“Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.” (I Kings 3:16-21)
Two prostitutes came to Solomon with a complaint. The attitude toward sexual promiscuity had deteriorated badly since Samson had set the example by going to prostitutes almost two hundred years before. Deuteronomy 23:17 commanded, “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 22 commanded that a woman who was sexually active before marriage was to be executed. These two prostitutes were roommates, and each had had a baby, but no action had been taken.
Each had had their baby in bed with them, and during the night one of the women had rolled over onto her baby, killing it. Modern doctors warn young mothers not to let their babies sleep with them because of this very real danger. Rather than acknowledge what had happened, she switched the babies to make it look like ti was the other woman’s mistake. She had no concern that her child was dead, caring only that she didn’t get in trouble. The other woman was upset when she discovered that the baby she was holding was dead, but when it got light enough, she realized it wasn’t her baby, but the first claimed it was. They finally came to Solomon to settle the issue.
“And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son.
And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.” (I Kings 3:22-23)
After listening to their claims and counter claims, Solomon realized he would not be able to resolve the case solely on the basis of their statements. One was lying but both appeared equally sincere. With no method of DNA testing, he would have to find out the truth another way.
“And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” (I Kings 3:24-25)
Solomon asked for a sword to be brought, and ordered that the child be cut in half so that each would get a half a child. It was the only way to be fair since it was impossible to determine which had the better claim from the testimony.
“Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” (I Kings 3:26)
The one woman knew her baby was dead and didn’t care what happened to the other baby as long as she didn’t get blamed. The real mother cared about her child and would prefer never to see it again rather than have it killed, so she offered to give up her claim so the child could live.
“Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.” (I Kings 3:27)
Any cow or sheep can identify their own offspring in a herd of others after just a prief bonding period. The only reason infants can be switched in a hospital is because the mother and baby were not allowed to bond properly before being separated, because the hospital is more concerned with protecting themselves from lawsuits than with the emotional bonding of the mother and child.
Obviously both mothers knew which child this was. The mother of the dead baby was not grieving over the death of her child, so the death of another child wouldn’t upset her any more, but the real mother had been willing to fight to keep her child, so she would be upset by it’s death. He had no intention of killing the child, although he wanted them to think he would. The woman who was willing to give up her claim to save the child cared about the baby, and would take far better care of it than the other.
“And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.” (I Kings 3:28)
The entire nation was impressed that Solomon had not based his decision on who presented the better sounding case but had devised a method for determining what the truth was. It ensured that they could count on a verdict based on real evidence rather than on a skilled presentation. His judgment quickly became respected, and those with fraudulent cases were afraid to bring them before him, knowing they had little chance of winning.
What a difference it would make in our court system if people knew that the decisions would be based on the truth rather than on persuasive argument. We need wise judges who think beyond the testimony to ensure the truth is found. Unfortunately, in the American system, those rendering judgment, the jurors, are not allowed to base their decision on anything but the testimony they have heard, with the result, that they often lack information they need to make a valid decision. As a result, justice cannot be guaranteed.