# Oh Zealots So Red
"Repeat it now exactly as you said."1
I told them that for you, Zabud, not me.
Which mother had the live son, which the dead,
Was clear to me when each had made her plea.2
But how to get my court to know that fact?3
I ordered that the boy be cut in two,
And both of them were certain to react
Exactly as they did for all to view.4
The wisdom of a king is what I sought,5
To know the reddened hand and icy heart,
And not forsake the lesson mother taught.6
A king, in wisdom, also plays a part.
Such burning wisdom in a king must blaze
1: Solomon address his friend Zabud. See I Kings 4:5.
2: The two women present their case differently. The plaintiff first discusses the dead child, and the defendant first discusses the live child. Each is describing her own child.
3: Solomon knew which was the real mother before he ordered that a sword be brought to cut the child in half. But if he simply made a ruling, the court might think that the decision was arbitrary or incorrect.
4: Solomon recognized that the two women were living together without a man because they were mother- and daughter-in-law, both of whose husbands had recently died. The daughter-in-law had a motive to lie, because then she would appear to be relieved of having to wait until the boy were 13 years old to relieve her of the duty of levirate marriage (yibum). All the more so she had a motive to see the child killed by the king, because then in actuality, not merely appearance, she would be released from a levirate marriage. It is ordinary insight to recognize a woman who would have the baby killed as not being the real mother. But Solomon knew that the false claimant would not simply say, "See! She says give the baby to me. She is willing to kidnap but not to murder!" His wisdom lay in his knowing that she would agree to having the baby killed, not merely in recognizing that her saying so identified her as the false claimant.
5: See I Kings 3:5-9.
6: See Proverbs 1:8.
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