16. When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread:
16. Cum emisero sagittas famis malas in ipsos, quae erunt in perditionem, quas jaculabor in ipsos ad perdendum eos: et famem addam contra eos, et confringam ipsis baculum panis.
He illustrates the sentiment which we have seen, but not after the manner of rhetoricians, who affect splendor and ornament of speech; but his only design was to penetrate the minds of the people, like stones or iron. This, then, is the reason why he uses such variety here, and adorns his teaching with various figures. For he now compares God to an archer, who points his arrows against them; but he speaks metaphorically concerning the arrows of God; for he calls them arrows of famine and evil, that is, deadly and death-bearing. Since, then, I shall hurl evil arrows against them, they shall cause their destruction, says he; that is, they shall not escape death, because they shall be struck with mortal wounds. A person might be struck by the blow of an arrow, and yet become convalescent; but God pronounces the arrows of which he speaks deadly, so that whoever is struck by them has no hope of safety left. Besides, by arrows of famine we may understand such barrenness of soil as flies, locusts, and other scourges of God -- at one time scorching, at another mildew dries up the corn-field, now rains make the wheat rot, now heat burns it up, as many sources of corruption and pestilence as these are to the crops, so many are the arrows of God which transfix men's hearts, and that too by a deadly wound. If so subtle an explanation does not please any one, he is at liberty to take it otherwise; yet if any one properly attends, he will confess that God darts his own arrows as often as he causes famine, or deprives men of sustenance. He adds, which shall become corruption He confirms what we said was denoted by the epithet hrym, hergnim. He says, therefore, that these arrows would be destructive, because they should be for perdition and destruction. Another confirmation follows: which I will send, says he, against them to destroy them Here God distinctly affirms that he would dart forth those arrows, and repeats again what we saw before, and that, too, in the same verse. But we have taught you why the Prophet insists, in many words, on a matter by no means obscure. He adds, and I will multiply famine against them. Here he signifies that he was armed with different weapons, so that if men perceive themselves to have fallen, they may perceive that God has other hidden weapons, which he has not yet brought into use. By the word |multiply| the Prophet expresses what we have already seen, by means of arrows, for he uses the plural number, but the impious restrict as much as they can the power of God. |If God wills| they say, |he can indeed ruin the corn-fields with continual rain, he can also burn them up by too much heat, if we have escaped the frost and the hail, the storm, and the rain., and the drought, it will have already gone well with us.| Thus the impious harden themselves in their security. And why? because they restrict God's arrows to a fixed and certain number. This is the reason why he says, I will multiply famine upon them; that is, when they think their yearly produce safe, because they have escaped drought, and rain, and mildew, and storm, and hail, I will find, says he, other modes unknown to them, by which I will bring famine upon them. And he expresses one manner of doing so -- I will break the staff of bread, concerning which form of speaking we have spoken previously. I do not subscribe to their opinion who say, that the staff of bread is broken when God sends a deficiency of corn; for in the greatest plenty the staff of bread is broken, as we saw in Moses, when God takes away the nourishing quality of bread, and makes it vanish, (Deuteronomy 8:3,) because man lives not by bread alone, but by that secret inspiration which God has implanted in the bread. Hence we may eat more than fourfold the usual quantity, and yet not be satisfied, as this form of speech often occurs with the Prophets, which they take from Moses. Thou shalt eat, and not be satisfied, say they. (Leviticus 26:26; Isaiah 9:20; Ezekiel 7; Hosea 4:10; Micah 6:14.) So also here the Prophet repeats what we saw in the last chapter -- that God breaks the staff of bread, that is, takes away its nourishing quality, so that he who feeds upon it does not feel that he has recovered new rigor. It follows --