International Sunday School Lesson Study Notes
Lesson Text: 1 Kings 3:16-28; 2 Chronicles 9:8 Lesson Title: Judging with Wisdom and Justice
Where would you go today to find examples of actions of wisdom that produce a just solution? Don’t be surprised if you have to think a while to come up with an answer to that question. While there are conflict management groups and mediation groups all across the country the truth of the matter is there are not many good examples and actions of wisdom and justice. The homeowner often struggles to find a just solution to building conflicts. Sometimes the employee can’t find an answer to a conflict with his employer or business. And it seems like wisdom and justice are nowhere to be found when it comes to a just solution to family problems.
While there are no perfect examples of actions of wisdom that produce just solutions outside of Jesus Christ, there are nevertheless many positive examples that help us to judge with wisdom and justice. King Solomon is one of those examples.
After King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the deception, lies, murder and consequences of his sin, a glimmer of hope was born in the form of a son. David and Bathsheba were the parents of a boy named Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24-25). It is possible that the prophet Nathan tutored young Solomon since God used Nathan to give Solomon the special name of “Jedidiah.” (2 Samuel 12:24-25). The name “Jedidiah” means “beloved of Jehovah.” The name Solomon means “peace” or “peaceable.”
It is estimated that Solomon was in his mid twenties when he became King of Israel. For forty years, from about 970-930 B.C., Solomon sat on the throne of a united Israel where the Bible says “Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:25). The event in today’s lesson occurred early in Solomon’s reign, possibly the first year. While Solomon had little if any experience under his belt it is clear that God was with him from the very beginning. The Bible says, “And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly” (2 Chronicles 1:1). Not only was God with Solomon but Solomon also sought the Lord and His help (1 Kings 3:7-9).
There are people in the world today who associate Christianity with ignorance. Salvation does not compromise a person’s intellect it actually completes a person’s intellect. The wisest people on the earth are those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The gospel does not require you to “check your brains at the door.” Contrary, the gospel demands the full use of your intellect. If there is any biblical character who silences the agnostic and intellectual critics of our day, it is the man Solomon. Judged by his peers he was the wisest man who ever lived and still enjoys that reputation today. He was by no means perfect. He made a lot of mistakes and committed many sins. But for many years this brilliant and wise man honored the Lord. He is a great example of the wisdom man can have if he only asks of God (James 1:5).
Confronted with A Problem (1 Kings 3:16-22)
According to the law of God, settling a judicial matter is confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). The young King Solomon was faced with a decision where there were no witnesses and no evidence. He had two mothers standing before him with one dead baby, one living baby and both mothers saying the living baby was hers. How is this young king going to handle this impossible problem?
“Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.” The word “harlots” means that these two women were prostitutes and the two babies that are the focus of this story were no doubt conceived out of wedlock from adulterous and sinful relationships. Although prostitution was a part of society in Solomon’s day as it is in our day it was condemned by the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:29).
The fact that these two women “came” to Solomon is astonishing within itself. The fact that Solomon would receive these women and hear the case says much about Solomon’s wisdom. Its first action of judging with wisdom and justice is seen in the fact that he does not discriminate or look down upon those who are rejected and judged by society. Sometimes God’s people, especially those in leadership are quick to judge and come to conclusions about situations and circumstances on surface opinion and preconceived ideas. To do so is not wise.
“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. 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.”
The two mothers’s who stood before Solomon “dwelled” together “in one house.” That statement indicates they lived and worked together as prostitutes. The first woman explained to Solomon that she “was delivered of a child” or gave birth in the house in the presence of the second woman. The absence of any mention a husband indicates that child was probably conceived as a result of her occupation. Only the two women were in the house when the first child was born.
“And it came to pass on the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also.” Three days after the first woman gave birth; the second woman in this story gave birth also. Her next statement is crucial. “…And we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.” There were no clients in this house of prostitution at the time. That means there were no other witnesses to how this baby died. Just the word of these two women who are now in conflict over what has happened.
Keep in mind the details being given to Solomon and the thoughts that could have been going through his mind. Who in their right mind would believe the testimony of a prostitute? In fact, who cared enough about a prostitute to even listen to what they had to say? You might be thinking, its Solomon’s job. He is required to listen. That’s part of the difference in judging with wisdom and justice and just judging. All of us must have an open heart and care about those with whom our lives cross paths.
“And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it. 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. 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.”
The first woman’s testimony is that the second’s woman’s child “died in the night.” In fact, she says the child’s death is a result of the mother rolling over on the child which would result in suffocation. The first woman also tells Solomon that something worse than the child’s death occurred during the night. When the second woman “arose at midnight” and realized what had happened, she “took my son from beside me…and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.” In other words, she switched babies in the middle of the night.
To the horror of the first mother when she “rose in the morning” to nurse her child, “behold, it was dead.” As she “considered” or thought about what had happened, and no doubt carefully examined the child, she realized “it was not my son.” It is not the child she has born and she is absolutely certain as any mother would be. This corpse of this child is not her baby. So, where is her baby? Her obviously conclusion is the other woman has her baby. That is the case she brings before Solomon. That is the evidence. No other witnesses. The dead baby can’t speak. The living baby can’t speak. It’s just two women, a baby, and King Solomon!
