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Replenish the Earth and the Gap Theory

 Replenish the Earth and the Gap Theory

In Genesis 1:28 we read “…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (KJV)  The King James Version’s use of the word replenish has been seen by Gap Theorists as proof that the earth is old, since supposedly Adam and Eve are commanded to fill again.  In fact, the idea that God commanded Adam and Eve not merely to fill the earth but to fill the earth again, stems from the Gap Theory.[i]  The proponents of the Gap Theory believe that the billions of years of the age of the heavens and earth, as touted by evolutionistic thinking, is found between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  Thus, did God command Adam and Eve to fill the earth for the very first time or to fill the earth again?  Did they

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actually understand that they were to fill the earth again because the world prior to their creation had been destroyed?



It is true, that in today’s English, when we say replenish we mean filling up something that is depleted, something that was once full and is now empty.  However, just less than 200 years ago, Webster’s Dictionary (1828) defines the word as, “To fill; to stock with numbers or abundance.”  We can see that the word has changed from meaning fill to fill again today.  Of course, the answer ultimately lies not in English but in Hebrew.


The Hebrew word מלאו (malu) does not mean to refill, but simply to fill.  It in no way connotes or implies to fill again.  It just means fill.  God gave the same command to fill in Genesis 9:1 to Noah after the flood as He did to Adam and Eve.  There is no question that Noah was to fill the earth again, but that is not intrinsically implied by the word; God simply said to fill the earth.  Likewise, to suggest that God commanded Adam and Eve to repopulate a world that had been recreated is poor exegesis and is not even remotely supported from the text.  We can, therefore, absolutely conclude that Adam and Eve simply understood God to be telling them to fill the earth for the first time and not to refill the world.  They would absolutely not infer from God’s command that there had been a world gone bad prior to theirs.  In fact, there are no words or verses that support such a claim.[ii]


[i] Weston W. Fields in his book Unformed and Unfilled (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1978) provides a thorough discussion of the Gap Theory and its fatal flaws.  See also


[ii] For a discussion on the Gap Theory, see: Russell Grigg From The Beginning Of The Creation


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  1. Although the word “maw-law” as used in Genesis 1:28 does seem to best mean “to fill”, is it fair to say that “replenish” is not one of the potential definitions? I see it listed there right after “presume”.

    מלא מלא
    mâlê’ mâlâ’
    maw-lay’, maw-law’
    A primitive root, to fill or (intransitively) be full of, in a wide application (literally and figuratively): – accomplish, confirm, + consecrate, be at an end, be expired, be fenced, fill, fulfil, (be, become, X draw, give in, go) fully (-ly, -ly set, tale), [over-] flow, fulness, furnish, gather (selves, together), presume, replenish, satisfy, set, space, take a [hand-] full, + have wholly.

  2. I have a similar question about Genesis 3:16: “To the woman he said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'”
    How is something that by all accounts hadn’t yet happened (childbirth) multiplied? Is this another case of a poorly translated word?

    • Although I understand the 6 days creation theory. I believe it puts God in a box and further sets aside the more recent discoveries which are hundreds of thousands of years old that “still” point to a creator God. Mankind and the earth is much older than my good friend Doug and others dogmatically (although honestly) believe. That being said, God would not say “greatly multiply” unless childbirth was at another time less painful or not painful at all.

      Also keep in mind this isn’t a tenant to split over in terms of what I may believe and what Doug and others believe. I think the Gap Theory (which I support) is clearly a point we can agree to disagree on. It doesn’t stripe away or put into question the power of God to be in control of time and history.


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