Then God said, “Fish! Birds!” And the seas swarmed with fish and whales, and all sorts of living things. And the sky was filled with all kinds of birds.
God saw how good all of this was, and said, “Procreate until the sea and sky are full.” And so continued evening and morning. Day 5.
Here, for the first time, we see the emergence of the idea of procreation. (It was latent in the reference to seeds on Day 3.) These verses, though, are not a proof-text about the one case when sex is allowable. It’s not a mandate for anti-contraception campaigns. They are about sustainability.
Until fairly recently, the earth wasn’t dealing with population overload. Until recently, it was a struggle to survive in great enough numbers to continue life into the next generation. While the ancient Hebrews didn’t track the populations of fish and birds the way we do (if you look carefully at the osprey in the picture above, you’ll see it’s tagged with a radio transmitter), they did have an implicit sense that their flourishing was tied inextricably with their own.
With population overload and the environmental degradation that’s come with it, the wisdom of the ancients returns again to the foundational principle of sustainability – of life surviving and thriving into the next generation. Our flourishing is no less inextricably tied to the fish and birds than were the ancient storytellers.