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Be fruitful and multiply

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"Adam and Eve" by Ephraim Moshe Lilien, 1923

In Judaism, Christianity, and some other Abrahamic religions, the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" (referred to as the "creation mandate" in some denominations of Christianity) is the divine injunction which forms part of Genesis 1:28, in which God, after having created the world and all in it, ascribes to humankind the tasks of filling, subduing, and ruling over the earth.[1][2] The cultural mandate includes the sentence "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth."

The text finds an immediate interpretation in the opening chapter of the book of Exodus as the description of the Israelites in Egypt are alluded to as, "fruitful, increased greatly, multiplied, and extremely strong, so that the land was filled with them."[3]

In Orthodox Judaism, the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply" is interpreted as requiring every couple to have at least a son and a daughter.[4] Other Jewish groups (such as Reform Judaism) and individual Jews have interpreted this mandate differently. For example, Richard Friedman in his Commentary on the Torah (2001) claims that the mandate "be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth" has "been fulfilled."[5] The mandate is elaborated upon in numerous parts of the Talmud, for example in Kidushin.

In the interpretation of some denominations of Christianity, adherents should actively work to fulfill the mandate.[2] Within Christianity in general, the cultural mandate is most elaborately developed in the West by Neo-Calvinism, which explores the implications for modern, pluralistic society, of this Calvinistic assertion.

Despite "be fruitful and multiply" being the most important mitzvah, contraception is permitted in Judaism in appropriate circumstances such as difficult family situations. In instances like these, rabbis may allow women to start contraceptive methods.[6]

Hebrew Bible[edit]

The text of Genesis 1:28 states:

Version Text
Original Hebrew

וַיְבָרֶךְ אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם אֱלֹהִים פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁהָ וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבְכָל חַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל הָאָרֶץ
Wayəḇāreḵ ’ōṯām ’ĕlōhîm, wayyō’mer lāhem ’ĕlōhîm, "Pərû, ûrəḇû, ûmilə’û ’eṯ-hā’āreṣ, wəḵiḇəšuhā; ûrəḏû biḏəg̱aṯ hayyām, ûḇə‘ôp̱ haššāmayim, ûḇəḵāl-ḥayyāh hārōmeśeṯ ‘al-hā’āreṣ."

JPS Tanakh God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”
Everett Fox God blessed them, and God said to them: Bear fruit and be many and fill the earth and subdue it! Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, and all living things that crawl about on the earth![7]
King James Bible And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
New International Version God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
New Living Translation Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground."


The text of surat al-Baqarah 2:187,[8] in the Qur'an, enjoins the listeners (presumably male) to be intimate with their wives and do "that which God has decreed for them", a statement defined by commentators to refer to having children:

Version Text
Original Arabic أُحِلَّ لَكُمْ لَيْلَةَ ٱلصِّيَامِ ٱلرَّفَثُ إِلَىٰ نِسَآئِكُمْ ۚ هُنَّ لِبَاسٌۭ لَّكُمْ وَأَنتُمْ لِبَاسٌۭ لَّهُنَّ ۗ عَلِمَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّكُمْ كُنتُمْ تَخْتَانُونَ أَنفُسَكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَعَفَا عَنكُمْ ۖ فَٱلْـَٔـٰنَ بَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَٱبْتَغُوا۟ مَا كَتَبَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۚ وَكُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَكُمُ ٱلْخَيْطُ ٱلْأَبْيَضُ مِنَ ٱلْخَيْطِ ٱلْأَسْوَدِ مِنَ ٱلْفَجْرِ ۖ ثُمَّ أَتِمُّوا۟ ٱلصِّيَامَ إِلَى ٱلَّيْلِ ۚ وَلَا تُبَـٰشِرُوهُنَّ وَأَنتُمْ عَـٰكِفُونَ فِى ٱلْمَسَـٰجِدِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ ٱللَّهِ فَلَا تَقْرَبُوهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ ١٨٧

Ohilla lakum laylata assiyamiarrafathu ila nisa-ikum hunna libasunlakum waantum libasun lahunna AAalima Allahuannakum kuntum takhtanoona anfusakum fatabaAAalaykum waAAafa AAankum fal-ana bashiroohunnawabtaghoo ma kataba Allahu lakum wakuloo washraboohatta yatabayyana lakumu alkhaytu al-abyadumina alkhayti al-aswadi mina alfajri thumma atimmoo assiyamaila allayli wala tubashiroohunna waantum AAakifoonafee almasajidi tilka hudoodu Allahi falataqrabooha kathalika yubayyinu Allahu ayatihilinnasi laAAallahum yattaqoon

