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Wisdom of Solomon

The Biblical passage showing the classical example of the wisdom of Solomon.

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Image ID: 1622921  [God comes to Solomon in a dream and imparts great wisdom to him]

Image ID: 1622921[God comes to Solomon in a dream and imparts great wisdom to him]

NYPL Digital Gallery
Solomon.jpg

The judgement of Solomon. 1864. Engraver:Rubens, Peter Paul, Sir, 1577-1640.

NYPL Digital Gallery
King Solomon, son of King David and Bathsheba, is renowned in the Old Testament for his wisdom. He is also known for his riches, which were given Solomon by God, along with the wisdom. The Biblical passage that tells the story of why God gifted Solomon with wisdom and wealth immediately precedes the passage that provides the classic example of the wisdom of Solomon -- his judgment about the true mother of a disputed infant.

God Makes Solomon Wise

When Solomon became king of the United kingdom of Judah and Israel he asked God to help him rule his people well and wisely. God was pleased with his this since instead of asking for longevity or wealth, Solomon made a selfless request. God agreed to do as Solomon asked, but also granted him the two things most people would want -- longevity and riches.

I Kings 3

3:8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.

3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

3:10 And the speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.

3:11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;

3:12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

3:13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.

3:14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.

3:15 And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.

The Judgment

Then two women called upon Solomon, asking him to determine which of the two of them should be awarded a disputed infant. Both mothers claimed to have given birth to the baby. Since they couldn't decide, Solomon came up with what sounded like a logical idea. He suggested the baby be cut and split between the two women. When one of the women immediately understood that the beloved child would be killed, she no longer cared whether she got to raise him. All she wanted was that he be safe. The other potential mother didn't care: she wanted her piece. Solomon decided the real mother -- or at least the one who should be the real mother -- was the one who would rather give up her child than see it be destroyed.

I Kings 3

3:16 Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

3:17 And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.

3:18 And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.

3:19 And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it.

3:20 And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.

3:21 And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.

3:22 And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

3:23 Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.

3:24 And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.

3:25 And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.

3:26 Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

3:27 Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.

3:28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.

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