The Sustainability of Reproduction:The Bible’sUnderlying Message of Protecting Humanity
By: Monica Burch
In order for humanity to survive, people must reproduce. The Bibleis riddled with the underlying message of reproduction to maintain human kind. Of course, it is also full of infanticidal behaviors that can destroy the very purpose of reproduction. With the death of its children, a civilization cannot continue. From this fear of extinction God clearly communicates the rules against killing children. Of course, paradoxically, the very rule must be broken in order for a society to last, as all humans are children of god, and all leaders are the parental figure of their followers. A leader must be able to sacrifice the few, in order to save the many for a community to survive. While found throughout the entire text, Genesis highlights specific sections where God has intervened regarding reproduction and infanticide. Paradoxically, God both warns against it, but realizes the necessary for some to commit it. Both Adam and Eve, and Abraham, must learn the hard truth of the infanticidal tendency of humanity, in order to become the very leaders humanity needs to survive. The Bibleis full of text urging humanity to procreate, in order to survive, but in order to protect all of humanity, one must learn to commit the very infanticidal sin they were advised not to do.
Throughout The Bible, God uses symbolism to represent reproduction. While creating the known universe, God created nature through the lines, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself” (1:11). By including the words “seeds” for both the grass and the fruit, God uses the offspring of plants to discuss human reproduction. He could have simply created nature, but specifically included the plants ability to create new life in their liking as a comment on the importance of reproduction. His purposeful description of plant creation maintains the idea that nature, especially fruit and seeds, are synonymous with children, as seeds and fruit are the children of the larger plant. Using the same terminology, God makes it a point to tell Adam and Eve their main purpose is to reproduce. Once he creates the pair, God tells them to “Be fruitful, and multiply” (1:28). Again, for humans to multiply they must have children, thus being fruitful and multiplying means having and raising children, so they can then do the same. The Biblethen refers to procreation as “knowing.” Every instance of someone having a child is described as knowing: “Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain” and “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch” (4:1). All of these instances show that both the idea of fruit and knowledge are synonymous with reproduction.
Since it is clear God represents reproduction as important to the creation of life, it only makes logical sense that God tells Adam and Eve the first sin is infanticide. God allows Adam and Eve to reside in Eden, under the one stipulation that “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eats thereof thou shalt surely die” (2:9). The tree of knowledge bearing fruit is a representation of reproduction. As mentioned God uses knowledge to represent procreation and fruit to represent children, meaning the fruit this knowledge tree bears is children. God uses the tree as a metaphor for procreation and reproduction with this warning, God is telling Adam and Even they cannot eat the fruit because eating the fruit would be the opposite of “being fruitful and multiplying,” and thus, it means eating the fruit is stopping reproduction. Thinking of it on a basic level, God is telling Adam and Eve that eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge is symbolic for killing the children reproduced, and thus, committing infanticide. The metaphor for eating fruit off this specific tree is God’s message to Adam and Eve that the first sin is to kill children because it stops the advancement of humanity.
Of course, because Adam and Eve ate the fruit they commit this very infanticidal sin. From committing this sin, Adam and Eve have gained knowledge and can no longer live in Eden, they must forever go through punishments related to reproduction. Eve is punished to forever “multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (3:16). Eve must now go through the pains of child birth in order to make up for the infanticide she has committed; she must be fruitful and “multiply” even if it is exponentially painful. Since Adam does not go through child birth, he must sow the land, making nature fertile, and thus, contributing to the reproduction and survival of nature. The knowledge they have gained can be in relation to this very punishment of reproduction. As established, knowing is synonymous with procreation. Therefore, the pair gaining knowledge represents their now requirement to have children in this painful manner.
However, if also considering the story of Abraham, Adam and Eve could have also learned the truth behind the human necessity for infanticide. The story of Abraham shows the paradoxical nature of the fist sin, as infanticide is forbidden, but also necessary of a good leader to maintain a society. To be a leader, one must rule and support all under their reign, making the leader a parental figure, and making those under a leader children. In order to lead, Abraham must be able to view all of his “children” as equal, including his own biological son. Of course, in any society, a leader must sometimes make the choice to sacrifice the few, in order to save the many. But, if this leader is father to all under him, then sacrificing the few is infanticide. While necessary for survival, a leader must understand the need to commit the first sin in order to remain “fruitful and multiply” as a society.
Abraham exemplifies his ability to sacrifice the few for the many when he is willing to sacrifice his own biological son Isaac. Abraham is asked by the voice of God to sacrifice his son, without hesitation he begins the journey and attempts the sacrifice, only stopping when God asks him to. While the sacrifice does not physically happen, Abraham still “stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” showing Abraham fully intended to sacrifice Isaac (22:10). In that moment, Abraham knew he was killing his son, showing he is willing to make the ultimate infanticidal sacrifice for God, and thus, the greater good. With this sacrifice, Abraham has shown god he “hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:12). With his metaphorical sacrifice of his son, Abraham has committed infanticide for the greater good. Abraham shows that a good leader must understand they are the parental figure of their followers, meaning any death under their reign is infanticidal. A true leader, like Abraham, must recognize this necessity to secure the fate of humanity, as some will always die, and it is up to the leader to help decide who. Therefore, while infanticide is the first sin, some must recognize its necessity in order to continue humanity.
With the story of Abraham in mind, Adam and Eve could have received this same message that they are now parental figures to all, and thus, understand the paradoxical necessity for infanticide. After eating fruit from the tree of knowledge, Adam names Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (4:20). Eve becoming mother of all explicitly connects to Abraham becoming the father of Judaism. Therefore, eating the fruit not only represents the first sin as infanticidal, but also that Adam and Eve have gained the paradoxical knowledge that in order for a community to be fruitful and multiply, leaders will have to sacrifice some of their children.
The Bible consistently references the sin of infanticide because reproduction is vital for a society to prosper. For this reason, God makes a point to make infanticide the first sin. He tells Adam and Eve to not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge because eating the fruit is equivalent to stopping reproduction. However, because Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they learn the paradoxical idea that this very infanticide is necessary to “multiply” as a society. By telling them to not eat the fruit, God was protecting them from this very hard truth that only few will have to bear.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford, 1998.