1 Kings 3-5 Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other

From 1 Kings 3-5

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First Kings begins with the death of King David (about 970 B.C.) and the reign of his son, Solomon, who “excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom” (10:23). Solomon’s unfaithfulness later in life set the stage for general apostasy among the people. The harsh policies of his son Rehoboam led to the revolt of the northern tribes and the division of Israel. The northern tribes would subsequently be called Israel, while the southern tribes would be called Judah. First Kings describes the construction of the temple in Jerusalem and shows the importance of proper worship. God’s faithfulness to his people is shown as he sent prophets, most notably Elijah, to warn them not to serve other gods. The author of 1 Kings is unknown. (The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (1 Ki). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.)

In a dream the LORD offers Solomon anything he wishes for. Solomon asks for wisdom and discernment so he may govern his people well. He wakes up and is immediately tested. Two prostitutes come in with a child and each claim he is their won. Solomon resolves the dispute in a surprising manner and the people look up to him as king. In the gospel Jesus gives amazing answers to question designed to trap him. He ends up on top as well.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Solomon has asked for wisdom and discernment. The ability to govern his people (1 Ki 3.1-15). Almost straight away he is given the opportunity to use the gift God has given him.

16 Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.

17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.”

22 But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.”

The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.”

Thus they spoke before the king. (1 Ki 3.16-22)

Both women are prostitutes. Solomon as king and judge doesn’t utter a word of criticism about their trade.

Occupational hazard. Prostitutes in those times would occasionally bear children. We don’t know if the explanation about how the child died is true or not. But somehow a child died. Presumably it was suffocated or crushed. That’s why it is assumed it was laid on. Somehow a women lay on top of her child over night and it died. The experience would have been horrible.

I’m sure each of the women would be able to correctly identify their own child from the other persons without to much trouble. Solomon is given a predicament. Who should he believe? One is lying, one is telling the truth.

What would you do to resolve the impasse? Can you tell when someone is lying to you?

11 Prostitutes child wisdom

23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’ ”

24 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king.

25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” (1 Ki 3.23-25)

Solomon gives a famous and shocking response. Cut the child in half and give both women a half. A sword was brought.

Tension would have pliable in the room as the man prepared to cut the infant in half.

Solomon’s instruction would shock both women and hopefully reveal one from the other by their responses.

26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.”

But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”

27 Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” (1 Ki 3.26-27)

Solomon calls his own bluff. He never intended to have the child cut in half.

The women nicely give responses which differentiate the one who cares for the child and the one who does not. Solomon gives the child to the women who cared enough for the child to give it to the other.

I wonder if both women returned to the same home? How would they have lived?

28 And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice. (1 Ki 3.28)

It doesn’t matter because the story is intended to show how wise the king was and establish him as king. People would have known the LORD gave him wisdom and the ability to govern.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

For a time Solomon continues to rule with God given wisdom and discernment. But it didn’t last forever. He would eventually turn away from the LORD to worship other gods. He didn’t always obey the LORD or use the wisdom he was given.

Story of Jesus

Jesus is greater than Solomon (Mt 12.42). He too faced difficult situations. In some he was being tested and opposed.

13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mk 12.13-17)

Just as they were in awe of Solomon because of his wisdom. They marveled at Jesus for his answer to their test.

Jesus points to himself as the true king of the the world. Not Caesar. Render to God, the things that are God’s.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.