Mothering Sunday - The Wisdom of Solomon
Date: 06 Mar 2016
Text: 1 Kings 3:16-28
Being a mother must be one of the hardest and yet most rewarding ‘jobs’ ever created by God. They go through the process of being sick in the mornings, then getting bigger and bigger for 9 months and finally experience the pain of actually giving birth. Many say never again, and then go on to have more children! I’m sure that the end result of a fresh, clean baby in their arms soon takes away the memories of the morning sickness, the size of their midriff and the pain of birth.
There are of course many women who would love to go through all the sickness and pain to actually have a child of their own but sadly are unable to do so for a whole variety of reasons. Of those who cannot conceive naturally, many try IVF treatment but without success. Others try the adoption route which takes longer and longer and which, apart from the pain, probably seems like giving birth to an elephant! Still others try fostering as a long or short term option. Then there are those unfortunate women who do give birth but the baby is stillborn or dies within the first few days of birth. My heart goes out to those who have been subjected to such deep sadness. There are sadly those who give birth to a healthy baby only to have the child stolen from them whilst they are resting in hospital. For some women being childless as a result of the circumstances such as those I have just outlined can occasionally be so painful that they do actually resort to the drastic measure of stealing a baby to make sure that they do actually have a baby to nurture and raise as if their own.
Such is this story in 1 Kings 3. The story is really mainly concerned with Solomon’s wisdom since it follows on from the first half of 1 Kings 3 where Solomon had asked God for wisdom. However, rather than think about Solomon I want to focus on the behaviour of the two mothers who appear before him.
In his role as King, Solomon was also judge over any number of differing cases. The NIV talks of the participants in this argument as being prostitutes although one reference I came across suggested that they may well have been inn keepers. However, I don’t really believe their background to be relevant in this case since in reality it is about two women arguing over a baby. On this occasion these two women came before Solomon seeking a legal adjudication. It seems that they had both given birth to baby boys at roughly the same time. We aren’t told where these babies were born but we are told that the two women were together in the home that they seem to have shared. During the night one of the women rolled on top of her baby and unwittingly killed him. She only discovered what had happened when she awoke the next morning. Despite the deep shock that she must have been feeling she was still able to think clearly, at least clearly enough to decide to steal the other woman’s son and claim it as her own.
Imagine how that baby’s mother must have felt when she awoke and found her child missing! The anguish must have been terrible and it would have been made worse by discovering that her baby was now being claimed by someone she lived with and probably counted as a friend. She must have been beside herself with worry and concern for her baby. Regardless of that the other woman seems to have remained adamant that this baby boy was hers and she doesn’t seem to have had any feelings or concerns for the real mother.
Remember that they were appearing before the King in his judicial role and yet they seemed to have continued bickering without any respect for anyone around them. So much so that I should imagine that Solomon was growing increasingly exasperated by their behaviour. I can almost hear a sigh of resignation in his voice as he called for a sword and then gave an order, “Cut the child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” (3:25). What an horrendous order to give someone; chop a child in half in front of its mother and putative mother. We may find that to be an amazing judgement to make, and yet, that was the Wisdom of Solomon at work. It seems more than obvious to me that he did that deliberately since he had an inkling of what was to come.
The reactions of the two women were as different as chalk and cheese; the real mother “was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the King, ‘Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!’” (3:26a). Isn’t that wonderful, the real mother was more concerned for her child than for herself; isn’t that what motherhood is about, a mother sacrificing her own needs and feelings for her child? Compare and contrast that with the attitude of the would-be mother. She told Solomon, ”Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” (3:26b).
In those two statements Solomon had his answer. The first mother was full of love and compassion whilst the second displayed an almost couldn’t care less attitude and seemed full of contempt for the real mother. Solomon knew from the words of the women what his verdict would be; “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is the mother” (3:27).
The story is told to demonstrate the Solomon’s Wisdom, something that he had asked God for in 3:1-15. What I believe it also shows is the real, deep love that a mother feels for her baby, a love than will cause her to do her utmost to protect her child at all costs.
The Modern Story
The story also shows that a mother always knows her own baby and never forgets them no matter what happens. There was a very sad case that I heard about in the last couple of weeks although the original event took place many years ago. It concerns a family in the Cape Province of South Africa. A young couple had their first child, a daughter who they named Zephany. Needless to say, as first time parents they were overjoyed at this gift of a beautiful baby girl. Imagine their horror then when they discovered that the baby, who was only a few days old, had been stolen from her crib in the hospital. I’ve no idea what happened after that up until last year when Zephany would have been a young lady of 17, although I think it is safe to assume that her real parents continued to search for her and never gave up hope.
Eventually the 17 year old Zephany enrolled in a school which just happened to be attended by her 11 year old sister Cassidy, not that either knew the other to be their sister. People commented on their amazing likeness and when the real parents first saw her they knew instinctively that she was their missing daughter. They had coffee with her and talked to her and then went to the authorities with their suspicions. A subsequent DNA test proved that she was indeed their daughter. One news bulletin that I read a while ago reported that Zephany was in the care of the Cape Social Services. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore as she is now 18 years old. Meanwhile the woman, who Zephany regarded as her “mother” and who allegedly stole her from the hospital is now in Court facing a number of charges including kidnap.
Two things from this story stand out for me. Firstly, the real parents always remained hopeful that one day they would be reunited with their first born. Secondly, a mother never forgets her own child; years may pass but memories, love and a mother’s natural instinct remain. I would love to believe that the case will soon be settled and this 18 year old will be happily re-settled with her real family.
Both of these stories illustrate the deep love that a mother feels for their child no matter what happens. In both cases the mother ‘lost’ their child to circumstances beyond their control. In the case of the first woman the matter seems to have been settled fairly quickly with the baby being restored to his rightful mother. The second case took a lot longer to resolve although the end result meant that, the now 18 year old girl, was restored to her own family.
It is only right and proper that on this special day for mothers we should give thanks to God for the gift of children and their mothers and we pray that more and more would appreciate the very special gift that they have been given.