One night after King Solomon, son of David, had offered sacrifices, the Lord appeared to him in a dream. Knowing that Solomon had an honest heart, the Lord said, “Ask what I shall give thee.”
Solomon told the Lord that being the king of the chosen people was very difficult for him. He said he felt like a little child who did not know what to do. His people were so numerous that they could not even be counted. Humbly Solomon said to the Lord, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.”
Solomon had not asked for selfish things like riches, a long life, or victory over his enemies. He had asked for a blessing to make him a good leader. The Lord was pleased with Solomon and answered, “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.”
One day two women stood before Solomon. They had a serious disagreement. They lived together in the same house, and each had given birth to a baby. During the night the baby of one woman died. She took the dead child and placed him in the arms of the other mother, who was sleeping. Then she took the living child and pretended it was her baby.
In the morning, when the real mother saw the dead child in her arms, she knew it was not hers. She recognized the living child in the other woman’s arms as her own and accused the woman of taking her baby.
The woman replied, “Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son.”
Unable to settle the argument, the two women asked Solomon to decide who the mother of the living child was.
Wise King Solomon turned to his servants and commanded, “Bring me a sword.” When the sword was brought, the king commanded, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one [woman], and half to the other.”
The real mother’s heart ached. She could not let her baby be cut in half. She cried to the king, “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.”
The other woman said, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.”
King Solomon realized that the real mother would never allow her baby to be killed. He now knew which woman was the baby’s real mother, and he said, “Give her the living child, … she is the mother thereof.”
All Israel heard of Solomon’s judgment, and during his reign kings and queens from all the world came to hear him speak and to receive his advice.