Manifold Punishment


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Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Justice would seem to dictate that people never get punished more than deserved.  As such, several verses which appear to suggest that, at times, the nation actually gets more than its fair share of retribution are somewhat disturbing.  For instance, in the rebuke of Vayikra 26, Hashem repeats four times:1

וְאִם עַד אֵלֶּה לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּ לִי וְיָסַפְתִּי לְיַסְּרָה אֶתְכֶם שֶׁבַע עַל חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם.
And if ye will not yet for these things hearken unto Me, then I will chastise you seven times more for your sins.

A simple understanding of this verse suggests that Hashem is warning the nation that if they continue to sin, they will get a seven-fold punishment, i.e. seven times what their crimes warrant. 

In Yeshayahu 40, we similarly read:

(א) נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ עַמִּי יֹאמַר אֱלֹהֵיכֶם. (ב) דַּבְּרוּ עַל לֵב יְרוּשָׁלַ‍ִם וְקִרְאוּ אֵלֶיהָ כִּי מָלְאָה צְבָאָהּ כִּי נִרְצָה עֲוֺנָהּ כִּי לָקְחָה מִיַּד י"י כִּפְלַיִם בְּכׇל חַטֹּאתֶיהָ.
(1) Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, Saith your God. (2) Bid Jerusalem take heart, And proclaim unto her, That her time of service is accomplished, That her guilt is paid off; That she hath received of the Lord's hand Double for all her sins.

The prophet comforts the nation, telling them that their punishment is finally complete, for they have already paid double for their iniquities. Why, though would Hashem have made Israel suffer disproportionately for her sins?  Is that not unjust?

The Context

The two verses discussed above have very different contexts.  Vayikra 26 is replete with rebuke and warnings for disobedience, while Yeshayahu 40 is a prophecy of comfort.  The former constitutes a threat of potential punishment, while the latter speaks of punishment already received. Though neither chapter is explicit regarding the specific sins which will merit / merited the manifold punishment,  Vayikra speaks of general disobedience and repeat offenses, and alludes to the non-observance of the Sabbatical year laws.  Yeshayahu, in contrast, is totally silent on the issue.2 Can the varying contexts of the verses shed any light on the theological question raised above?  Is manifold punishment limited to specific circumstances or to certain crimes (perhaps those of a repeat offender, as might be gleaned from Vayikra)?

Related Philosophical Issues

The problem of manifold punishment is related to several other philosophical issues: