[Genesis 1:22 JPS] And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters of the seas, and let the fowl multiply upon the earth."

[Genesis 2:18 JPS] And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him."

[Genesis 2:24 JPS] Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


3 Answers 3


The code of law Shulchan Aruch states as follows in the opening line of the volume dedicated to marital law:

חייב כל אדם לישא אשה כדי לפרות ולרבות

Every man is obligated to marry a woman in order to be fruitful and multiply.

As to whether women are similarly obligated, see this question.

  • I don't see how this answers the question. Is this requirement based in the OPs verse?
    – Double AA
    Jan 9, 2021 at 23:42
  • Um, yes, "to be fruitful and multiply" is 1:22, and it is a requirement that can only correctly be performed through marriage, as stated.
    – Mordechai
    Jan 10, 2021 at 21:26

Yes, more or less. The medieval works counting the commandments count Be fruitful and multiply as the first commandment; only men are technically obligated, though. (But you can't really do that without someone going along ... some say the Torah couldn't obligate women per se because childbirth was so dangerous; others that anthropologically, a society works if it can harness its young men into being productive members.)

"Not good for man to be alone" is seen as religious value, but not the same as an all-out commandment; theoretically once someone has had children, let's say his first wife died; we would tell him that it would be nice to have more kids, but even if not, better for him to marry again, because of "not good to be alone."

The "therefore man shall ..." bit is not actually viewed by the Talmud as a command per se. (Well I take that back -- he shall stick to his wife is seen as an early injunction against adultery, though framed as a yes-do not a don't-do.)


Yes, however, it is significant to note that during biblical times, there was no special marriage ceremony. The man simply took a woman and made her his wife in the bedroom (see Deuteronomy 24:1). This is why Jews sit under a canopy long enough to have sex, yichud, recalling the ancient practice.

The command in Genesis 1:28, to “be fruitful and multiply,” could also mean to populate the earth that G-d had created. We see that after the flood, in Genesis 9:1, and 9:7, the command is to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

  • According to Rambam (Ishus 1:1), Deuteronomy 24:1 discusses the current practice of a marriage ceremony with witnesses, not the pre-Biblical setup you describe.
    – Heshy
    Jan 10, 2021 at 1:37
  • @Heshy Yes, Rambam was relying on the Babylonian Talmud, Kiddushin 2a. The rabbis wrote there that two witnesses were to be present (although this was not a requirement in biblical times).
    – Turk Hill
    Jan 10, 2021 at 1:44

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