What does Genesis 1:28 mean in Hebrew?


#1

Genesis 1:28 (a)
And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…
I’m specifically looking at the Hebrew word (phru?) As interpreted as “fruitful”. Does it mean “be fruitful you”? Or would it be more accurately interpreted as “fertile”?

I realize they mean nearly the same thing. But in my research to understand the prohibition of Contraception/Birth Control/Sterilization, I am curious that this term may be more specific to being “fertile”.

I think “be fruitful” can be justified to some, after having the amount of children they are content with, as being fulfilled and no longer necessary to remain fruitful.

Also, in general, please provide any and all Scripture that supports the pro-life position against rendering the act unfruitful.


#2

I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live. Deut 30 19

Peace+
michaEl?


#3

I have a Hebrew-English copy of the Torah, published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Genesis 1:28 is rendered: "God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it . . . .’ "


#4

As far as I know “pru” (פְּר֥וּ) is not used as a verb anymore. But one can say “pri,perot” as in fruit, product, or even offspring.

There may be some disagreement about the precise meaning of “to fill” (וּמִלְא֥ו). It can also mean replenish but that would imply something was absent, which I don’t particularly think is the case in this context.

“Subdue the earth” has also been widely interpreted almost to the point of justifying destroying the environment but I don’t see how it is possible to live on the earth while poisoning the wells we drink from.

As for applying this verse to interfering with conception, it is hard to infer since these are commands, not prohibitions. Later on as in the story of Onan, there is more of an application.


#5

The Jewish Publication Society commentary on Genesis (by R’ Nahum Sarna) follows the 1985 translation (most recent) which is rendered “fertile.”

“Some” Jewish commentators see a prescription (command) here, others do not. But, in Gen 9:7 after the flood, the wording is considered prescriptive.

Elsewhere, in an Artscroll commentary titled “The Six Constant Mitzvos [Commands]” (which must be obeyed every moment of the day), the author sees the “613” commands found in the Hebrew Scriptures as merely being the ‘seeds’ of more divine commands. For example, “honor thy father and mother” expands into many obligations from physical and monetary support, supplying housing, and even ensuring that parents do not feel lonely.

I don’t know where to begin on the subject of contraception. I should know more, but I’m relying on second-hand information that contraception, like the birth control pill, causes the death of a fertilized ovum, so is prohibited by the command not to murder.

I must have read about it in some Jewish commentary but I don’t recall clearly enough to expound that point of view.


#6

Interesting. This is what I was curious about. I think “be fruitful” doesn’t carry the same weight as “be fertile”. Though, neither is a proof against contraception. But a support for prohibition of contraception.


#7

We have a divinely appointed Magisterium that defines faith and morals for us. Prayer and receiving the Eucharist enables married couples with the grace needed to practice natural family planning if they have a good reason to do so.


#8

I’m searching the Scriptures. Not because I doubt, but the world around us, and even those so dearly close to us.

Do you practice NFP? Do you know how hard it can be, especially when spouse is not willing?


#9

With all due respect, I prefer the King James version. “Be fertile” is not the same as 'be fruitful". Fertile is a state with nothing necessarily coming from it. Fruitful implies results.
*
“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.”*


#10

I am eighty years old now… my husband died 18 years ago… yes I do know the lack of rapport when a husband is not willing. We have had eight children and lost one. I love every one of them.

Peace in Jesus and Mary,

Dorothy


#11

Well peace to you and may your beloved one be with our Lord!

Has it ever profited to tell someone, who thinks Contraception is healthy, that: “We have a divinely appointed Magisterium that defines faith and morals for us.”?

You are not wrong. I just find it so far from productive in expressing this to my wife. My whole family and many friends are telling me I need to give in to contraception. And meanwhile, my marriage is falling apart. And the reasons are not because we don’t have unprotected sex. That is the result.

But I didn’t open this forum thread to get into all that. I am pursuing real counseling, confession, prayer, and therapy for help. This is just part of my study and education.


#12

I apologize that my statement was hurtful to you in your situation.

Perhaps if the shoe fit others my saying that may have planted a seed.

God’s blessings to you always,

Peace, Dorothy


#13

I hear ya. And “be fruitful” implies being fertile. But being fertile also means not being “unfertile”. :smiley:

I am curious what the closest literal interpretation of the word is, because the implication of “producing children” is stated in the next words “and multiply”. So in a way, to say “be fruitful and multiply” is a bit redundant. “Be fertile and multiply” says “do not inhibit firtility, but allow reproduction to occur”.

Does that make sense?


#14

As it appears in Genesis “וּרְב֛וּ” or the verb לָרוֹב means to increase or multiply. “Rav” means many. I think I see what you are getting at, not to be infertile, but I wonder if that was the intention back then since fertility was not anything that one could turn off or on. Some women were and some weren’t like the wife of Abraham. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t conceive. She didn’t do anything wrong.

