How did King Solomon get called wise for proposing cutting a baby in half?

February 5, 2022 by Joshua
in Choosing/Decision-Making, Humor, Stories

You know the story about the two women each claiming a baby was hers, where King Solomon says to cut the baby in half and the woman who says to let the other woman keep it must be the mother?

Have you ever thought about this story? How has it become a model of wisdom? It fails at every level.

First, are we supposed to believe a woman simply claims ownership another woman’s baby? As if no one else would notice? As if she herself wouldn’t notice she had stolen another woman’s baby? As if no one had seen either mother with the baby who could be a witness?

Then she didn’t run away after kidnapping the baby, but stuck around so the mother can take her to court? But the case doesn’t just go to court, it goes to the king, where it simply ends up she-said-she-said with no evidence or witnesses?

Nothing so far makes sense, but it gets crazier. The king doesn’t ask any questions. He just says to cut the baby in half. Nobody remarks that a king suggested cutting a baby in half? For his scheme to work, people would have to believe him, that he suggested cutting a baby in half?!? And that he would suggest each woman getting half a baby?!?

Even if half a baby each resulted in each getting something of value as opposed to a bloody pulp, everyone knows one woman must be the mother and the other a liar. If the bloody pulp was valuable as opposed to nightmarish, this solution would reward the liar and punish the mother.

Amazingly, we’re supposed to believe that the liar agrees to the bloody pulp? She wanted a baby, but is happy with bloody pulp? If so, she could have stolen half the baby in the first place, given the apparent cultural acceptance of halving babies.

Even more amazing, we’re supposed to believe that the mother chooses to give up the baby. For the story to make sense, she would have had to have believed the king would cut the baby in half. If so, I guess we can accept her preferring losing her baby to gaining the bloody pulp. Note she doesn’t just accept that option. She volunteers it. She was willing to walk away from this interaction without a baby. She could be satisfied only if she believed the king was going to chop the baby in half.

For that solution, we call King Solomon wise? If we’re supposed to understand the story is a parable not to be taken literally, should we believe that he’s okay with everyone believing he considers suggesting cutting babies in half acceptable?

The biblical story

Here’s the original, assuming it wasn’t an earlier story copied by whoever wrote the bible, as many stories are:

One day two women came to King Solomon, and one of them said:

Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home, and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.

One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died. Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.

In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn’t my son.

“No!” the other woman shouted. “He was your son. My baby is alive!”

“The dead baby is yours,” the first woman yelled. “Mine is alive!”

They argued back and forth in front of Solomon, until finally he said, “Both of you say this live baby is yours. Someone bring me a sword.”

A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, “Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him.”

“Please don’t kill my son,” the baby’s mother screamed. “Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.”

The other woman shouted, “Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”

Solomon said, “Don’t kill the baby.” Then he pointed to the first woman, “She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.”

Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.

They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly?? We’re supposed to believe any of the story or that the story reveals wisdom in any way?

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