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The Wisdom of Solomon

The days drew near when King David should die. His form was bent, his eye was dim, and his voice was low. He called Solomon to his side and said: "My son, I go the way of all the earth, but you must be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the Lord and walk in His ways, and keep His statutes and commandments that you may prosper in whatever you do. If you will follow the words of the Lord, there shall not fail you one to sit on the throne of Israel."

Soon after David had said this to Solomon, he died and was buried. He had reigned forty years, seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. And now Solomon sat on the throne of Israel and his kingdom was firmly established throughout all Israel.

Solomon loved the Lord, and obeyed the statutes of David, his father. He sacrificed and offered burnt offerings on the mountains and in high places. He went to Gibeon to sacrifice, for there was a great high place there and he offered a thousand burnt offerings.

In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and asked of him: "Ask what I shall give you."

Then Solomon answered the Lord in these words: "O, Lord, You have made me king in place of David, my father. I am but a little child, and I do not know how to go out or to come in. I am in the midst of a great people, therefore, give me an understanding heart to judge this people with wisdom, that I may decide between good and bad." This speech pleased the Lord greatly, in that Solomon had asked for wisdom and an understanding heart.

Then the Lord spoke to Solomon in his dream and said: "Because you have not asked for long life, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but have asked for an understanding heart, I shall give to you the thing you have asked for. There shall be none like you for wisdom. Nor shall any one come after you that shall be wiser than you."

And that was not all the Lord promised Solomon. He promised to give him honors and riches also, so that there should not be any like him among the kings of the earth. He promised that his life should be a long one and full of good works, and that his kingdom should be a great kingdom. Thus does the Lord reward those who seek wisdom and an understanding heart rather than the mere vanities of the world.

Solomon awoke and went to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord, and made a feast for all his servants.

Soon the king had a chance to show the wisdom with which the Lord had blessed him. Two women came before the king and asked him to decide between them as to which one owned a child. One of them said: "My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. My child was born while she was in the house, and three days after her child was also born, and there was no one else in the house with us."

The king waited while the woman told her story. She continued and said: "This woman's child died in the night, because she lay heavy upon it, but my child did not die. When she found that her child had died she rose at midnight and took my son from beside me while I slept and laid it in her own bed, and laid her dead child beside me while I was in a deep sleep and knew not what she did."

The woman stopped a while and the king listened: "When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, lo! a dead child laid beside me, and I knew it was not my child. She has my child, and the dead child was hers. O, my lord, and king, judge between us and restore me my child which this woman has taken."

But the other woman said: "My lord, the living child is my son, and not this woman's son. I laid not the dead child in her bed. She claims my son for that her son is no more." And then they disputed before the king, as to which one was the mother of the living child and which was the mother of the dead child.

The king thought for a while and said to those around him: "Bring me a sword," and they brought a sword to the king and showed it to him.

Then said the king: "Divide the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other of these women, for there is no way of telling to which one the child belongs. Let them share the child between them." And the men took the sword and prepared to divide the child in two before the very eyes of the women.

But one of the women sprang forward eagerly and cried out: "O, my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. Do not divide it but let her have it all, for the child would be dead to us both and my soul yearns that he should live."

The other woman cruelly said: "Divide the child with the sword. Let it he neither mine nor hers, but give each of us a share." She knew her own child was dead and did not care whether this one lived or not.

Solomon turned to his men and said: "Slay not the child, but give it to the woman who would spare its life. She is its mother, and not the one who would have it divided by the sword."

And all Israel heard of the judgment of Solomon, and they feared the king, for they saw the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.