I am really OK with the be “fruitful and multiply” of the King James version. The scholars of that time decided it would be the English equivalent closest to the Hebrew. The two monuments of the English language happened around the same time, at the beginning of the 1600’s with the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare. It might be a bit quaint these days to prefer this version of the Bible but I am also a traditionalist with regard to Latin liturgy as well.


#15

That is not the character in question, but the previous one. There are two characters. One means “fruitful/fertile” the other “multiply/increase”. Right?

I think I see what you are getting at, not to be infertile, but I wonder if that was the intention back then since fertility was not anything that one could turn off or on. Some women were and some weren’t like the wife of Abraham. It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t conceive. She didn’t do anything wrong.

Yes, of course natural infertility is not a sin. We do not believe that. What we believe is rendering the act of conjugal intercourse infertile by an intentional act is sinful.

Lets look at the same book of Genesis. Did Onan render himself and his brother’s wife infertile? What if he would have denied to sleep with his brothers wife? Would he still have been put to death, or was it because he actually participated in intercourse AND rendered the act infertile?

Genesis 38
Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.”*But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother.And what he did was displeasing in the sight of theLord, and he slew him also.

I am really OK with the be “fruitful and multiply” of the King James version. The scholars of that time decided it would be the English equivalent closest to the Hebrew. The two monuments of the English language happened around the same time, at the beginning of the 1600’s with the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare. It might be a bit quaint these days to prefer this version of the Bible but I am also a traditionalist with regard to Latin liturgy as well.

And I am OK with “fruitful and multiply” also.
Nevertheless, I am curious what the character in question (sorry, I don’t know how to copy it from the source I use) most literally means. Here is the link for the source I use: scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Hebrew_Index.htm


#16

I think there is a difference between specific commands and general ones. Certainly these days we are not obliged to perform the mitzvot or commandments in the Bible with regard to sacrifice and other things that do not apply today. I also think it is possible to go off on a tangent with a general exhortation such as be fruitful and multiply. Being fruitful can also apply to being productive, not just having children. The rest of the verse has to do with subduing nature so I don’t think that procreation was the only subject here.

I also do not believe that being fertile only means that one should have babies, assuming one is married of course. Celibacy would seem a lesser state is there were not other ways to interpret the verse rather than procreation in a literal sense.


#17

Right. I am focusing on what is Taught by the Church and it’s relation to what God always intended. And what Scripture reveals about this intention (specifically this verse, but also any others).

I also think it is possible to go off on a tangent with a general exhortation such as be fruitful and multiply. Being fruitful can also apply to being productive, not just having children. The rest of the verse has to do with subduing nature so I don’t think that procreation was the only subject here.

The first half of the verse is talking about procreation. That’s the part I’m addressing. I’m not saying this was the only instruction from God, at this time.

I also do not believe that being fertile only means that one should have babies, assuming one is married of course.

That is a strange statement. :smiley: Being fertile is how we were made. We don’t make ourselves fertile. We just are. Unless we naturally are not so. Making babies results from sexual intercourse with someone fertile.

Celibacy would seem a lesser state is there were not other ways to interpret the verse rather than procreation in a literal sense.

God was talking to husband and wife, in this command.


#18

To go backwards, God was talking to husband and wife and by extension their descendants. The rest of the verse has to do with dominion over the earth.

You say we just are “fertile”, but not everyone is and if one isn’t he or she can’t get that way by command. This is another reason I don’t think a good English translation is “be fertile”. “Fruitful” is another thing, according to one’s natural endowments, one can be that. There are also non-fertile couples through no fault of their own, but they can be “fruitful” in other ways.


#19

I don’t disagree with you. I am not trying to say that the translation of “fruitful” is bad. I use the RSV-CE which says “fruitful” and I’m not arguing for a change. What I am trying to ask, however, is what is the most direct translation for the term, or character, used? I’m asking because I think the Hebrew word might have a direct aspect of fertility about it. I think fruitful has that aspect to, but it doesn’t necessarily carry the charge of “be fertile” as opposed to a general application of “be fruitful”. And you even show that by acknowledging that fruitful is not restricted to children.

So you think, and maybe rightly so, that God was not specifically talking about babies? But if the Hebrew term “phru” is translated as “fertle” it seems a little more directed towards the procreation charge.


#20

פְּר֥וּ (pru) is a command, which is not passive as in “be fertile!”. Perhaps the best English equivalent would be “produce!”. You can look up online the various translations of fertile in Hebrew. As an adjective it would be פּוֹרֶה (poreh). As far as I know, this is not used as a verb anymore.

It’s hard to find equivalents for one language and another when there are multiple meanings of one word in either which may not always coincide.


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