1 Kings 3:28 (ESV) … “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.”
The story of Solomon, the prostitutes, and the baby is one of the best known in the Bible. It was an event that solidified Solomon’s reputation as one of the shrewdest men in history. It was customary in the Ancient Near East for any citizen to have access to the king as the court of final appeal. Prostitutes were one of the most disreputable and disrespected elements of Hebrew society, the kind of people who would be marginalized and overlooked in a quest for justice. But in the reign of wise King Solomon, even they could receive a fair hearing.
The facts of the case were not in dispute. Two prostitutes who shared a house gave birth to babies within three days of each other. During the night one of the babies died. The complainant claimed that the other woman had rolled over on her own baby, killing it. Awaking to this horror, she had switched the babies, placing the dead baby by the first woman’s side. When she awakened, the first woman discovered the dead body, and she instinctively knew what had happened and that the living baby was hers. But her version of the story was hotly disputed by the other woman, who contended that the entire story was a fabrication. And so they argued before the king.
What was Solomon to do? There were no other witnesses who could be called and no medical tests that could determine maternity. Normal judicial procedures were of no value. Solomon’s decision defied all judicial norms: Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.
The ruling stunned one of the women, who immediately cried out that the baby must be spared and given to the other woman. But her companion displayed a coldhearted concern for fairness; she was willing to sacrifice the baby. Solomon had exposed their hearts. His “hearing heart” heard the cry of the true mother, and he rendered his final verdict: Give the living baby to the first woman … she is his mother. The story of Solomon’s ruling swept through the nation. His citizens delighted to retell the story with a kind of awe. What kind of ruler would come up with such an ingenious solution? And there was justice for the poor and disreputable, not just for the rich and the powerful. Surely this was proof that their king had wisdom from God to administer justice.
The wisdom that God delights to give his people is primarily a matter of the heart and not of the mind.