1 Kings 3:25
And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 Kings 3:25. The king said — With seeming sincerity, though with a design far above the reach of the two women, or of the people present, who probably with horror expected the execution of his sentence. “Solomon knew at once that the only sign whereby to discover the true mother, would be her affection, and compassionate tenderness for her child; and therefore, in order to distinguish between the two, his business was to make trial of this. And if we suppose that, when he commanded the child to be divided, he spake with a sedate countenance and seeming earnestness, as the true mother’s petition to the king makes it apparent that he did; then we may suppose further, not only the two women, but all the people present, with dread and admiration expecting the execution of the thing; which when it ended in so just a decision, quite contrary to what they looked for, raised joy in every breast, and gave a more advantageous commendation to the judge. And yet Abarbinel, the Jewish commentator, thinks that all this was no great proof of Solomon’s extraordinary wisdom, nor could it beget that fear or reverence which the text (says 1 Kings 3:28) it procured to his person. His opinion, therefore, is, that Solomon made a discovery of the truth antecedent to this experiment; that by observing the countenance, the manner of speech, and all the motions of the women, he discerned the secret of their hearts, and penetrated to the bottom of the business; and that his commanding the child to be divided afterward was only to notify to the company what he before had discovered.” See Patrick and Calmet.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.Solomon determined to inaugurate his reign by a grand religious ceremonial at each of the two holy places which at this time divided between them the reverence of the Jews. Having completed the religious service at Gibeon, where was the tabernacle of the congregation, he proceeded to Jerusalem, and sacrificed before the ark of the covenant, which was in Mount Zion 2 Samuel 6:12. A great feast naturally followed on a large sacrifice of peace-offerings. In these the sacrificer always partook of the flesh of the victim, and he was commanded to call in to the feast the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow Deuteronomy 14:29. Compare 2 Samuel 6:19; 1 Chronicles 16:3. 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.

He said this with seeming sincerity and earnestly, though with a design far above the reach of the two women or of the people present, who probably with admiration and horror expected the execution of it. And the king said,.... To one of his officers:

divide the living child in two; not that he meant it should be actually done, though it might at first be thought he really intended it, and so strike the minds of some with horror, as it did, however, the mother; but he ordered this, to try the affections of the women, and thereby come to the true knowledge of the affair; though, some think he knew it before by their countenances and manner of speech, but that he was desirous all present might see it, and be satisfied of it:

and give half to the one, and half to the other; since both claimed it.

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. Divide the living child] According to Josephus, the order of the king was that both the living and the dead child should be divided and half of either be given to each mother. But this was not in Solomon’s thought. He was not wishing to make a fair division of the two children, but, by threatening the living one, to bring to light the maternal feeling and so to find out to which of them it really belonged.Verse 25. - And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other [Heb. one]. Solomon's Judicial Wisdom. - As a proof that the Lord had bestowed upon Solomon unusual judicial wisdom, there is appended a decision of his in a very difficult case, in which Solomon had shown extraordinary intelligence. Two harlots living together in one house had each given birth to a child, and one of them had "overlaid" her child in the night while asleep (עליו שׁכבה אשׁר, because she had lain upon it), and had then placed her dead child in the other one's bosom and taken her living child away. When the other woman looked the next morning at the child lying in her bosom, she saw that it was not her own but the other woman's child, whereas the latter maintained the opposite. As they eventually referred the matter in dispute to the king, and each one declared that the living child was her own, the king ordered a sword to be brought, and the living child to be cut in two, and a half given to each. Then the mother of the living child, "because her bowels yearned upon her son," i.e., her maternal love was excited, cried out, "Give her (the other) the living child, but do not slay it;" whereas the latter said, "It shall be neither mine nor thine, cut it in pieces."
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