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:
15. Si bestiam malam transire fecero per terram, et orbaverit eam, et fuerit vastitas ut nemo transeat propter bestiam.1
16. Though these three men were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
16. Tres viri isti in medio ejus, vivo ego, dicit Dominator Iehovah, si filios et filias liberabunt: ipsi soli liberabuntur, et terra erit in vastitatem.
Now he mentions the second kind of punishment. For we said that God's four scourges were here brought before us, which are more familiarly known to men through frequent use. They are hunger and wild beasts, war and pestilence. The Prophet has spoken of famine; he now comes down to wild beasts. This kind of scourge is rarely used in Scripture; for God more frequently mentions the sword, pestilence, and famine; but when he distinctly treats, of his scourges, he adds also savage beasts. Now therefore he says, if he had sent wild beasts to lay waste the land, and Noah, Job, and Daniel, had been in that land, they would be free from the common slaughter, but that their righteousness would not profit others. He expresses a little more clearly what he had spoken briefly and obscurely when he treated of the famine. If, says he, I shall cause an evil beast to pass through and injure the land, so as to lay it waste, that no one may pass through on account of the wild beasts, as I live, says he, if these three men shall free their sons and their daughters. This passage teaches what I lately touched upon about the famine, namely, that the beasts did not break in by chance to attack and rage against men, but that they are sent by God. Thus God follows out his judgments no less by means of lions, and bears, and tigers, than by rain and drought, the sword and the pestilence: and surely this may be understood, if we reflect upon the great savageness of these beasts; first, when hunger arouses them they are carried along by a ravenous impulse; and then, without the compulsion of necessity, they are hostile to the human race, and without doubt they would urge themselves on to tear to pieces all whom they met with, unless restrained by God's secret instinct. If, therefore, God restrains the wild beasts, thus also he sends them forth as often as it pleases him, to exercise their ferocity against mankind, and in this way to become his scourges. But here an oath is interposed that God may inspire confidence in his sentence, so God swears by his own life. This is the meaning of the phrase as I live; that is, I swear by my life. This is indeed spoken improperly, but elsewhere we have seen that God swears by his life; that is, just as if he swore by himself, because he has no greater by whom he can swear, as the Apostle says (Hebrews 6:13); and as often as we swear by the name of God we attribute the supreme power to him, and thus we profess our life to be in his hand, and he to be our only Judge. When, therefore, he swears by himself, he admonishes us at the same time that his name is profaned if we swear by any others: then he shows how much religion is to be exhibited in oaths. Let us follow, therefore, God's example, when our speech needs confirmation, by calling in a witness and judge: next, that we should not use his name rashly and falsely, but that our oath should be truly a testimony to our piety. But here in truth a question arises, -- How God can say that the land should perish which has been once subjected to wild beasts? For sometimes wild beasts have infected many regions, and God has immediately restrained them, and so their cruelty has passed away like a storm.
Again, we knew that the prayer of the saints are not superfluous when they pray for others; but God seems here to deny what is clearly manifest. But the solution is easy. For since he does not inflict his judgments equably but variably, and at one time hastens punishments and at another suspends them: at one time punishes men's sins and at another delays doing so, he fixes for himself no sure law by which he is always bound, but he speaks of the land which he has destined to destruction. God therefore will strike one region with famine, another with war, a third with pestilence, a fourth with wild beasts, and yet he can mitigate his own rigor, and when men begin to be terrified, he can withdraw his hand. But if it has been once decreed that any land must perish, all the saints would run together in vain, because no one would be a fit intercessor to abolish that inviolable decree. We now understand the Prophet's intention, for he does not speak generally of any lands whatever, but he points out the very land which was devoted to final destruction. It follows --
1 That is "beasts," for there is a change of number. -- Calvin.
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