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How Many Times Does The Phrase “Be Fruitful And Multiply” Appear In The Bible?

The well-known phrase “be fruitful and multiply” has its origins in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Many people are curious to know exactly how many times this phrase appears in the Bible’s pages.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The exact phrase “be fruitful and multiply” appears four times in the Bible.

In this comprehensive article, we will examine the biblical context and meaning behind each occurrence of this iconic phrase. We will study where it first appears and how it is used in later books. Getting down to the details, we will look at the original Hebrew to shed more light on the significance of “be fruitful and multiply”.

The First Occurrence of “Be Fruitful and Multiply”

Context in Genesis Chapter 1

The first mention of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” is found in Genesis 1:28. This occurs within the first creation account, as God blesses the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. After making the heavens, earth, and all living creatures, God’s final act of creation is forming man and woman in His own image.

Once the man and woman are created, God proceeds to bless them, saying “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” This is a command given specifically to Adam and Eve, establishing God’s purpose for humankind from the beginning.

A Command to Adam and Eve

“Be fruitful and multiply” is a positive command and blessing from God to Adam and Eve. As the first two human beings, they are told by God to produce offspring and increase in number. This command connects to God’s previous order to the sea creatures and birds in verse 22, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

However, while it is an instinct for animals to reproduce, for humans there is an additional relational and spiritual dimension. God desires Adam and Eve to flourish in community with one another, bearing His image together through their offspring.

Purpose for Humankind

Within God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” is His broader purpose for humankind. In the preceding verses, God had given Adam and Eve authority over the earth to rule and subdue it (Gen 1:28). Therefore, bearing offspring meant expanding the presence of God’s image and man’s stewardship throughout the world.

As theologian John Walton notes, “Productivity and multiplication imply representing the deity on earth and extending the order of creation” (source). This mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” is later repeated after the Flood to Noah and his family, showing it is an ongoing call for humanity.

Appearing Again in Genesis with Noah

After the Flood

After the devastating Flood, the world needed to be repopulated. God recognized this need and renewed His command to “be fruitful and multiply” with Noah and his family. In Genesis 9:1, God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”

This mirrored the same instruction God had given Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28.

Noah and his family had been spared from the Flood specifically for this purpose – to repopulate the earth. They were righteous in God’s sight (Genesis 6:9) and were chosen to begin humanity again. Just as Adam and Eve were commanded to multiply and fill the earth, now the same command was given to Noah and his family after the Flood.

A Renewed Commandment

The Genesis 9 passage reveals an important truth – God’s original plan for humanity to “be fruitful and multiply” had not changed after the Flood. Despite widespread wickedness on the earth leading to the Flood (Genesis 6:5), God still desired people to spread across the earth, follow His principles, and glorify Him.

This was a renewed opportunity for humanity. Noah and his family had a clean slate and the chance to live righteously before God as Adam and Eve originally had. The divine command to multiply was still in effect. God wanted faithful humans to populate the cleansed earth once more.

Filling the Earth Again

The Genesis 9 account reports that after God commanded Noah to “be fruitful and multiply,” Noah’s sons did just that. The passage lists out Noah’s sons – Shem, Ham, and Japheth – and then goes on to detail their descendants (Genesis 9:18 – 10:32).

This genealogy demonstrates how these sons followed God’s direction and multiplied across the lands.

As Noah’s descendants spread out, they filled territories and established cities and kingdoms. For example, Nimrod, a descendant of Ham, formed the kingdom of Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). The descendants of Shem formed territories in the Far East (Genesis 10:21-32).

Japheth’s descendants settled areas including Greece and Cyprus (Genesis 10:2-5).

Just as God intended, humanity began to “fill the earth again” after the Flood. The command to “be fruitful and multiply” was carried out by Noah’s family as they repopulated the various regions of the world. This showed God’s plan being fulfilled even after massive human failure before the Flood.

Jacob’s Blessing Echoes the Phrase

The blessing that Isaac gives to Jacob in Genesis 28:3 contains clear echoes of the command to “be fruitful and multiply.” As background, Isaac was an aging patriarch who wanted to give a final blessing to his son Jacob before sending him off to find a wife from their extended family. The text says:

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.”

There are a few key phrases that connect back to the well-known Genesis 1 blessing:

  • “Make you fruitful” – This reproduces the language from Genesis 1:28 where God blesses the first humans to “be fruitful and increase in number.”
  • “Increase your numbers” – Another clear callback, using synonymous language.
  • “Become a community of peoples” – This is the end result of dramatically increasing numbers per the blessing.

So although the exact phrase “be fruitful and multiply” is not reproduced word-for-word, Isaac gives Jacob a personalized blessing that has the same meaning. Jacob would take four wives and father 12 sons who formed the 12 tribes of Israel, so the blessing proved to be profoundly true in his life!

God multiplied Jacob’s offspring exponentially, fulfilling His original blessing to Adam and Eve after the Fall.

