Original Research

‘Be fruitful and multiply’: Examining Genesis 1:28 as a basis for the adoption of polygamy as a solution to childlessness amongst Nigerian Christians

Solomon O. Ademiluka
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 41, No 1 | a2116 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v41i1.2116 | © 2020 Solomon O. Ademiluka | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 May 2020 | Published: 26 November 2020

About the author(s)

Solomon O. Ademiluka, Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies, School of Humanities, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

In spite of Christianity and western civilisation, polygamy remains a major issue in Christian marriage in Africa. In Nigeria, most of the mainline churches officially adopt monogamy, whilst many of the African Initiated Churches (AICs) practise polygamy. Because Africans consider procreation as the primary purpose of marriage, some childless Nigerian Christians engage in polygamy in order to have children. But apart from the factor of traditional passion for children, some engage in polygamy to have children because they take the phrase ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ in Genesis 1:28 as a divine command to everyone to produce children. Therefore, this article examines the text with a view to ascertain whether it is appropriate to exploit the passage as a basis for the adoption of polygamy as a solution to infertility. The target population is those Nigerian Christian men and women who engage in this practice. The article employs descriptive and exegetical methods. It found that, although couched as an imperative, the phrase ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, rather than being a command to procreate, should be simply understood as a saying that God blessed the humankind with offspring, just as he did the fish that are not expected to obey or disobey (Gn 1:22). It therefore does not provide a basis for adoption of polygamy as a solution to infertility. The article recommends that apart from assisting childless Nigerian Christians to realise their dream of childbearing, the church should make them understand the biblical position that every individual and couple need not have children.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This research involves the disciplines of the Old Testament and Christian Ethics. It examines Genesis 1:28 with regard to the adoption of polygamy as a solution to infertility amongst Nigerian Christians. The article postulates that the passage is not a command for procreation but is simply a saying that God blessed the humankind with offspring; hence, it does not provide a basis for the adoption of polygamy to solve the problem of infertility.


Keywords

‘Be fruitful and multiply’; childlessness; the church; polygamy; Nigerian Christians

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