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Question: Does "replenish" in Genesis 1:28 mean "repopulate," like there was a world before ours?

Answer: Not at all. To "replenish" something means to “fill” it. So Adam and Eve were told only to “fill” the earth, not “refill” it. We can see this is true in both the dictionary definition and in each of the seven times “replenish” is used in the Bible.

Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

In order to understand a classical English word from the King James Bible, we should use a classical English dictionary, like Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary. Here is how it defines the word "replenish".

Here is the dictionary definition of “replenish”:
      “To fill; to stock with numbers or abundance. The magazines are replenished with corn. The springs are replenished with water.
      ‘Multiply, and replenish the earth,’ Genesis 1.”

There are 7 Bible verses that use the word “replenish” or “replenished.” Each time it is used in the Bible, it means “fill” or “filled”:

1. Replenish (fill) the earth

Genesis 1:28
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Genesis 9:1
“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.

God told Adam and Eve to have many children (be fruitful and multiply) and fill (replenish) the earth with people. Then He repeated the same command to Noah and his sons. “Replenish” simply means “fill” both times.

2. Replenished (filled) from the east

Isaiah 2:6
“Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.”

Here we learn that God’s people, “the house of Jacob,” were filled (replenished) from the ways of the east. This means they looked to the pagans and adopted their practices.

3. Replenished (filled) every sorrowful soul

Jeremiah 31:25
“For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”

The words “satiated” and “replenished” are in a parallel format, saying basically the same thing twice. To “satiate” means to “fill.” God tells us that he fills (satiates or replenishes) the weary and sorrowful soul. When we are empty inside, He fills us.

4. Tyrus (Tyre) Replenished (filled) by merchants

Isaiah 23:2
“Be still, ye inhabitants of the isle; thou whom the merchants of Zidon, that pass over the sea, have replenished.

Those who lived on the island-like city of Tyre (or Tyrus) were filled (replenished) with goods from Zidon’s (Sidon’s) seafaring merchants, who brought their wares from across the Mediterranean Sea.

Ezekiel 26:2
“Son of man, because that Tyrus hath said against Jerusalem, Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste:”

God describes Tyrus as a person that rejoices against the desolation of Jerusalem. Now that Jerusalem “is laid waste,” Tyrus expects to be filled (replenished) with either the spoils of war, or from the merchants that will no longer stop in Jerusalem to sell their wares.

Ezekiel 27:25
“The ships of Tarshish did sing of thee in thy market: and thou wast replenished, and made very glorious in the midst of the seas.”

The massive trade of the merchants of Tyrus is described in Ezekiel 27:3-24. In verse 25 is the summary. Tyre was filled (replenished) and “made very glorious” among all the nations because of her seafaring merchants.

It is clear from all the above scriptures, “replenish” simply means “fill.”

Should we get rid of “replenish”?

Some people think we should take away an “archaic” word like “replenish” and simply substitute the word “fill.” But there is no need. Once you know that “replenish” means “fill,” you will never again be mistaken about its meaning. And is the word really archaic? Not at all! Just look at all these “modern” Bible versions that still use the word “replenish:”

1884/1890 Darby
1899 Roman Catholic Douay-Rheims
1901 American Standard Version (ASV)
1917 Jewish Publication Society Old Testament (JPS)
1952 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
1970-1991 Roman Catholic New American Bible (NAB)
1971 The Living Bible (TLB)
1982 New King James Version (NKJV)
1989 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
1996 New Living Translation (NLT)
2001 English Standard Version (ESV)
2001 Edition World English Bible (WEB)

Now we see an amazing fact. “Replenish” is not even archaic! It is still in use to the present day, and in all but two versions1, it still means “fill,” just as it did when God preserved His words in English in the 1611 King James Bible. Don’t “dumb down” the English language, looking for a “simpler” Bible version. Read, believe and understand what God has used to perfectly translate and preserve His words for us: the King James Bible. May God bless you as you do.

1The Living Bible and New Living Translation use “replenish” only one time, and there it means “renew”. Click here to see a chart of Bible versions with "replenish".

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