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Judgment of Solomon
Fresco of the Judgment of Solomon, Wallfahrtskirche Frauenberg (de) Frauenberg, Styria
The Judgment of Solomon refers to a story from the Hebrew Bible in which King Solomon of Israel ruled between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child by tricking the parties into revealing their true feelings. It has become an archetypal example of a judge displaying wisdom in making a ruling.
School of Giorgione, The Judgement of Salomon, 1500.
The story is recounted in 1 Kings 3:16-28. Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgment. One of the women claimed that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other.
After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there was only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy's true mother cried out, "Oh Lord, give the baby to her, just don't kill him!" The liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, "It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!"
The king declared the first mother as the true mother, as a true, loving mother would rather surrender her baby to another than hurt him, and gave her the baby. King Solomon's judgment became known throughout all of Israel and was considered an example of profound wisdom.