While there are a few other connections back to Genesis 1 in the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 9:1,7), this blessing by Isaac is one of the strongest and most direct echoes of that foundational command for humanity to propagate across the earth. It remains a common theme woven through Scripture.

The Final Appearance with Jacob’s Brother Esau

The last biblical appearance of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” occurs in Genesis 28:3, when Isaac invokes the blessing over his son Jacob. This appearance holds special significance, as it directly involves Jacob’s brother Esau.

Previously, Isaac had blessed Esau as the firstborn, promising him material prosperity (Genesis 27:28-29). However, Jacob deceived his father to steal the more sacred blessing of progeny and inheritance through trickery.

Understandably, this caused great bitterness between the brothers (Genesis 27:41).

Despite the prior deception, Isaac consciously chooses to pass the Abrahamic blessing of fruitfulness and multiplication to Jacob as well upon his departure to seek a wife (Genesis 28:1-5). This formalizes Jacob as the heir, while also showing Isaac’s desire for reconciliation between his feuding sons.

The blessing serves as a reminder that they are still brothers and equally beloved in the covenant God established with Abraham.

Though Esau understandably feels anger over losing his birthright (Genesis 27:36), Isaac maintaining the blessing over both signifies its ongoing application to all of Abraham’s descendants. As brothers, Jacob and Esau would both see the promise fulfilled in the growth of their descendants into the nations of Israel and Edom respectively (Genesis 25:23).

Therefore, this final bestowal of the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” carries profound theological meaning. It affirms God’s faithfulness across generations from Abraham to Jacob, the continuity of the covenant to all Abraham’s offspring, and the hope of reconciliation even amidst conflict.

The Significance of the Abrahamic Blessing

To comprehend the significance of this instance fully, it helps to examine what the Abrahamic blessing of fruitfulness represented:

  • God’s intent for humanity from creation (Genesis 1:28)
  • A reversing of barrenness to demonstrate His power and fulfill His promises (Genesis 17:16-19)
  • The miraculous development of a great nation in the face of improbability (Genesis 15:5)
  • A perpetual blessing for Abraham’s descendants after him (Genesis 17:7-8)

Therefore, the final bestowal of this phrase conveys that despite Jacob’s prior deception, he would still carry the special covenant relationship with God into the next generation. The Creator would use him mightily, just as with Abraham and Isaac, working reconciliation in the divided family while fulfilling divine promises.

Application for Modern Readers

For modern audiences, this account holds lessons about the power of blessing within families and the hope of redemption amidst dysfunction:

  • Blessing spoken over children and grandchildren still carries weight today
  • We must steward special inherited blessings carefully, not losing sight of their intent
  • Divine covenants and callings transcend human weakness and deception
  • Reconciliation is often the precursor for receiving the fulfillment of blessing

Just as the phrase “be fruitful and multiply” encapsulated blessing for Abraham’s family in their context, we must discover the unique aspects of blessing within our families and faith communities. Understanding the biblical theology empowers us to align our modern blessings with God’s desires to see generational fruitfulness to His glory.

Significance of “Be Fruitful and Multiply”

God’s Purpose for Mankind

The phrase “be fruitful and multiply” first appears in Genesis 1:28 when God blesses Adam and Eve. This blessing establishes God’s purpose for mankind – to populate the earth. As people “multiply”, they spread out and establish new communities.

Being “fruitful” involves living productive, meaningful lives that bring glory to God.

This command to propagate was repeated after the Flood to Noah and his family (Genesis 9:1). After severe judgement on human evil, God essentially hit the reset button on creation. As Noah’s family repopulated the earth, they were to remember God’s original ideal.

Therefore, “be fruitful and multiply” represents God’s enduring plan for humanity.

A Command Spanning Generations

The “be fruitful and multiply” blessing emphasises new beginnings and new generations. Whenever God forms a covenant with His people, he desires them to propagate. For example, when God establishes his covenant with Abraham, he promises, “I will make you very fruitful” (Genesis 17:6).

This fruitfulness involves many descendants.

Later, God blesses Jacob with the words, “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 28:3). Jacob’s offspring became the 12 tribes of Israel – the foundation of a mighty nation. Therefore, being “fruitful” led to multiplication across generations.

The Theme of New Beginnings

As mentioned earlier, “be fruitful and multiply” accompanied both creation and Noah’s post-flood world. God desires His people to fill the earth with worshippers who represent Him. Just as plants fulfil their created purpose by multiplying via seeds, God’s people honour Him when they have children who follow God.

When Israel expanded in the promised land of Canaan, they created more communities under God’s rule. They built cities, farmed crops, raised livestock and developed an entire civilisation for God’s glory.

Therefore, being fruitful and multiplying facilitates new beginnings which establish God’s kingdom. As families expand into tribes and nations, God’s sovereignty and fame is spread abroad.


In summary, while the iconic phrase “be fruitful and multiply” occurs only four times directly, the concept permeates Genesis and the Pentateuch. We see it connects Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Esau – spanning generations as a common blessing and purpose for humankind.

Studying the context of each passage deepens our understanding of God’s design for men and women made in His image.

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