Saturday, October 15, 2016
The Just Ruler Has Wisdom, Empathy, and Discernment
As we saw last week, King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 3:7-14; 4.29-32) epitomized the wise ruler who serves his family, people, and Lord. In addition to being king, and overseer of the Lord’s house who built His temple, Solomon also had to be judge over his people, deciding various disputes.
Scripture shows us one of his just decisions (1 Kings 3:16-28), demonstrating his wisdom, empathy, and discernment. Wisdom indicates not only book knowledge, but an emotional response to that knowledge leading to proper action. There are three characters in the courtroom scene described: Solomon as judge, a harlot as plaintiff, and a second harlot as defendant.
The first harlot to plead her case says that she lives in the same house with the second harlot, that she recently gave birth to a son, and that the second harlot also gave birth to a son three days later. She accuses the second woman of rolling over on top of her newborn so that the infant died, taking the plaintiff’s live infant, and placing her own dead baby in the plaintiff’s arms while she was asleep.
Essentially, she claims the defendant is guilty of negligence, kidnapping, and deception. She says she realized what had happened when she tried to nurse the child, found that he was dead, and did not recognize him as the son she had delivered. But the defendant not only denies these charges, but says that the reverse is true, implying that the first woman is the one who is guilty of these three crimes.
The first harlot says that the living child is her son; the second harlot argues that the living child is instead her son; and Solomon summarizes the case by repeating that they each claim to be the mother of the surviving infant. What is Solomon to do with this classic case of “she said, she said?”
Knowledge of the facts is of limited help in this case, for there were no witnesses, no evidence (presumably the women were not of different race or distinguishing features that would indicate one to be the biological mother of the living child, and this was way before the days of DNA testing!), and contradictory testimony. Instead, Solomon must rely on discernment, accurately judging the character, veracity, and motivation of each woman. To do this, he must use empathy, placing himself in the sandals of the true mother, and how she would react to protect her child.
So he performs an acid test, seemingly resorting to extreme measures. He commands that a sword be given him and threatens to cut the child in two, to give half to each woman. In so doing he discerned the true motivation of each woman, for the biological mother would not allow her child to be harmed, for his welfare was far more important than her desire to raise him. But the other woman, motivated by grief for her dead son, envy of the woman whose child survived, and bitterness against the whole situation, was willing to have the child slain rather than let the true mother have him.
The true mother, whose emotions yearned to save her son, begged Solomon not to kill the infant, but to give him to the lying woman. In contrast, the liar said “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” (v. 26). Solomon rightfully discerned that the woman who begged to save the child’s life was his true mother, commanded that the child not be harmed, and ordered that she be given the living child.
Interestingly, Scripture does not reveal whether it was the plaintiff or the defendant who was the true mother, perhaps because how or if we go about seeking conflict resolution is less important than the truth of the situation and our heart regarding it. In response to Solomon’s wise decision, Israel spread the news throughout the nation, realized that God had granted him true wisdom, and feared his judgment.
Solomon is therefore not only a wise ruler, but a just judge, and as we see in other chapters, the architect of God’s house. In some ways this foreshadows Jesus Christ’s multiple roles as King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) and Righteous Judge (Psalm 9:8; 58:11; 67:4;) in His second coming, and Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) Who sits at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69).
As Solomon built God’s temple according to His instructions (1 Kings 5), even now Jesus is designing mansions in His Father’s house (John 14:2) for each of His children! Unlike Solomon, however, who was subject to the curse of sin common to every man since Adam’s fall (Genesis 3:17-19), Jesus is without sin, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent!
Praise God that all who have trusted in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) need not fear His second coming as King and Judge, for the Priest is also the Perfect Sacrifice (Hebrews 9:9-14) Who has reconciled sinful man (2 Corinthians 5:18) and Holy God! In the meantime, may we be blessed with His wisdom, knowledge and understanding! (Proverbs 2:6; 9:10; Isaiah 11:2)
© 2016 Laurie Collett