“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.”
Of course there are always two sides to every story. Sometimes there are three or four sides. The “other woman” rejected the story of the first mother. She said, “Nay, but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son.” This is exactly what you would expect her to say. But no sooner had she uttered her words to the king, the first woman spoke again and said, “No, but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son.”
“Thus they spake before the king” means they went at it, back and forth, telling Solomon their side of the story. There you have the problem. The first woman says one thing the second woman says another. And there are no other witnesses. Solomon couldn’t ask for finger prints or foot prints. No photos to look at. Solomon couldn’t ask for an autopsy. Solomon couldn’t ask for a DNA test to see which bed or which side of the bed the mother’s were laying with their children. There were no cameras in the business to see who moved where and when. All Solomon had was the words of two women, the dead body of a child, and the living child whose future awaited Solomon’s decision.
Considering all the Facts (1 Kings 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.”
When you first read Solomon’s response you might ask yourself if he is just buying time with his words. That is not what is happening here. Solomon carefully and correctly restates the facts as they were given to him by these women. These words reveal the fact that Solomon has listened intently to the words of both mothers. He has listened and looked beyond the words. The evidence and the facts are limited but Solomon has paid attention to everything involved in this terrible incident.
Wisdom always seeks to understand a problem by considering all the facts and information. While we don’t always know everything about everything it is obvious that we are often too hasty in our conclusions and decision making process. One of the main reasons problems are never solved is because people never understand the original problem.
If we are to be people of justice and wisdom we must do everything within our power to get a clear understanding of what is happening. Not just the facts but the people and reality of how it all affects everyone involved, including God. So many times we just see things from our point of view. It is never wise to look at life through the lens of your family, your traditions, and your preconceived ideas. There is more going on in the world and the situations of life than just the stuff happening in your life. The Bible says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”
Coming to a Decision (1 Kings 3:24-27)
“And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.”
When Solomon said, “Bring me a sword…” the women must have wondered what was about to take place. And then Solomon said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” His words were designed to convince the two women who had different stories that he would cut the living baby in half so they both would be satisfied. He didn’t ask them if they believed he would cut the living baby in half. What he did was convincing and the two women obviously believed Solomon was going to divide the child.
Wise decisions go to the heart of the problem. Solomon knew this case could never be satisfied by looking at evidence and hearing two sides of the same story. So he went were reality lies, in the heart of the true mother.
“Then spake the woman who’s 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.”
No sooner had the words “Divide the living child in two” came out of Solomon’s mouth than did the real mother of the living child said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.” The woman who spoke these words was the real mother of the living child. Her “bowels yearned upon her son” means “her heart was hot with love.” Because of that love she was willing to give up her child if he could live rather than see her son die.
The woman who had killed her baby by rolling over on it during the night said, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” What a heartless response! This woman revealed the attitude of her heart. Not only was she without her child she is also willing to see the child of the women she works with and lives with die just to satisfy her own desires. On the other hand, the real mother of the child would rather see her living child spared even if it meant living with a woman who had just suggested to Solomon that the child be divided in half.
“Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.”
Solomon ordered that the mother who was willing to spare the baby’s life be given “the living child.” Solomon concluded “she is the mother.” What amazing wisdom! His God-given wisdom had helped him make a crucial decision. God will also help us when we wait upon Him and ask Him for wisdom. The prayer that Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 3:9 had been answered by the Lord. Pray for wisdom today. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
Recognized by the Nation and the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 3:28; 2 Chronicles 9:8)
“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.”
Is it any surprise that word of Solomon’s wisdom spread so quickly throughout the land? There is something at work here more than the human wisdom or problem solving ability of man. The people of Israel “…saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.” God had given Solomon the ability to make wise and prudent decisions as a leader in Israel.
“Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the LORD thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do judgment and justice.”
The Queen of Sheba is the one speaking in this verse. Sheba is located in the region near modern day Yemen. Second Chronicles 9 records the visit of the queen to see King Solomon after hearing of his wisdom (2 Chronicles 9:1). She wanted to see firsthand the man everyone was talking about. After arriving and seeing how the Lord had blessed Solomon, she said, “It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom: Howbeit I believed not their words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard” (2 Chronicles 9:5-6).
“Blessed be the LORD thy God” is most likely not a personal profession of faith but recognition of the Lord’s sovereignty over the nation of Israel. The queen recognizes that God has “delighted” or favored Solomon in placing him on the throne of Israel to the God’s king. In her language and in her mind the queen recognizes and confesses that Solomon’s wisdom and ability to rule justly is not only a tribute to his greatness, but more than anything a tribute to the greatness of God.
Wisdom is not just about making good decisions that benefit us personally. When we ask for wisdom and practice wisdom in our lives it ultimately brings glory and honor to God to blesses all those around us.
The evidence of wisdom appeared early in Solomon’s life and reign as King of Israel. The Lord gave Solomon a discerning heart to administer true justice which gives us a glimpse of the ultimate anointed King of Israel, Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42).
Until that day when Jesus Christ rules and reigns upon this earth each of us like Solomon should pray and earnestly ask God for wisdom. We may never face a circumstance such as Solomon did in today’s lesson, but we all need wisdom for the everyday decisions in life.
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