1 Kings 3 describes the famous story of Whose Baby Is This. It demonstrates the wisdom of King Solomon. Two mothers lay claim on one baby.

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ”

Then Solomon makes a seemingly genius move.

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

The wise logic hinges on the two acts in verse 26

The woman [good mother] whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" But the other [bad mother] said, "Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!"

The bad mother has shown her true color. Now the truth is clear.

27Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

28When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

In logical terms, what precisely is Solomon's wise act? What if the bad mother had acted smartly and shrewdly? Will Solomon's logic collapse? Analyze in terms of a sequence of chess moves to checkmate the bad mother no matter how she would respond.

  • Are you asking why the Holy Spirit revealed to Solomon that a true mother would never allow her children to be destroyed? Apr 12, 2021 at 15:37
  • and a false mother would. This is a good idea. Please elaborate it into an answer.
    – user35953
    Apr 12, 2021 at 15:42
  • I'd like to see the explanation in logical terms, not just in spiritual terms.
    – user35953
    Apr 12, 2021 at 15:50
  • It has nothing to do with logic, because logic applies to real human situations only if the actors act rationally, but the situation is about emotion not rationality.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 12, 2021 at 17:20
  • Are you really asking why scare tactics were considered "wisdom" in order to reveal truth? Apr 12, 2021 at 17:30

3 Answers 3


Solomon's ingenuity in the "wise judgement" of 1 Kings 3:16-28 depended on several factors coalescing simultaneously:

  1. Solomon's almost divine ability to read human nature and see the real motive for the debate - the greed and envy of the false mother
  2. The hard-wired maternal instinct - while this would be present in both women, it would be stronger in the true mother
  3. The avarice of the false mother partially disguised as concern for the child
  4. The contempt of the false mother for the true mother because of the her own loss and the (possible or probable) competition for men and money as a result of the two living in the same house, plying the same "trade".

... and much else. The feelings and thought of the two women would have been

Solomon understood all this and probably much more and was immediately able (unlike us who have the luxury of extended time and contemplation) to devise a solution that was manifestly correct and placed the verdict above dispute.

Thus, justice was not only done was was conspicuously seen to be done and acknowledged by all.


Deuteronomy 19:5 made both the Testimony of "The-Other Woman" הָאִשָּׁ֨ה הָאַחֶ֜רֶת and the Testimony of הָאִשָּׁה֩ אֲשֶׁר־בְּנָ֨הּ הַחַ֜י "The-Woman Whose Son [Lived]" : invalid.

  • In order to trust the God-Fearing heart of either Ishah, Solomon uses Deuteronomy 8:2 as a personality test to learn which Ishah would allow הַיֶּ֥לֶד Ha-Yeled "the-child" to be divided (violating Deuteronomy 5:17).

The Ishah observant of God's Mitzvot "Commandments" was to be trusted.


The beauty of Solomon's logic depends on the maternal instinct.

If the bad mother says "Cut him in two!", then the good mother is the other woman.

If the bad mother says "Don't kill him!", then the bad mother is not so bad.

If the bad mother says "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!", the good mother will say "Thank you very much".

Solomon knows that the good mother will react in such a way that would be better than the bad mother.

The bad mother is not really smart enough to say "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!"

Neither of them could outsmart Solomon. One way or another, Solomon will determine who the real mother is.

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