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A Tale of Two Mothers

Solomon was a very famous king in Israel’s history, who wrote many of the Proverbs as well as the book of Ecclesiastes. Among many aspects that Solomon was well-known for, he was especially admired for his wisdom that God blessed him with. The beginning of Solomon’s famous wisdom was the story of the two harlots and their sons in 1 Kings 3: 16-28.

When Solomon first inherited the throne, God came to Solomon in a dream and promised to bless Solomon with wisdom to judge the nation. Shortly after that dream, two women who were harlots came to Solomon to ask for judgment on their behalf. They were living in the same house and both were pregnant about the same time. One woman gave birth to a son. The second also delivered a son three days later. One night soon after, the second woman overlaid her son and her child died.

She then arose at midnight, stole the child of the first woman for herself and laid her dead child in the first woman’s bosom while she was sleeping. In the morning, when the first woman tried to feed her baby, she realized the child was dead but after considering it, she noticed that the child was not hers that she bore. The second woman vehemently denied and claimed the living child was hers. Neither of the two women would back down from their claim on the living child.

So how did Solomon judge this case? Here is Solomon’s verdict in 1 Kings 3:24-25 “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.” This was of course to test the two mothers’ reactions. How did the two mothers respond to this verdict? 1 Kings 3:26 said “Then spake the woman whose 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.” That was when Solomon made the final judgement that the first woman was the true mother of the child and to give her back her child.

What was so fascinating about this story besides the fact that it was used to demonstrate Solomon’s great wisdom that God blessed him with was the responses of the two mothers. They were both harlots (prostitutes). Due to whatever circumstances, they were living in that lifestyle. Obviously, they were not wealthy by any means; otherwise, they would not have chosen to live that way. Living in that condition was hard enough in itself, but to have a child was definitely an added burden for the woman.

Because of their profession, these women might not have even known who the fathers of these children were. However, their responses were vastly different from each other. The second woman who overlaid her own child and killed her son by accident, did not even take time to mourn for her dead son. Her first action was to steal the first woman’s child to claim for her own. When Solomon made the verdict to cut the child in half and give each half to each woman, she did not even care and agreed to his verdict.

It was all about what she wanted and not about the life of her child or another woman’s child. She was cruel, selfish and was what they Bible described as “without natural affection” (2 Timothy 3:3). On the contrary, the first woman whose “bowels yearned upon her son” would rather allow another woman to take her son so that the child can live than to have the child suffer by being cut in half. She loved her son. Despite living a terrible lifestyle, she still knew right from wrong.

Where I grew up in Vietnam, there was a saying in Vietnamese that “Even a fierce tigress would not eat its own baby.” My mother often reminds us how precious children are and how much she loves us, her kids. There were times in Vietnam, we were so poor, we barely had enough to eat. My dad was hoping for a son but all nine of us were girls. I am very grateful that my parents did not choose to abort me because I was not a boy even though they were poor and I was child number eight.

None of us born would endure the excruciating pain of being pulled out limb by limb, so how is that acceptable for a child to suffer what we would rather not? If these aborted children were given a voice, I wonder what they would say? I would imagine that they would choose to be given a chance to live. How could a harlot who might not have been able to afford to live let alone have a child and take care of him had more “natural affection” and compassion on the son of her womb than some women today? Ultimately, the decision to give or take the life of a child is not ours to make, it is God’s.

This biblical story is an example of what is taking place in our modern world, and how there is truly nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Be the voice for the voiceless, and righteousness before God. May we all learn from these two mothers and love our children unconditionally.

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