis Choenix

Revelation 6 Barley Alternative Chart

The CDB has stayed well below 1 in recent decades. This suggests we have not seen the type of famine that will occur after the third seal is open.

  • The CDB was near 0.7 in 1973 during a major global food crisis triggered by poor harvests and growing food demand from developing countries.
  • The CDB exceeded 0.8 in 2002 amid a global barley shortage caused by bad weather.

Equalizing the CDB

We can get an idea of how much the price of barley may rise in the future by finding how much the price has to rise to get the CDB equal to 1. The tables below show how much higher barley prices would be versus current prices if third seal conditions were here now.13

Barley Price if 3rd Seal Began Now (V. Denarius)

InformationA. ChoenixF. Choenix
Denarius Value (Vespasian)$1.49$1.49
Denarius = 3 Choenix$0.50$0.50
Choenix Weight in Lbs1.45902.0138
Price Per Lb (Choenix Value/Choenix Weight)$0.34$0.25
Price Per Bushel (Price Per Lb x 47.31 lbs)$16.08$11.65
Barley Price Per Bushel (as of April 6, 2019)$2.60$2.60
Price Appreciation (Price Per Bushel/Current Price)618%448%

Barley Price if 3rd Seal Began Now (D. Denarius)

InformationA. ChoenixF. Choenix
Denarius Value (Vespasian)$1.59$1.59
Denarius = 3 Choenix$0.53$0.53
Choenix Weight in Lbs1.45902.0138
Price Per Lb (Choenix Value/Choenix Weight)$0.36$0.26
Price Per Bushel (Price Per Lb x 47.31 lbs)$17.21$12.47
Barley Price Per Bushel (as of May 16, 2018)$2.60$2.60
Price Appreciation (Price Per Bushel/Current Price)662%480%

The price rises shown in each table confirm that we are still not yet close to seeing the type of shortages and prices that will come during the third seal famine.

Conclusion

We are nowhere close to seeing food prices related to the opening of the third seal. As a result, you could use this study to argue that the opening of the third seal is not near.

However, price history shows us that food prices can increase quickly. A huge spike in prices before the third seal is possible since global conflict will accompany the second seal:

“(3) And when he had opened the second seal, I heard the second beast say, Come and see. (4) And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” (Revelation 6:3-4)

Therefore, do not worry about the third seal being opened right now. But, be aware that things can change quickly if global conflict breaks out.

 

Notes

  1. Wheat was ultimately measured in modii in the Roman Empire. A modii of wheat could produce between 16 and 20 one-pound loaves of bread. A choenix was 3/32 of a modii. If you multiply 3/32 by 16 you get 1.5 If you multiply 3/32 by 20 you get 1.875.
  2. I analyzed data I found about 1st century A.D. Roman Empire food prices to see if the data matched up with the Bible. The data confirmed that one denarius bought 25 loaves of bread during the 1st century A.D. in the region where Christ’s ministry took place.
  3. “Rome in 200 AD, Essential Guide to Rome Ancient Rome on Five Denarri A Day”. World Archeology Issue 23. 2007. 8 Feb. 2011. https://www.world-archaeology.com/great-civilizations/roman-empire/article/340-.html
  4. Other commentators I’ve read estimate that the wheat price increase that John described amounted to between 8 and 16 times (or 800% and 1600%) the prices normally found in the first century A.D.
  5. A choenix of wheat is approximately 1.843 lbs. A bushel of wheat is approximately 59.74 lbs. The price of a bushel of wheat is $4.33 at the time of this writing, so the price of a lbs of wheat is approximately $0.07 (4.33 divided by 59.74). The cost of a choenix would be found by multiplying $0.07 by 1.843 which equals approximately $0.13.
  6. Duncan-Jones, Richard. Money and Government in the Roman Empire. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1998. Print. 225.
  7. Ibid
  8. You can access the data by selecting “Monthly Data” at the following link: https://www.worldbank.org/en/research/commodity-markets
  9. I use hard red winter wheat data since it is used to make bread.
  10. 5. Whitney, William Dwight and Benjamin Eli Smith. “Choenix”. The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia. Vol 2. Century Co. 1913. Print. Pg 913.
  11. 6. Spek, Bert van der. “Money, Weights, and Measures in Antiquity”. 2007. Web. 24 Jun 2014. http://www.livius.org/w/weights/weights2.html
  12. I calculated the weight of each choenix by converting dry liters into bushels (using this website) and then multiplying the results by 59.74, the number of lbs in a bushel of wheat.
  13. I calculated the weight of each choenix by converting dry liters into bushels (using this website) and then multiplying the results by 47.31, the number of lbs in a bushel of barley.

Learn the Startling the Truth about the End Times

If you liked the insights found in this article, I encourage you to check out my book: Prophecy Proof Insights of the End Times. It’s truly a comprehensive book about the end times that contains biblical insights that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

Prophecy Proof Insights of the End Times Mockups

Follow on Social Media to Stay Updated

60
Leave a Reply

avatar
40 Comment threads
20 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
RVL
Guest
RVL

No President Trump is not the Antichrist. In fact he is wholly all American

Andrew Watson
Guest
Andrew Watson

The famine of the end tones is for hearing the Word of God. If the Bible were read chapter by chapter, and verse by verse that would be known.! Read the book of Joel and you might learn a the truth.

Michelle Rafferty
Guest
Michelle Rafferty

I am wondering if the costs will rise as a result of hyper inflation rather than climate change. Just comparing scripture to the events in Venezuela, where bread is currently costing more than a days wages. The economy collapsed due to oil prices…..the mention of oil in scripture is also interesting. Worth exploring?

William Hickey
Guest
William Hickey

The Grand Solar Minimum is the Science behind the destruction in the tribulation. You can trace the fall of Empires and Dynasties during them. Look back in History. The Cycles are every 100 years or so and two hundred years and the big ones are about every 1000 years, Cycles of Cycles within and alongside. The great flood of Noah was likely the first Cycle we experienced. Moses and the Exodus another Cycle. This Cycle that has just started was marked by the the Great Sign in Heaven last September 23 2017. That was God through his mercy warning us,… Read more »

Watchman
Guest
Watchman

Interesting map.

William Hickey
Guest
William Hickey

Thought you would find it helpful. The storm is forming. More eruptions and New volcanoes coming online. The Hawaii caldera collapse may pose problems. The New moon was with Venus in Leo last night. Jupiter is in the scales. Saturn is in the constellation Sagittarius. Some knowledge lost that Daniel knew.

Watchman
Guest
Watchman

This is the first I’ve heard of the Grand Solar Minimum. Why do you say Daniel knew it? Do you see evidence of Daniel’s knowledge of this in scripture somewhere?

William Hickey
Guest
William Hickey

Daniel knew how to read the Mazzaroth. Do you find any of Daniels teachings to the wise men which gave them knowledge of the planets and Yeshua’s Birth?

Willie Scott
Guest
Willie Scott

I am scared I’m striving every day I’m struggling with homosexuality and drugs in so petrified of what’s gonna happen to me

Willie Scott
Guest
Willie Scott

Wayne

C.M.
Guest
C.M.

If the price for a loaf of bread right now in the U.S is 1.98 and two billion people live on earth at the rate of less than $2 per day then this scenario can be true right now. The next two billion people live on about $10 per day and the final two billion people live on more with only a fraction of the entire human population living on more than $40,000 per year.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

4

Michael Smith
Guest
Michael Smith

I think you have done a fine job. But consider the part about the wine and the oil. Unlike what and Barley, olives and vines only grow in certain regions. With the ice melt going on in Greenland and especially West Antarctica, we clearly see that temperatures are rising to obvious consequences. Areas where vineyards and olive groves have been producing for thousands of years will soon be inhospitable to them. Other regions further north will be better, but growing vines and new trees will take decades, and it’s hard work just doing that much. In short, we are going… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

4.5

777
Guest
777

Very insightful post. Thanks!

jnorthey
Guest
jnorthey

Be that it may, but the churches are not watching the skies or Israel. Wish that they would. They are watching everything else. I can’t tress enough about current events that are going on right now, and they do have a spiritual basis, for their existence. Israel is the main focus and most of those things related to Revelations deal with her. Jn

Connie
Guest
Connie

I would say the vast majority of churches are not worried about prophecy because they are under the erroneous idea that they will be raptured out before anything bad happens, therefore they need not know what is going to happen “after they are gone.” The church in America is in a deep state of apostasy and more concerned with entertainment than either spreading the true gospel or studying prophecy. There is though a fairly sizeable contingent that do follow prophecy among individual Christians and they are keeping their eyes on Israel and world events. They don’t agree on everything, but… Read more »

jnorthey
Guest
jnorthey

Dear People, “I think that we have been put on notice.” Just last night, as the Super Bowl was being broadcast to our nation, a meteor was rocketing a crossed our skies, and fell to earth, near Lake Michigan. It was large enough to light up the whole sky, and came with a sonic boom. Throughout the ages, meteors have been associated with a harbinger of bad news. Soon coming events, that told of a God, who hears and watches His people below, and the deeds that they have done. The arrival of the meteor, in those days, signals the… Read more »

Connie
Guest
Connie

I wouldn’t attach a lot of meaning to that meteor. It was not one of the trumpet judgments. There have been a lot of meteor strikes over the millennia, but unless God has told us that a particular one signals something (like in the trumpet judgments or sixth seal) we shouldn’t attach an omen to it, for we wouldn’t know what that omen was, because God has not informed us. We must be careful not to cross over into occult omens. The greater signs that you can look for is what is going on in Israel, for that is where… Read more »

Ld
Guest
Ld

Your article is very interesting. My curiosity about this Revelation prophecy is what caused me to look up articles on this topic. I noticed that you based your line on the American economy what I’m wondering is are there places in the world right now the people are paying a day’s wages for a pound of flour. Simply reminding Americans that we’re not the Guage that God goes by.

Watchman
Guest
Watchman

Great post.

Here’s a verse I stumbled upon recently that may or may not have profound end time implications:

Proverbs 20:13
Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare.

It is somewhat reminiscent of Revelation 16:4, in my opinion.

Watchman
Guest
Watchman

Opps, make that Rev 16:15, not 16:4.