Is “multiply and replenish the earth” one commandment, or two?
Actually, there are a lot of admonitions in Genesis 1:28:
“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.”
However, “multiply and replenish” seems to be the key points (see Julie’s post for various statements from church leaders emphasizing those two elements).
So, is “multiply and replenish” a single command, or two? In particular, what are we required to do in the replenishing department?
Is it enough simply to bear children? Does the act of childbearing itself, adding physical human bodies to the planet, constitute sufficient replenishment of the earth? In other words, is “replenish” swallowed up by “multiply”?
Or, is there a separate injunction to replenish? That no matter how many children we have — no matter how much we succeed on the “multiply” front — we fail this task, if we are not taking steps to replenish the Earth?
On the one hand, I think that the vastly more common reading among church members is that the replenish language is not a separate commandment; it is mere surplusage, or perhaps a description of the effects of multiplying; and thus, the only real duty is to multiply. If one multiplies, the replenishing of the earth will happen automatically.
On the other hand, that interpretation does not seem to be required by the text — and it raises a few questions. It _is_ phrased in the imperative, as a command. (Isn’t it? If this is different in the original, how?) Why would God — in the very first recorded words to man — start off with a long, winding bit of surplusage?
Of course, if replenish is indeed a separate command, why hasn’t this been clarified earlier? One possible reason is that the meaning of the dual commandment may shift as the relationship between people and planet shifts. The original commandment was given in Adam’s time — pristine environment everywhere, with only two people on earth. At that time, the two commandments may have been logically yoked. But that doesn’t mean that this link continues into our time, with 6 billion people on the planet, sundry forms of pollution, and so on. It seems quite possible that at some point, as the condition of the planet deteriorates, “replenish the earth” becomes a separate and distinct duty.
If we are required to take separate steps to replenish the earth — what might those steps be?
Is it enough to plant a garden? Or are we being commanded to do more? Just how much earth-replenishing are we committed to? Should we be composting? (How much?) Eating locally grown food? (But what about the gorgonzola?) Planting (non-invasive) trees? Eating meat only sparingly or in times of winter? Driving a Prius? Freecycling?
Is composting really as much of a duty as childbearing?
[Note: This post is about the _replenish_ side of the equation. If you want to talk about the _multiply_ side, go do it on Julie’s thread.]