|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:16-28 An instance of Solomon's wisdom is given. Notice the difficulty of the case. To find out the true mother, he could not try which the child loved best, and therefore tried which loved the child best: the mother's sincerity will be tried, when the child is in danger. Let parents show their love to their children, especially by taking care of their souls, and snatching them as brands out of the burning. By this and other instances of the wisdom with which God endued him, Solomon had great reputation among his people. This was better to him than weapons of war; for this he was both feared and loved.
Verse 16. - Then came there two women that were harlots [The Jewish writers here, as in the case of Rahab (Joshua 2:1), would understand "hostess," "innkeeper" (פונדקיתא, not פונדקן, as Bahr, which = , πανδοκεῖον, "inn"). In support of which it is alleged that prostitutes never have children, or if they have are not solicitous about them. The meaning "hostess," however (as if from זוּן, to feed), is not to be entertained for a moment, but we may readily admit that these children, though born out of wedlock, were not necessarily the offspring of professed harlots, though the fact that their mothers dwelt together and alone (ver. 17) is certainly suspicious; and see Gesen. s.v. זָנָה. Grotius, from Deuteronomy 23:17, concludes that they must have been foreigners. But it is equally probable that the law was constantly violated] unto the king [as supreme judge] and stood before him.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then came there two women that were harlots unto the king,.... The same day, as Abarbinel thinks, the night before which the Lord had appeared to Solomon; this came to pass through the providence of God, that there should be immediately an instance and proof of the wisdom and understanding the Lord had given to Solomon; these women, according to the Targum, were victuallers or inn keepers; and so Ben Gersom thinks they were sellers of food, as Rahab; though he observes it is possible they might, prostitute themselves: this may be said in their favour, that common prostitutes do not usually bear children, or, when they do, take no care of them, have no affection for them, and much less are fond of them, as these seem to be; but, on the other hand, no mention being made of their husbands, and living together in one house, and alone, and being impudent, brawling, and litigious, give great suspicion of the truth of the character they bear in our version and others:
and stood before him; to lay their case before him, and each plead their own cause; it may be, it had been tried in another court before, and could not be determined, and so was brought to the king; and, if so, the wisdom of Solomon was the more conspicuous, in deciding it in the manner he did.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
1Ki 3:16-28. His Judgment between Two Harlots.
16. Then came there two women—Eastern monarchs, who generally administer justice in person, at least in all cases of difficulty, often appeal to the principles of human nature when they are at a loss otherwise to find a clue to the truth or see clearly their way through a mass of conflicting testimony. The modern history of the East abounds with anecdotes of judicial cases, in which the decision given was the result of an experiment similar to this of Solomon upon the natural feelings of the contending parties.
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