Who Is The Pale Horseman
Unlike the previous riders or horsemen, the rider on the pale horse is named, as well as the entity that follows him. The text implies these two work together. So let’s look at the text to decipher the clues about this rider.
8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.Revelation 6:8
The Greek word used here is chloros which we get the word chlorine and Chlorophyll from, which is actually a greenish-yellow. However, the Greek word “chloros”, translated as “pale,” is often interpreted as sickly green or ashen grey, and I would argue it should be viewed as grey or green like that of a corpse. The name death is an ancient deity which in greek is Thanatos, and this name is the actual name John gave him, “And its rider’s name was Thanatos“. Thanatos, the Greek god of death, and the image of the grim reaper familiar in western iconography was considered to be a personified spirit of death rather than a god at times. The touch of Thanatos was gentle, often compared to a touch of Hypnos, his twin brother who was the god of sleep, which is an allusion made in the bible, “we shall not all sleep“.
The next part, “and Hades followed him.” gives us the name of his partner, another ancient deity who is related to death, but is the god of the underworld. This would make sense as death himself goes out the god of the underworld follows collecting the dead. In some translations, his name is translated as hell, to hide the fact that this is an entity and not a place. Tartarus is the place, or kingdom Hades rules over, here though he leaves his abode and followed death to the land of the living.
Associations Of Hades
The Etruscan god Aita and the Roman gods’ Dis Pater and Orcus were eventually taken as equivalent to Hades and merged into Pluto, a Latinization of Plouton (Greek: Πλούτων, Ploútōn), itself a euphemistic title often given to Hades. In Egypt however, the color of the horse and the entity makes more sense. Osiris was classically depicted as a green-skinned deity, He was also associated with the epithet Khenti-Amentiu, meaning “Foremost of the Westerners“, a reference to his kingship in the land of the dead.
Osiris is a Latin transliteration of the Ancient Greek Ὄσιρις IPA: [ó.siː.ris], which in turn is the Greek adaptation of the original name in the Egyptian language. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, the name appears as wsjr, which some Egyptologists instead choose to transliterate ꜣsjr or jsjrj. Since hieroglyphic writing lacks vowels, Egyptologists have vocalized the name in various ways, such as Asar, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, or Usire.
(Side note) John Gwyn Griffiths (1980), “bearing in mind Erman’s emphasis on the fact that the name must begin with a [sic] w”, proposes a derivation from wsr with an original meaning of “The Mighty One”, which interestingly correlates to the Semitic El.
We read about Resheph when we went over the white horse, his name literally translated as Plague, and the rider of the white horse, In the Canaanite religion, he is also the god of the underworld, and a companion of Anath sister of Ba’al ( A female goddess of war, who can also be associated with Inanna in her warrior aspect), the red horseman of war. Resheph also a god of war and was represented as a bearded man brandishing an ax, holding a shield, and wearing a tall, pointed headdress with a goat’s or gazelle’s head on his forehead. Under the title Mikal (or Mekal), he was also worshiped at Beth-shean in eastern Palestine and at Ialium in Cyprus. Resheph was usually believed to be related to Mot, the god of death.
Associations of Thanatos
The Canaanite god Mot was described as having an insatiable appetite, with his bottom lip to the earth, and his top lip to the heavens. In Ugaritic myth, Mot (spelled mt) is a personification of death. The word is cognate with forms meaning ‘death’ in other Semitic and Afro-Asiatic languages: with Arabic موت mawt; with Hebrew מות (mot or mavet; ancient Hebrew muth or maveth/maweth); with Maltese mewt; with Syriac mautā; with Ge’ez mot; with Canaanite, Egyptian, Berber, Aramaic, Nabataean, and Palmyrene מות (mwt); with Jewish Aramaic, Christian Palestinian Aramaic, and Samaritan מותא (mwt’); with Mandaean muta; with Akkadian mūtu; with Hausa mutuwa; and with Angas mut. Many cultures knew this son of El or son of Elohim.
