These are the famous McCaughey septuplets
It is often alleged in our society that the population is getting too big. It is alleged that there is not enough food to feed all the people of the world, and that we should therefore have smaller families. This pernicious idea is contrary to the express commands of Scripture. It is also completely untrue that there are too many people in the world. For one thing, if you were to give everyone an area of 1 ½ square feet such that no one would touch anyone else, you could fit the entire world’s population within half of the area of Jacksonville, Florida. Furthermore, if you wanted to give everyone a decent amount of living space, like, say, one thousand square feet, which is far more than most people in the world have, you could still fit the entire world’s population within Kansas and Nebraska, with a small portion of South Dakota added to it. The land mass of the world is 99.7% uninhabited. As to food, Iowa alone could feed the entire world perpetually by itself. As to the idea that we should have smaller families, let us see who would not be alive if people had stopped having children after the third baby (that is, who had adopted our modern ideas of family): of musicians, we would not have Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schumann, Wagner, Grieg, Faure, Caruso, or Copland. Of famous Christians, we would not have Augustine, Bonhoeffer, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Dwight L. Moody, Corrie ten Boom, Ulrich Zwingli, or Cornelius Van Til. Of American Presidents, we would not have Washington, Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Pierce, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, or Taft. The only president to be an only child was Gerald Ford. All other presidents came from larger families. 18 presidents came from families who had 4 or more children, and who were fourth in line or later. Fully thirty U.S. Presidents all told came from families of four or more children. People today will tell you that if you have more children, then the intelligence of each child will get less and less as you go on down the line. Well, Bach was 8th in his family, Beethoven was 5th, Mozart was 7th. All three were absolute geniuses. So how do these facts relate to our passage today?
God blessed humanity. Then He told them to multiply and fill the earth. Furthermore, God told them to exercise dominion over the creation. Put in a nutshell, this verse 28 gives us what is called the cultural mandate. We are supposed to rule the earth like God rules the earth.
The first element of that cultural mandate is reproduction. Earlier in Genesis we saw how God’s blessing on the fish actually enabled the fish to reproduce at an amazing rate. So also here, when God blesses humanity, the blessing that God gives is not some kind of wish. Rather, it is command and fulfillment simultaneously. When God blesses, He actually gives the ability to perform what He commands.
Humanity is told to fill the earth. It is a simple command. However, when the Fall occurred, we did not want to fill the earth. The tower of Babel incident indicates that people always want to converge on one spot, so as to challenge God in the heavens. Instead of scattering and filling the earth, mankind wanted to congregate in small areas. So God confused the languages of people. Have you ever thought about the fact that language problems today are entirely due to the fact that humanity did not want to fill the earth?
But how does this apply to us today? Well, when Jesus came to earth, He started something new. He started a spiritual kingdom which was to multiply and fill the earth. This kingdom of God did not annul the cultural mandate here in Genesis one. Rather, it adds to it a new dimension of godliness. If you will, the “cultural mandate” of the this new kingdom is given to us in Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” But Jesus’ command does not annul God’s command to multiply and fill the earth. Now, we must multiply and fill the earth with Christians. What better way to evangelize than to raise up missionaries in our own homes?
Dominion over the earth is the second aspect of God’s blessing and command. There are two parts to man’s dominion over creation: dominion over the earth, sea, and sky firstly, and secondly, dominion over the animal world. The first aspect includes science, agriculture, astronomy, and all forms of travel. We are to master these things. We are not merely to sit by so as to worship nature. We are to subdue it, making it a habitable place for human beings, and keeping it that way. Any profession that engages in this aspect of dominion is an honorable profession. Even garbage collection fulfills this aspect of the cultural mandate. The second aspect of dominion gave us trouble, however. We were supposed to rule over the animal world. Instead, when Satan came in the form of a serpent, we let the animal world rule over us. Instead of ejecting Satan from the garden, we let Satan in so that we were the ones who wound up getting expelled from the garden. As a result of failing in this aspect of dominion, God took away the ease with which we were able to carry out the first aspect of dominion over the earth, sea, and sky. No longer, would we be able easily to get crops to grow. It would always be difficult. Because we allowed the hierarchy of nature to be turned up-side down in one aspect, (namely, of animals) God turned it upside-down in the other aspect (of the earth itself).
