Multiplying in the OT

The Garden

One of God’s first instructions to mankind was for us to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Yet, the Bible treats this more as a blessing than a command—something that would be a joy to fulfill. In fact, producing children is one of the privileges of being made in God’s image, as we share in his work of creating a living, eternal soul (Gen. 1:26-28).

But instead of subduing the earth, Adam and Eve were subdued by it. Enticed by a piece of fruit and tricked by a snake, they sinned and deserved to die before ever having children. God could have immediately wiped out the human race; but he still wanted to fulfill His blessing. He graciously tells them that with the consequences of their sin, including death and pain and hard work, he would also give Eve a seed, a son who would crush the serpent’s head and conquer sin and death. So as Eve went through the pain and labor of her first childbirth, she must have strengthened herself by knowing this was an undeserved blessing of God, and that this child might even be her deliverer.

When Cain was born, Eve joyfully declared, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord!” (4:1). Unfortunately, Cain revealed that he was not the promised deliverer. But Eve knew that God would keep his promise, and she soon gave birth to Seth. God later preserved the line of Seth by saving Noah and his family from the great flood that destroyed all flesh. After they came out of the ark, God blessed them again: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). Again, this was more a blessing than a duty.

Abraham & Israel

Then the blessing carried on to Abraham. God promised that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the sea shore, and that all nations would be blessed through them. Few people today understand this blessing of innumerable offspring. But recently I talked to a 93-year-old African grandmother who boasted to me about her “many” grandchildren. When I asked her how many, she gave me a huge one-toothed smile, threw up her hands, and laughed—too many to keep count! She may be living in a little township home, but, according to God, she is a rich lady. Abraham was even richer because he knew that his descendants would love God and be a blessing to the world.

We too can be assured that God still loves to multiply godly descendants by blessing faithful parenting (Exod. 20:6; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 102:25-28; 103:17-18; 128:1-4; Prov. 20:7; 31:28; Luke 1:50; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14). As Psalm 112 says, “Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed.