(Isa. 40:2) Why does God punish them “double” for their sins?

CLAIM: Isaiah writes that God punishes the Jews “double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:2). Was God punishing them in an unfair way?

RESPONSE: This is a figure of speech meant to give comfort—not cruelty. When we read the context, God is comforting the people with this passage (“‘Comfort, O comfort My people,’ says your God” v.1). By claiming that they have paid “double” for their sins, God is saying that they shouldn’t worry about their former payment. This would be similar to owing a mobster 50,000 dollars, and your wealthy friend pays him 100,000 just to be sure. This would be comforting to know that your debt was fully paid (and then some). Grogan holds that this is “hyperbole” to describe God’s full forgiveness.[1]

[1] Grogan, G. W. (1986). Isaiah. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel (Vol. 6, p. 242). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.