For a very special reason, I’ve been meditating lately on something that God said to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Have you ever wondered what he meant when he told them to ‘be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth?’
I’ve often presumed those words meant some sort of environmental advice: trying not to leave this world without replacing yourself…at least! Some say ‘that’s none of God’s business!’ And there are thinking people who believe the earth’s population is too large already. They ask how God would work it out in practice, when many countries have poverty on a large scale, hardly any resources to provide for their people, and war ravaging their land? Parts of the world have abundant riches but the citizens restrict the size of their families and the statistics show no growth.
My parents had four children. Recently I added up their descendants and wondered how many would come to a family reunion if we held one. That’s part of the reason why I was thinking about this topic.
To satisfy my curiosity about God’s words to our first ancestors, I checked the Bible – the best place to look when we want to know what God said about anything. You might guess I made a couple of significant discoveries…as usual!
Here’s how several different translations put those words that I quoted briefly at the beginning. I used the one from the old Authorised Bible (more well-known these days as the King James Version), but other people have translated the same words into more modern language.
The New International Version gives it this way: Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.
The Good News Bible has slightly different words: Have many children so that your descendants will live over the earth and bring it under their control.
And here’s an even more modern one from The Message Bible: Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
When I re-read the whole story at the beginning of the Bible, I saw something I’d never noticed before. God said the same thing to the birds and the fish! All translations are basically the same, but there was still something more that I’d missed in the story. Each time God spoke those words, whether to fish, birds or humans, we’re told what those words were. I don’t mean the actual words, of course, but the value of them. That pulled me up! I’d never noticed that either!
They’re not a command. That’s right! When God told them to prosper, reproduce, fill the earth and take charge…he was giving them a blessing!
Let’s see what effect that might have on our interpretation of God’s words. Forget about the environment idea; God had bigger plans. In light of my parents’ legacy, I saw that he was giving his creation something important. More important than many of us realise. Right at the start, he was saying that family is a blessing. Being a family, living as a family, participating with God in the creation of a family is a wonderful blessing!
And if you’re wondering what that special reason is that I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ll tell you now. My parents’ descendants now number 30 precious people, but very soon they’ll add up to 31, as well as every partner, and they’re all family!
Our eldest grandchild and her husband are expecting the birth of their first baby any day now. In fact, I was hoping he’d be born before I wrote this post! He’ll be our first great-grandchild! God knew how much we would enjoy being fruitful! What a blessing!!