Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
"During the night this woman's son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn't the son I had borne."
The other woman said, "No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours."
But the first one insisted, "No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine." And so they argued before the king.
I Kings 3:16-22
A wise king having to make a wrenching decision.
Having to choose which woman he would believe for the maternity of a baby.
It's a Bible story that both those who embrace the Scripture as truth and those who see it as fable and myth are equally familiar with.
The proverbial story of the two women who come to Solomon with one living baby between them, each claiming to be the child's mother.
Solomon's solution is stunning. He commands that the living child be split in two by the sword and a half given to each mother.
At which point, the real mother's cry for the sparing of the baby's life reveals the child's true maternity.
There is such genius in Solomon's inquiry, such insight into the human spirit and into the heart of mother love.
God-given wisdom, according to Scripture.
But there's a little detail I had somehow missed all these years, a piece of trivia that I hadn't paid any attention to.
These two women, squabbling over this baby?
I Kings 3:16 says they were prostitutes.
Two women living outside the confines of the law, seeking justice from the highest court in the land. Two social outlaws wanting the very system that condemns them to choose between their stories.
I wonder if Solomon took a look at these two 'ladies-of-the-evening' and immediately knew that the one bringing the case must be the true mother. Why else would she risk the consequences of her profession being discovered if not to plead for her child? And what of Solomon, imbued with godly wisdom? Should he have not at first sight of these two simply thrown them into prison and let the fate of the child rest where it may? Was he not supposed to be administering godly justice?
And all the people of Israel knew it when they heard of the outcome of this case, as recorded in I Kings 3:28.
Because wisdom from God is a beautifully blended elixir of grace and righteousness, decisiveness and devotion and discernment. It doesn't squash the oppressed and it doesn't ignore sin. It somehow infuses the very environment of our falleness with deeper conviction and even deeper hope.
And Solomon was gifted to dispense this kind of judgement.
We typically marvel at his psychological sleight of hand in determining the identity of the real mother of this child. But today I'm marveling that the enormously wealthy king of a peaceful land would bother at all with these two fighting prostitutes. Today I'm marveling that he would take the time to hear their cases, to take the time to understand the cry of a mother's heart and to take the time to restore the child to his rightful mother. Today I'm marveling at the representation of God's wisdom, a wisdom that sees us for what we are and still seeks to make things right.
The wisdom of righteousness and grace.