The beginning of the Bible says (NRSV), “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiple, and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1.27-28). Bible readers generally have understood this pronouncement as a universal command that applies in a general sense to all of future humankind.
This is certainly how religious Jews have understood it down through the ages. They therefore have encouraged young people to marry and have children. For example, see the online article, “Why Do Observant Jews Have So Many Kids?”
When God later destroyed the earth with a flood, he told Noah and his family inside the ark, “Go out of the ark, . . . be fruitful and multiply on the earth” (Gen 8.17). After they departed the ark, we read again, “God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'” (9.1
Gordon Wenham in his Gen. com. says of this at 1.28, “God’s blessing on mankind is like that pronounced on the animals in v. 22. Like the animals man is to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ . . . man is told to ‘subdue and rule’ the earth and its inhabitants . . . the focus in Genesis is on the fulfillment of the blessing of fruitfulness.” At Gen 9.1 Wenham says, “This is the third time . . . man has been told to be ‘fruitful and multiply'”. Hebrew expert Bruce Waltke in his Gen. com. translates 1.28, “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” At 9.1 he says “be fruitful and multiply” means “propagation of life.”
But in modern times, many people and their cultures have claimed that the earth and its human population have been suffering from human overpopulation. Some of them therefore have advocated the forced restriction of the population. China’s government did this because its rulers thought population growth hindered economic development.
For example, beginning in 1979, China’s Communist rulers instituted forced restriction of China’s population. Couples were not allowed to have more than one child. The government implemented birth control programs. It also offered economic incentives for those who abided by this policy. Couples that were going to have their first child had to obtain a government certificate in which they promised to use contraceptives to prevent further pregnancies. This was necessary in order for the child to be a birth certificate to be issued when the child was born.