It Is Good to Have Children: The First Commandment to the First Couple

God’s intention for marriage and childbearing.

by Jessica Turpin on June 11, 2024

We do not need numbers to tell us that something is wrong with the human heart, but sometimes, they very gently expose its condition.

Take the number 2.1. Does this number mean anything to you? Did you know that 2.1 is the average number of children that women need to give birth to for the population to exactly replace itself for the next generation? When the number falls below 2.1, then the size of the population begins to fall. Contrast this number with some real-life data and a bleak picture starts to form. Today’s world fertility rate is 2.3 and falling.1 In 2023, the fertility rate for the UK was 1.57;2 for the US, it was 1.63;3 for Canada, it was 1.47.4 In fact, numbers across the board show that nearly every country has a falling fertility rate and will likely see their populations shrink by the end of the century. Twenty-three countries, including Spain and Japan, are predicted to see populations halve by the end of the century.5

Are these statistics a victory for environmentalists, for women, or for progress? The reality, of course, is that these numbers do not represent victory for anybody but are instead a ticking time bomb, and governments are already starting to worry. Today’s babies are tomorrow’s workers, and populations are beginning to age without enough young workers in place to support the economy and the elderly. In Japan, millions of dollars were spent researching and developing “care robots” to help look after the elderly; although, the idea was eventually retired as too impractical and expensive.6 In France, the pension age has risen from 62 to 64. In Hungary, lifetime income tax exemption is offered to families with four or more children,7 and bigger families in Russia are also being promised tax breaks.8 Other countries are filling the worker gap through immigration. Plummeting birth rates are not a problem on paper. They are a problem in reality.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

The governments of the world, of course, dwell on facts and figures and tend to think of children purely in economic terms. But as Christians, we have a duty to seek God’s mind on bearing children. God’s intention that couples should seek to have children was stated in the first commandment to the first couple, Adam and Eve, who represented the entire human race:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves over the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

Three Hebrew words with similar meanings show the intensity of the commandment: “Be fruitful” (perû), “multiply” (rebû̲), and “fill” (milʾû) [the earth.9 God’s design from the very beginning was for human life and for human life in abundance! What is more, this did not remain a pre-fall commandment but was reiterated to Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:1, 7), which means that in a fallen world, the command to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth holds true.

When the people of Israel were in Egypt, they were fruitful and multiplied (Exodus 1:7), and the verbs used in this verse reflect the language used in Genesis 1:28 and 9:1. The growth of the population of Israelites in Egypt was part of the fulfillment of God’s creation mandate to mankind.10 In the book of Deuteronomy, one of the blessings for Israel’s obedience to the covenant was the “fruit of the womb” (Deuteronomy 28:11), and one of the curses for disobedience included a curse on the “fruit of the womb” (Deuteronomy 28:18). When the people of Israel went into exile in Babylon, they were called to multiply and not to decrease (Jeremiah 29:6; cf. 23:3), and again, the word for multiply is the same word used in Genesis 1:28. For Israel to continue to exist as a nation in foreign lands such as Egypt and Babylon, it was imperative that they have children, and God is reminding his people to fulfill the creation mandate.

God’s plan of redemption for mankind is connected to childbearing.

Parents will testify to the sheer joy that children evoke, and a complete reading of the rest of Scripture should leave us in no doubt that children are consistently and continually seen as a heritage from God (Psalm 127:3). Yet more important is the fact that children are a means by which God’s plans and purposes are fulfilled. The first mention of the gospel is found in Genesis 3:15 where God promises a deliverer through the womb of a woman. God’s plan of redemption for mankind is connected to childbearing. Salvation came through the child of one particular mother, but there are many more scriptural reasons for couples to seek to have children.

1. Subduing the Earth

According to Genesis 1:28, not only are we to be fruitful and multiply, but we are to subdue the earth and have dominion over the “fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth” (Genesis 1:28). Could Adam and Eve have fulfilled the command to subdue the earth by themselves? The answer, of course, is absolutely not! How could one couple take dominion over all creation? How could ten couples, a hundred, or even a hundred thousand couples subdue the earth? The fulfillment of God’s command to take dominion over the earth requires large numbers of people!

Think about all the work that there is to be done on earth. There are lands that must be made useful, homes where order must be instigated, future generations to teach, discoveries to be made, diseases to cure, animals and plants to count and understand, planets to investigate, Christian ministries to work for and support, and countless other wonderful works. None of these things can be accomplished without people, and quite simply, the more workers the greater the possibility of doing good work.