Sahih International It has been made permissible for you the night preceding fasting to go to your wives [for sexual relations]. They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He accepted your repentance and forgave you. So now, have relations with them and seek that which Allah has decreed for you. And eat and drink until the white thread of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]. Then complete the fast until the sunset. And do not have relations with them as long as you are staying for worship in the mosques. These are the limits [set by] Allah, so do not approach them. Thus does Allah make clear His ordinances to the people that they may become righteous.
Muhsin Khan It is made lawful for you to have sexual relations with your wives on the night of As-Saum (the fasts). They are Libas [i.e. body cover, or screen, or Sakan, (i.e. you enjoy the pleasure of living with her - as in Verse 7:189) Tafsir At-Tabari], for you and you are the same for them. Allah knows that you used to deceive yourselves, so He turned to you (accepted your repentance) and forgave you. So now have sexual relations with them and seek that which Allah has ordained for you (offspring), and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn appears to you distinct from the black thread (darkness of night), then complete your Saum (fast) till the nightfall. And do not have sexual relations with them (your wives) while you are in I'tikaf (i.e. confining oneself in a mosque for prayers and invocations leaving the worldly activities) in the mosques. These are the limits (set) by Allah, so approach them not. Thus does Allah make clear His Ayat [revelations, laws, etc.] to mankind that they may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious - see V.2:2).

In popular culture[edit]

Below is a list of some instances where the injunction has been used in modern media, music, and literature.

  • In 1999, the Israeli musical comedy Kuni-Leml released a cast album including a song named after the injunction as track fifteen.[9]
  • In 2005, a documentary by Israeli director Shosh Shlam was produced and named after the injunction.[10]
  • On January 29, 2007, an episode of the American adult television show Moral Orel was named after the injunction.[11]
  • On September 26, 2009, a film based on the American horror author Stephen King's story Children of the Corn released, which depicts a scene referencing the injunction.[12]
  • On October 7, 2011, American gospel singer VaShawn Mitchell released his album "Triumphant" with the song on track eight titled "Be Fruitful," referencing the injunction.[13]
  • On September 10, 2013, an episode of the American reality television show Doomsday Castle was named after the injunction.[14]
  • On November 5, 2023, the final theme for the Japanese anime Attack on Titan titled "To You 2,000... or... 20,000 Years From Now..." included a line referencing the injunction in verse five.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mare, H.W., 1973. The Cultural Mandate and the New Testament Gospel Imperative. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 16, pp. 139–147.
  2. ^ a b Wagner, C. Peter (1998). Church Growth and the Whole Gospel: A Biblical Mandate. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 978-1-57910-201-2.
  3. ^ intertextual.bible/text/genesis-1.28-exodus-1.7
  4. ^ Talmud, b. Yevamot 61b
  5. ^ Friedman, Richard (2001). Commentary on the Torah. Harper.
  6. ^ Isaacs, Ronald H. "Does Judaism Allow Birth Control?". My Jewish Learning. 70/Faces Media. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  7. ^ Fox, Everett (1995). The Five Books of Moses. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN 0-8052-1119-5. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  8. ^ "Qur'an, surat al-Baqarah 2:187". Quran.com. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  9. ^ Jones, Kenneth (September 6, 1999). "OB Musical Comedy, Kuni-Leml, Finally Has a Cast Album". Playbill. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  10. ^ "Be Fruitful and Multiply". IMDb. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  11. ^ ""Moral Orel" Be Fruitful and Multiply". IMDb. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  12. ^ Gonzalez, Alejandra (September 5, 2018). "[King of All Media] Children of the Corn (2009)". dailygrindhouse.com. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  13. ^ "Be Fruitful". Genius. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  14. ^ ""Doomsday Castle" Be Fruitful and Multiply". IMDb. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  15. ^ "二千年... 若しくは... 二万年後の君へ・・・ (Nisennen... Moshiku wa... Nimannen Go no Kimi e)". Genius. Retrieved 23 November 2023.