by Beth Piepenburg
In this story of 1 Kings 3:16-28, we are informed that two women are presented to Solomon for judgment for an unresolvable situation. Because names aren’t given, I will name the first mother Alepha, and the second mother Betah, a modification of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. While Solomon used great wisdom in deciding their dispute, I wondered why Scripture didn’t inform us who the real mother was.
Alepha speaks out and presents the problem that each mother had birthed a baby son, but Betah slept on hers and he died. Then Betah traded babies while Alepha was sleeping. Alepha desired justice! Betah speaks up and says this is not true, and Alepha says not so. What is Solomon to do to decide this case justly?
Many might think Alepha is the true mother of the living child, because she is first to petition the king about how she was wronged. No one is going to mess with a mother bear, right? Yet, she being the victim is a strong possibility.
Perhaps Betah is the true mother of the living baby, but Alepha is grieved and her emotional loss leaves her desperate enough to steal Betah’s baby son and claim it as her own. Alepha poisons the well against Betah by her lies. By winning this case, Alepha will have all legal rights to the child, and poor Betah will be victimized by Alepha and the system.
Desire can open the door to deception; even a good desire can open the door to deception. Solomon desired to rule justly, and this case presented a problem. Would Solomon be deceived by the emotional drama presented?
Interestingly, Solomon called for the sword to help decide who the rightful mother was. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul identifies that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. In Hebrews 4:12, we are told, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart.” We need God’s spirit to discern rightly in life.
While the true mother was willing to give her son to the other in order to spare her son’s life, the other woman was vindictive enough to see the baby split into two. Thus, Solomon was able to discern the true mother.
We are not told which woman was the true mother, because either scenario could have been possible. Only by true wisdom could Solomon discern the thoughts and intents. Solomon’s wisdom was not logically or emotional based, but was placed in his heart by God.