Bible Reference: 1 Kings chapter 3
Heart of the Story: Solomon made a wise ruling because God gave him wisdom.
Back Story: When Solomon ascended to king of Israel, he may have been as young as 20 years (1 Kings 3:7, NIV, text note). In the first few years of his reign, he strengthens his kingship by having several enemies killed or removing them from their powerful positions. In about his third year as king, Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices to God. At this time, the tabernacle and the altar of burnt offerings were located at Gibeon. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked Solomon what God could give him. Solomon’s answered that he wanted a discerning heart to govern the people of Israel and distinguish between right and wrong (1 Kings 3:9). Essentially, Solomon asked for wisdom in administering justice. God told Solomon that he would give him not only wisdom but wealth and honor. Further, God told Solomon if he keeps God’s commands and decrees, God will give him long life.
Story Line: Soon after God promised Solomon wisdom to govern Israel, Solomon’s reputation for wisdom debuted. It occurred through a ruling on the petition by two women. Solomon was seated on his throne in the petition hall when two prostitutes brought him a problem (1 Kings 3:16-28). Solomon knew that prostitution was illegal under Jewish law (Deuteronomy 23:18); however, he also knew that prostitution was fairly common. Many prostitutes were slaves; they earned money for their food and a place to sleep by giving their bodies to men who paid money to their masters. Often, women with no men (son, father, brother) in their lives turned to prostitution to have food. Some women were sold to pay the debts of a male relative.
Neither woman denied their occupation; yet Solomon did not throw them out of his petition hall. He gave the claim of the women who engaged in an illegal occupation and lived a socially marginalized life the same consideration as he gave the petition of a wealthy citizen. By hearing the petition of the prostitutes, Solomon told the Israelities that justice demanded that all people be heard respective of status of the petitioner.
These two prostitutes lived in a house together. Each had a baby within three days of each other; both babies were male. According to the first woman’s story (Woman #1): the other woman (Woman #2) laid on her son in the night and smothered him accidentally. When she (Woman #2) realized her son was dead, she took the dead baby, placed him by the breast of the other sleeping woman (Woman #1) and took the live baby. When woman #1 started to nurse her son the next morning, she saw that he was dead. When she looked at him closer, she realized that he was not her son; he was the son of Woman #2. Woman # 1 confronted Woman # 2 and tried to get her son back; however Woman # 2 would not give up the babe in her arms. Thus, the two women petitioned King Solomon to decide which woman got the son.
Pondering Relationships: After hearing the claims of both women, Solomon didn’t question them or attempt to investigate each woman’s claim. Instead, he ordered that the baby be cut in half and each half given to each woman. The woman whose son was alive, loved him, and didn’t want him killed. She said, “Please, my Lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” (1 Kings 3:26). The other woman concurred with King Solomon and said, “Cut him in two!”
After hearing both women’s response, King Solomon ruled that the son be given to the woman who loved her son enough to give him up. When all of Israel heard Solomon’s verdict, they were in awe. They concluded that God gave Solomon wisdom to administer justice. They also concluded that justice under Solomon’s reign included justice for the poor and powerless.
Reflection: Justice should be independent of wealth or status. Is it in your community?
Copyright: September 6, 2016: Carolyn Roth. CarolynRothMinistry.com