Double Trouble -- By: Meredith G. Kline

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 32:2 (Jun 1989)
Article: Double Trouble
Author: Meredith G. Kline

Double Trouble

Meredith G. Kline*

If we speak of the double of something, we might have in mind either twice its amount or its twin. A similar ambiguity in certain Biblical words usually rendered “double” has caused interpreters trouble, in part because they have not recognized the presence of the ambiguity or at least have not always reckoned sufficiently with the translation option of “equivalent” or “matching image” rather than “twofold.” The most important issue that turns up in an examination of this matter is a theological question concerning God’s justice. Through a mishandling of the troublesome “double” words the equity of the divine justice has been beclouded. We will make that theological issue the focus of this study, subordinating the lexical investigation to it. Of the lexical items, primary attention will be given to Hebrew ka…pal (verb)/kepel (noun), but we will also deal with the other “double” terms that figure in passages involving the alleged double divine punishment—namely, Hebrew mis̆neh and Greek diploō (verb)/diplous (adjective).

I. Kepel In Isaiah 40

In Isaiah 40 assurance is given that God’s people may expect the coming of the Glory of Yahweh to them (vv 3 if.), his reward with him and his recompense before him (v 10), because payment for their sins has been completed (v 2). By virtue of the full satisfaction of the debt of their iniquity, which had incurred alienation from the Lord and separation from his Presence, the way was now open to restoration. Verse 2 underscores the fact that the punishment for Jerusalem’s covenant-breaking has been meted out in full by expressing it in three synonymous statements. The third of these contains the noun kepel (dual form) and is usually (mis)translated: “She has received from the hand of Yahweh double for all her sins.”

To solve the problem of this apparent imbalance in the scales of divine justice, with two talents of punishment loaded on one side for each talent of sin on the other, resort has been had to various expedients. Some, assuming that the Babylonian exile is the episode in view, suggest that Israel in exile suffered for the sins of the Gentiles as well as paying for their own. But this solves one problem by replacing it with another, for a

* Meredith G. Kline...

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