2. Propagating the Gospel

The second biblical reason for bearing children is that it is believing children who will propagate the gospel in the next generation. In a passage about faithless Judah and faithless husbands, the prophet Malachi writes:

Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15)

Malachi clearly states that one of God’s purposes in marriage is godly offspring. Of course, we live in a fallen world, and in God’s perfect plan, not everyone will marry and not every married couple will be able to have children,11 but there is a general principal in the biblical text that humanity must value children and procreate.

One reason believers need to be generally concerned about having children and to prioritize the special work of raising them in the Lord is that we should be concerned about the lost of future generations. Godly seed will witness to a people yet unborn, and it is through our children and our children’s children that the gospel will be proclaimed.

The normal means by which children are saved is through the witness of godly parents. I can have a far greater influence on my own children than I can on a neighbor’s child, and if we are diligent in teaching our little ones the gospel in season and out of season, we have a reason to hope that they will bear witness to the lost when we are no longer on earth to do it. To raise godly children is to leave a legacy to future generations.

3. Caring for the Elderly

In a biblically functioning society, the elderly are principally cared for by those who should love them the most: namely their children. Paul writes instructions to Timothy for the care of widows, and he teaches that the church should care for those who are truly widows. Nevertheless. the first duty of care lies with family:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. . . . If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:8, 16)

By the Lord’s design, children most likely will have the opportunity to make a return to their parents for the care shown to them when they were young. For those who have no children, the local church is to provide care. Sadly, what often happens in the West is that the state clumsily steps in to fulfill the majority of the care for the elderly. Sometimes children do not want to show a return to their parents, but an increasingly likely scenario is that there are not any or enough children to care for elderly parents.

The Bible Is Our Authority

Low birth rates are ultimately the rejection of the biblical worldview that sees children as a blessing from God

Low birth rates are ultimately the rejection of the biblical worldview that sees children as a blessing from God. Our anti-Christian society is anti-children since it celebrates abortion, radical feminism, and homosexuality, all of which result in fewer children being born. Now we are starting to reap the fruit of this. We can expect the godless to buy into the secular view of the age that says children are disposable, a burden to society, and a drain on resources. But as believers, we have a higher authority.

Of course, life does not always pan out as we might hope. There are those who would love to marry and yet, in the providence of God, remain single. There are those who know the heartbreak of childlessness. Yet it remains true that whether or not children are a reality in our lives, we can still be in agreement with our Creator. Genesis in both an unfallen and fallen world is clear that there should be a desire in mankind to go forth and multiply, and with one voice, we echo the heart of God when we say that it is good to have children.

Jessica Turpin is married to Simon Turpin, executive director of AiG–UK, and home educates their seven children using the Christian classical method. She has a BA in modern European languages and a BA in biblical and intercultural studies. She writes about Christian home education on her Facebook page. She and Simon also run a website to encourage home educators at


  1. This was recognized by The Economist in 2023, “In 2000 the world’s fertility rate was 2.7 births per woman, comfortably above the ‘replacement rate’ of 2.1, at which a population is stable. Today it is 2.3 and falling” (The Economist, “Global Fertility Has Collapsed, with Profound Economic Consequences,” June 1, 2023,
  2. Statista, “Total Fertility Rate in Europe in 2023, by Country,” accessed June 6, 2024,
  3. Statista, “Total Fertility Rate in Europe.”
  4. Database Earth, “Total Fertility Rate of Canada,” accessed June 6, 2024,,of%20%2D57.35%25%20in%20total.
  5. James Gallagher, “Fertility Rate: ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Global Crash in Children Being Born,” BBC, July 14, 2020,
  6. James Wright, “Inside Japan’s Long Experiment in Automating Elder Care,” MIT Technology Review, January 9, 2023,
  7. BBC, “Hungary Tries for Baby Boom with Tax Breaks and Loan Forgiveness,” February 11, 2019,
  8. Jennifer UGWA, “More Tax Breaks for Large Families in Russia as Putin Seeks to Stimulate Birth Rate,” International Centre for Investigative Reporting, January 15, 2020,
  9. In Genesis 1:28, the imperative is explicitly used for “be fruitful,” “multiply,” and “fill.”
  10. T. Desmond Alexander, Exodus (London: Apollos, 2017), 42.
  11. Ultimately, it is God who opens and closes the womb (1 Samuel 1:5–6, 19–20). To demonstrate that one of God’s purposes in marriage is to have offspring is not to say that those who are unable to bear children are outside of God’s will. As God has a purpose in all things, so there is a purpose in childlessness. Perhaps God has another plan for a married couple that would not be possible with children. Maybe God is opening the door to adoption. I am writing about a general principle that couples should have in view when they seek to marry.


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