That is another problem that Jesus came to correct. Jesus re-established control over the entire world. All of Jesus’ nature miracles proved that He had regained that dominion over the creation that Adam had lost by his fall into sin. Now, if we believe in Christ, we are heirs to the entire world. When the world is re-created, we shall be rulers indeed over the face of the earth, because we shall participate in that rule over creation that Jesus Christ now exercises. So, we must believe in Jesus Christ, if we are ever to regain that dominion that God intended for us to have. That is true power over the creation: to believe in the one who actually has the true power over creation. The lion will lie down with the lamb, and the child will play with the cobra. There will be no more harm done in that new era that awaits us.
One thing it might be worth our while to examine briefly is the food that God gave to the entire world to eat. Now, in the Ancient Near East, it was thought that mankind was created in order to serve food to the gods. Moses here says instead that God provided food for mankind. So what is this food? From verses 29-30, it is quite plain that every animal on the face of the earth ate vegetables and fruit as their diet. Man and animal were not allowed to eat meat until after the Flood, when God said to man, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. As I gave the green plants, I give you everything.” But in the beginning, it was not so. Animals and man were only vegetarians, much as I hate to admit it. However, after the Flood, God gave us explicit permission to eat meat. Therefore, it is false that vegetarianism is the only Biblical way to eat. We may eat meat. However, I have a suspicion that meat will not be eaten when God renews the world, since there will no longer be death in the world.
So what does this mean for us in our world as Christians? First of all, what do we think of the family? All too often, we think of children as invasions of our comfort zone. Women especially think of children as obstacles to get around, rather than that which they should most desire. But as the cultural commentator Christopher Lasch said, “When money becomes the universal measure of value, then motherhood, which after all is unpaid labor, will come to bear the stigma of social inferiority.” What Lasch is saying is that when we value money more than anything else, then our decisions will be dictated solely in terms of how much money we can shovel into our bank account. Motherhood does not shovel money into the bank-account. Therefore, women should not be mothers, is how the argument goes. But Genesis here completely contradicts this way of thinking. If we are to multiply and fill the earth, then motherhood is the very highest calling that a woman can take on herself. There is nothing more important than raising children. Not only are you obeying God’s command in Genesis, but you are also obeying the Great Commission in Matthew to fill the earth with Christians. But also think about the fact that a career is a temporary thing: raising children has eternal consequences; a career might make you rich (except for the fact that the government taxes double-income families far more even in proportion than single-income families), whereas raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will make you rich with God. Titus 2:3-5 is very unpopular in Christian and non-Christian circles. It says this, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.” Women, does this text not say that if you are working outside the home and have small children, you are outside the will of God? Of course, this text addresses married women. Unmarried women who are forced to work while having children are to be much pitied and are to be cared for by the church. But married women, especially with small children, are to stay home with the children. That is not a trap. It is the highest calling to which it is possible for a woman to aspire. The wife of Jonathan Edwards was Sarah Edwards. They had quite a few children. Because Sarah stayed home with them, and did not work outside the home, their children and descendants have been extremely important in the life of America. Out of 1400 descendants located, 13 were college presidents, 65 professors of colleges, 100 lawyers plus a dean of a law school, 30 judges, 66 physicians plus a dean of a medical school, 80 holders of public office, 3 US senators, 3 mayors of large cities, governors of three states, one US vice-president, and one controller of the US treasury. And this study was done in 1900. Women, if you want power, think of Sarah Edwards. A career will only last so long. Money will only last so long. Raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord will have amazing consequences both in this life, and in the life to come.
Our understanding of this passage then throws into sharp relief the horrors of abortion, genocide, euthanasia, murder, and even hate. All these terrible things go in exactly the opposite direction from God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.
Furthermore, we should deplore our culture’s separation of sexual intercourse from procreation. Now, as long as it is in the context of marriage, there is nothing wrong with marital intercourse for the purpose of pleasure. However, that should not distract us from the fact that the primary reason for marital intercourse is procreation. Our culture uses birth-control, the pill, condoms, any thing that it can in order to be able to have the pleasure of sex without the consequences. They have taught us that getting pregnant is one of the very worst things that can happen to a married woman. Of course, the availability of the pill, condoms, and other forms of birth control also means that teenagers who are unmarried feel that they can engage in intercourse without the fear of getting pregnant. They are taught in the public schools (with our tax dollars!) that sex is safe as long as you use these forms of birth control. Well, all these forms of birth control are flawed. They do not work all the time. They are not a protection. The only safe way is abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness to your spouse after marriage. We should not separate sexual intercourse from procreation.