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E8. Being Fruitful & Multiplying in Number & in Fruitfulness.    [Make a Comment]

We are to be fruitful and multiply in number and in fruitfulness.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Genesis 1:27-28 (Maimonides RP212; Meir MP43; Chinuch C1)
So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. God blessed them: God said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.

Genesis 9:1
God blessed Noach and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth."

Genesis 9:7
And you people, be fruitful, multiply, swarm on the earth and multiply on it.

Acts 6:1a
Around this time, when the number of talmidim was growing

Acts 7:17
As the time drew near for the fulfillment of the promise God had made to Avraham, the number of our people in Egypt increased greatly,

Acts 9:31
Then the Messianic community throughout Y'hudah, the Galil and Shomron enjoyed peace and was built up. They lived in the fear of the Lord, with the counsel of the Ruach HaKodesh; and their numbers kept multiplying.

Acts 12:24
But the word of the Lord went on growing and being multiplied.

Supportive Scriptures

Genesis 35:10-11
God said to him, "Your name is Ya'akov, but you will be called Ya'akov no longer; your name will be Isra'el." Thus he named him Isra'el. God further said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation, indeed a group of nations, will come from you; kings will be descended from you."

Colossians 1:3-6
Whenever we pray, we always give thanks for you to God, the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. For we have heard of your trust in the Messiah Yeshua and of the love you have for all God's people. Both spring from the confident hope that you will receive what is stored up for you in heaven. You heard of this earlier in the message about the truth. This Good News has made its presence felt among you, just as it is also being fruitful and multiplying throughout the world in the same way as it has among you since the day you heard and understood the grace of God as it really is.

Colossians 1:9-10
Therefore, from the day we heard of it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all the wisdom and understanding which the Spirit gives; so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him, being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God.

Supportive Scriptures - Multiplying Creatures

Genesis 1:20-22
God said, "Let the water swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open dome of the sky." God created the great sea creatures and every living thing that creeps, so that the water swarmed with all kinds of them, and there was every kind of winged bird; and God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful, multiply and fill the water of the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."

Genesis 8:16-17
"Go out from the ark, you, your wife, your sons and your son's wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing you have with you - birds, livestock and every animal that creeps on the earth - so that they can swarm on the earth, be fruitful and multiply on the earth."


The first part of Genesis 1:28 states: "God blessed them: God said to them, 'Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth ...'" Notice that the commandment to "be fruitful" in Genesis 1:28 comes before the command to "multiply," and that the rest of the verse:

and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, the birds in the air and every living creature that crawls on the earth.

instructs us that we have an obligation to produce value from our multiplied numbers - in other words, disseminate our fruitfulness.

The agricultural analogy is that fruit comes first and contains the seeds from which reproduction or multiplication of the plant occurs. Then, the more multiplication the more the fruit, so it is an unending cycle.

We see God's expectation that we multiply (increase) in fruitfulness elsewhere in Scripture as well. In Genesis 35:10-11, for example, God repeats his commandment to Israel (Jacob) to multiply, but God also says that a nations and kings will be descended from him, implying that Israel's descendants will have functions to fulfill with their numbers. Of course we know from Exodus 19:6 that one of the areas of Israel's fruitfulness is that it is destined to "be a kingdom of cohanim" - "a nation set apart."

In Acts 9:31, when we are told that the Messianic Community multiplied in number, it is not to inform us of their reproductive fertility, but of the fact that belief in Yeshua spread throughout the area. Similarly, Colossians 1:6 speaks of the Good News "being fruitful and multiplying", and Colossians 1:10 speaks of "being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God." It appears clear that God's desire for Israel and for all of mankind is that we multiply (increase) in both number and fruitfulness.

Now a word about reproduction and marriage. The Genesis commandment to multiply was given after man was created to be male and female, but prior to God having made Eve (Genesis 2:18-24). Although reproduction was not mentioned in the context of marriage, after God made Eve, He caused her and Adam to become "one flesh" (verse 24) and, since then, God intended reproduction between man and woman to be only in the context of covenant marriage. Reproduction is so implicitly part of the marriage covenant, that a party who refuses to bear children against the wishes of his or her mate may well be ruled to have abandoned the marriage covenant.

The controversy regarding the use of birth control measures by consenting married persons cannot be definitively resolved within this Mitzvah. I do, however, express my opinion that methods of birth control that do not kill or abort fetuses are permitted because (1) Scripture allows unmarried persons to avoid having children by remaining single (Matthew 9:12; 1 Corinthians 7:8), and (2) in Paul's warning to married persons that they should not deprive each other of sexual relations (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), the reason he gives is not that deprivation violates a commandment to reproduce, but rather "because of your lack of self-control, you may succumb to the Adversary's temptation."1 And then, Paul follows up in verse 6 with: "I am giving you this as a suggestion, not as a command." I deduce from this that since agreed-to abstinence between married persons is not a sin, so neither is preventing conception through other non-lethal means.

Finally, Genesis 1:28 requires that mankind, as a species, reproduce, but it does not command that all persons or couples reproduce. Certainly unmarried persons should not, persons with certain medical conditions cannot, and there may be some that God specifically calls to remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8).

1. See also, Exodus 21:7-11 (Maimonides RN262; Meir MN42; Chinuch C46)

Classical Commentators

In his mitzvah RP212, Maimonides states that we are to marry in order to multiply, and he cites Yebamoth 65b of the Talmud to support his assertion that the duty to be fruitful and multiply applies to men and not women. Meir does not state that it is only the man's duty, but implies it by framing his mitzvah MP43 to address only the man. HaChinuch is consistent with Maimonides and Meir and also cites Yebamoth 6. None of the classical commentators treat being fruitful and multiplying as other than marrying and reproducing.


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