A Phoenician account survives in a paraphrase of the Greek author Philo of Byblos by Eusebius, who writes of a Phoenician historian named Sanchuniathon. In this account Death is a son of ‘El and counted as a god, as the text says in speaking of ‘El/Cronus:
And not long after another of his sons by Rhea, named Muth, having died, he deifies him, and the Phoenicians call him Thanatos [‘Death’] and Pluto.Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica, Book 1, chap. 9–10, trans. E. H. Gifford (1903)
And like the other deities, and horsemen, the white, red, and black are deities that the God of Israel uses to punish Israel and surrounding nations, Death (“Maweth/Mavet(h)”) is sometimes personified as a devil or angel of death (e.g., Habakkuk 2:5; Job 18:13)1Cassuto, U. (1962). “Baal and Mot in the Ugaritic Texts”. Israel Exploration Journal. 12 (2): 81–83. JSTOR 27924890. In both the Book of Hosea and the Book of Jeremiah, Maweth is mentioned as a deity to whom Yahweh can turn over Judah as punishment for worshiping other gods2Handy, Lowell (1995). The Appearance of the Pantheon in Judah in The Triumph of Elohim. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. pp. 40.
Bringing It Together
This one may be hard to follow me on, not because of any fault of your own, but because of my limited ability to put all the connections I have made in my mind into adequate verbal constructs, however, I will try. The Hebrew word Netzer, meaning branch is a homonym of an Egyptian word netjer which refers to beings that one would call gods, demons, and spirits. The term could also refer to the Egyptian king, certain living animals, and to dead people or animals. So now I will make a connection to this god of the underworld who is let loose.
but you are cast out, away from your grave,
like a loathed branch,Isaiah 14:19a
If you are not familiar with this verse, it is found in the same chapter where we get the mistranslated name “Lucifer” from, which should read “Shining one, son of the dawn”, and comparing the king of Babylon to this rebel who was in the garden of God, the “serpent” (Nachash, noun; a serpent, Verb; diviner, deceiver Adj; Shining one) of the garden. In this verse it has been translated as “loathed Branch“, Christopher B. Hays, (Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.) has argued that Isaiah actually was borrowing the Egyptian word, and thus calling this rebel “A loathed Dead God”, or the god of the dead.
Remember Mot? The Canaanite god of death? Who’s open mouth tried to swallow up everything? And now his buddy the king of the dead, who is also identified with Resheph and his poison stinging arrows? So now, this next verse will make sense, because these two deities, or fallen sons of God, death and the land of the dead (Sheol) and the ruler of Sheol always are with each other.
I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from Death. Where, O Death, are your plagues? Where, O Sheol, is your sting?Hosea 13:14
54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come to pass: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”1 Corinthians 15:54-55
What Does This Mean
The important thing to know here is this. No matter how hungry death is, no matter how vast his and the king of the underworld’s domain is, YHWH still has power over both. Death and Hades even though let loose from their pit and kill on an unimaginable scale, their victory will be and in fact, has already been taken from them. For the believer, these horsemen are not to be feared, but we should realize this battle is being fought in the spiritual realm with consequences in our physical world and everyone will be called to take a side of one of these horsemen.
If you see, this last horse has all the weapons of the previous riders, to me, this is evidence that this rider is the actual king over the others. And this rider and his partner is the original rebel from the garden, who wanted to be like God, so God made him the god of the dead. This entity that stole the earth and our lives from us by leading us into a divine and human rebellion will be overturned, and in fact, has already has been, because the earth has been given to God’s Christ, and the power of death has no power over us anymore.
We see all throughout the Hebrew Bible where God brings “Sword”, “Famine” and “Pestilence” ( The Four Horsemen) on Israel because they had turned from him, he now sends these throughout the world to bring the whole world into submission, not just Israel this time. This is what John saw, he saw God send out his riders on the world, just as he most likely had read in his Hebrew Bible the events that had happened before to bring Israel into submission.
A Horse Is A Horse
Horses were for warriors, warriors rode horses while kings rode donkeys. Donkeys were worth more than a horse for several reasons, they were the backbone of trade, not camels, and they were symbols of royalty. Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem on a horse, as a warrior and conquer, but on a donkey, but we see in the book of revelation he is riding a white horse and has with him the sword of truth. He will ride out against both the kings of the physical earth, but more importantly the kings, rulers, and principalities of the earth, that is the spiritual rulers of the earth, he comes back as King, Conquerer, and Victor. He will subdue the earth, and the four horsemen, as well as the most ancient of his enemies, which we have not talked about, but perhaps will be my next piece.
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- 2Handy, Lowell (1995). The Appearance of the Pantheon in Judah in The Triumph of Elohim. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans. pp. 40