The Judgment of Solomon is one of the most famous illustrations of justice.
Is it a good way to do justice, you will be better able to decide after reading the summary, then the text itself, and finally understand the moral?
Summary of the Judgment of Solomon
In this episode of the Bible, King Solomon (2nd son of King David) makes a radical judgment. Two women each have a son. One of them dies. Then the mother of this one replaces him with the baby still alive.
And both mothers claim that this still living son is theirs.
Solomon decides to cut the baby in half and give a share to each. The real mother prefers to give the living baby to the other woman, while the non-mother agrees to share.
King Solomon recognizes the real mother and gives her the baby back.
Text of the judgment of Solomon
Then two prostitutes came and stood before the king (Solomon). One said, “I beg you, my lord, I and this woman live in the same house, and I gave birth to my child while she was there. Now, three days after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together, with no one else in the house, just the two of us. The son of this woman died one night because she had lain on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son who was next to me – your servant was asleep – and laid him against her; and her son, the dead man, she lay against me. I got up in the morning to nurse my son, but he was dead. When the day came, I looked at him carefully, but it was not my son, the one I had given birth to. The other woman said, “No, my son is the living one, and your son is the dead one,” but the first woman continued to say, ‘No, your son is the dead one and my son is the living one. Thus they spoke before the king. The king said: ‘This one says: “My son is the living one and your son is the dead one”; and this one says: “No, your son is the dead one and my son is the living one.” The king said, “Bring me a sword!” And they brought the sword before the king. And the king said, “Cut the living child in two and give one half to the one and one half to the other.” And the woman whose son was the living one said to the king, for her bowels were moved about her son: “Pardon, my lord! Give him the baby alive, but do not kill him! ‘While the other said, ’He will be neither mine nor yours! Cut! “Then the king spoke and said, “Give the first one the baby alive, but do not kill it; she is the mother.”
All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had given, and they feared the king, for they had seen that there was divine wisdom in him to give justice.
First book of Kings (3, 16–28)
The Moral of Solomon’s JudgmentIn order to
justice, Solomon’s account mentions two methods:
1. The method he seems to want to use first:
Give each party a portion of the object claimed. Share the reward, the due.
2. The second method he finally uses
Forcing by radical choice the false to be unmasked and the truth to be revealed. Find the reasonable judgment by the threat of a radical judgment.