The Command to Be Fruitful and Multiply

In Genesis 1:27-28 we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

One of my seminary professors rendered the “be fruitful and multiply” part of this passage as “have sex and have lots of it.” We all laughed, but he was right. This must be understood as being within the bounds of marriage, but it is nonetheless a command. Of course there is more meaning attached to “be fruitful and multiply” than simply having lots of sex with your spouse. As the notes in my ESV Study Bible explain, “This motif recurs throughout Genesis in association with divine blessing (see 9:1,7; 17:20, 28:3; 35:11; 48:4) and serves as the basis of the biblical view that raising faithful children is part of God’s creation plan for mankind. God’s creation plan is that the whole earth be populated by those who know him and who serve wisely as his vice-regents or representatives.”

Steph and I recently had a date night where we watched the movie Courageous. In case you’re wondering, I would highly recommend that movie to you, which is now on DVD. Anyway, there is a quote in the movie where one of the guys (talking to another guy) says, “Any fool can have a child.” His point was that father’s need to take responsibility for their children. It’s one thing to have a child, but it is another thing to take responsibility for him and to raise him in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6).

Throughout the bible, children are consistently seen as being a blessing from God (for example Psalm 127:3). But with blessing comes responsibility. Christian parents, with the support of their church family, have the task of raising children to be worshippers of the living God. No parent would say this is easy, but it is rewarding. Along the way, we will desperately need the grace of God and the support of the people of God, but this will only serve to build our faith as God supplies our every need.

I don’t think God’s instructions in Genesis 1 for the human race get the kind of attention they deserve. “Be fruitful and multiply” is indeed a command, but it’s also a precious blessing. We would do well do encourage young couples and families to take to heart these important words and to support them in whatever way we can, in order that we might see the world filled with people who love and follow Jesus.

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