The Four Horsemen and their purpose

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Horsemen

The four horsemen of the first four seals are found elsewhere in the Bible, not just Revelation. Zechariah describes four horses with similar colors and riders. Ezekiel describes four judgments that appear to be the same as our riders in Revelation as well. Together, we can paint a more complete picture of who these riders are and what they do.  The number of horses, their colors, and what their riders carry help clarify who they are and what they do. 

The four horsemen of Zechariah’s Vision

Zechariah mentions four horses of different colors with riders in Zec. 1.  Interestingly, he opens up his prophecy with them, just as John does in Revelation.

8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that [were] in the bottom; and behind him [were there] red horses, speckled, and white.

9 Then said I, O my lord, what [are] these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these [be].

10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These [are they] whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.

11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

The colors are significant, but they change in every passage and they do not show consistency between the Hebrew, Septuagint and English. Red, Black and White are the most common, with red and white in every translation and every passage.  There is a divers horse that ranges from paint, grizzled, “diverse” and speckled.  I would guess that to be our “pale” horse in Revelation.  But KJV translates the word for “pale” as “green” in 3 other passages.  It’s our “horse of a different color” I guess The green/pale does match up with our noisome beast judgment in Ezekiel as it has green living things connotations in the Greek word translated “beast”

The mountains in Zechariah chapter 1 are missing and replaced with myrtle trees which is how the Septuigent reads.  KJV may be referring to the shady place as the place of the trees. Revelation does not mention the mountains in conjunction with the horsemen. 

8 I saw by night, and behold a man mounted on a red horse, and he stood between the shady mountains; and behind him were red horses, and grey, and piebald and white.  9 and I said, What are these, my lord? And the angel spoke with me said  to me, I will show you what these things are. 10 and the man that stood between the mountains answered and said to me, These are they whom the Lord has sent forth to go round the earth.  11 And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood between the mountains and said, we have gone round all the earth and behold all the earth is inhabited and is at rest.

The horsemen show up again in Zechariah 6 and this time with chariots (again in different orders)  and the mountains are brass.  Brass usually represents judgment, but I will not take time here to provide evidence of that.  Zechariah gives a description of the duties and purposes of these horsemen:

1 And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains [were] mountains of brass. 2 In the first chariot [were] red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; 3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses. 4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What [are] these, my lord? 5 And the angel answered and said unto me, These [are] the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. 6 The black horses which [are] therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country. 7 And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth. 8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.

So here it appears that the horsemen patrol the entire earth and quiet the spirit of God by judging the transgressions.  Ezekiel will shed light that these are actually judgments. Ezekiel does not mention horses or riders, but speaks of the four judgments which sound very similar to our Revelation riders who we know are executing judgments.

The Four Judgments of Ezekiel

12 The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, 13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: 14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver [but] their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. 15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts: 16 [Though] these three men [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate. 17 Or [if] I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it: 18 Though these three men [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. 19 Or [if] I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: 20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, [were] in it, [as] I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall [but] deliver their own souls by their righteousness. 21 For thus saith the Lord GOD; How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast? 22 Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, [both] sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, [even] concerning all that I have brought upon it. 23 And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.


Vs. 21 and following I believe are our four Revelation horsemen.


The Four Angels in Enoch


Enoch speaks of four men, and following the format seen in Zechariah, one leads the other three.  This is an allegory, in Enoch and the four men represent angels and the peoples and nations are represented by different animals. In this allegory, one of the four men gave the animals a sword to kill (the sword is one of the four judgments in Ezekiel) and the angel which went first bound up the stars (which represent the fallen angels also described as having a form like horses).


There are four angels which stand before the Lord listed in Enoch chapter 40

  The first is the merciful, the patient, the holy Michael. 9.  The second is he who presides over every suffering and every affliction of the sons of men, the holy Raphael. The third, who presides over all that is powerful, is Gabriel. And the fourth, who presides over repentance, and the hope of those who will inherit eternal life, is Phanuel. These are the four angels of the most high God, and their four voices, which at that time I heard.

Perhaps these are our four horsemen with Michael as their leader. I suppose we shall find out when we get there!

The Four Horsemen are Executors of Judgment


It is my opinion that these angels have been going throughout the earth with judgments of sword, pestilence, death and famine at least since the dividing of nations in Babel.  Their purpose is to appease the wrath of God by sending hard times on sinful nations in order to provoke them to repentence. Once they repent, the wrath of God is appeased. In that respect it is a form of mercy, keeping the nations from a worse fate.  It is always God’s purpose to redeem mankind back to himself.  

Evidence of this can be seen in the account where David sins in  numbering the people and is given a choice what the judgment should be.  He is given three of the four judgments listed in Ezekiel to choose from: famine, pestilence, or war.  An angel is sent to deliver the judgment of pestilence and is stopped when the people repent.  

1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know [it]. 3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they [be]: but, my lord the king, [are] they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? 4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all [they of] Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah [was] four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. 6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. 7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. 8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. 9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three [things]: choose thee one of them, that I may do [it] unto thee. 11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh [thee]; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me. 13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great [are] his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man. 14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders [of Israel, who were] clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said unto God, [Is it] not I [that] commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but [as for] these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued. 18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. 20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with [his] face to the ground. 22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of [this] threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. 23 And Ornan said unto David, Take [it] to thee, and let my lord the king do [that which is] good in his eyes: lo, I give [thee] the oxen [also] for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. 24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take [that] which [is] thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. 25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 26 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. 27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. 28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, [were] at that season in the high place at Gibeon. 30 But David could not go before it to enquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

In Numbers, a plague was stayed when the leaders of Israel brought an Israelite man to judgment who was committing fornication openly and in public with a Midianite woman, presumably as a ceremony to Baal.  Again there was judgment by a plague that was stopped once the people repented.

2 And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. … 8 And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9 And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand. 10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 11 Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace:

There are  other instances where angels are smiting sinners.  The death of the firstborn in Egypt, Sennacharib’s army in II Kings, and the followers of Korah (I Cor 10:10).

If what Paul says, that evil men shall ‘wax worse and worse” in the end times, it only makes sense that the horsemen would be busy in the last days bringing judgments to entice sinners to repentence.  However, in the last days, instead of nations repenting, they begin to martyr God’s people.  The fifth seal shows that mankind has progressed from its regular form of evil to apocalyptic evil. It is upon this response to the merciful judgments of God that the remnant is removed (the sixth seal) and the judgment trumpets are sounded.

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