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There is a word used in Genesis 1:28 that has caused a controversy between Christians who believe in an old earth and those who believe in a young earth. The word is "replenish". "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."
Modern dictionaries are little help, in light of the fact that they often list both definitions for "replenish". 1. To fill with persons or animals. 2. To fill or buildup again. (Merriam-Webster Online dictionary, (2008).
To properly define the use of this word in Genesis, we must go back to 1611, the time of the King James translation. The first English dictionary, "Robert Cawdrey's Alphabetical Table", was published in 1604. It only lists one definition for "replenish" - "to fill". It must be noted that the confusion over the English definition of "replenish" has resulted from a change in its usage over the past few hundred years. The American Dictionary of English Language (1828) started using a second meaning of replenish : To recover former fullness. The Webster's Common School (1892) uses "to fill up again" as its primary meaning.
We now find that some modern dictionaries have completely removed "to fill" from the list of possible definitions and have chosen to list "fill again" as the sole meaning of "replenish". This should not be a shock to us since English words can change meaning over the years. At one time "pot" meant a kettle and "grass" meant your lawn. We must remember that God promised to preserve His Word (Psalm 12:6-7), not the English language.
Here is more evidence for this word "replenish" that can be found when we look at the Hebrew word from which "replenish" is translated. "Male" (maw-lay) which is listed in the New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, simply means "to fill, be full" (James Strong, The New Strong's Concise Dictionary of the words in the Hebrew Bible, Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995, p. 78).
We must believe without doubt about the meaning of the word "replenish" in Genesis 1:28. The context of this verse permits the meaning of "to fill". This was the English definition of the word "replenish" at the time of the King James translation of 1611.
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