The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Third Book of Kings
By now, Solomon’s power was firmly established, and he allied himself by mar-riage to the king of Egypt, whose daughter he wedded. He took her to live in the Keep of David; not yet had he built his own palace, or the Lord’s house; not yet had he finished walling in Jerusalem.
In those days, the Lord had no temple built for him, and men used to sacrifice on hill-tops.
Great love had Solomon for the Lord, and followed the counsel of his father David, though indeed he too went to mountain shrines, to sacrifice and offer up incense.
Once he had betaken himself to Gabaon, where there was a famous mountain shrine, to worship there; a thousand victims king Solomon offered in burnt-sacrifice, there on the altar at Gabaon.
And that night the Lord appeared to him in a dream, bidding him choose what gift he would.
Thou hast been very merciful, answered Solomon, to my father David, a servant of thine that ever shewed himself loyal and observant, and kept his heart true to thee; and one great mercy thou didst keep till the last; thou hast granted the succession to a son of his own, the man thou seest.
Yes, Lord God, thou hast bidden this servant of thine reign where his father reigned; but, Lord, what am I? No better than a little child, that has no skill to find its way back and forth.
And here am I, thy servant, lost among the thousands of the people thou hast chosen, a people whose numbers are beyond all count and reckoning.
Be this, then, thy gift to thy servant, a heart quick to learn, so that I may be able to judge thy people’s disputes, and discern between good and ill. How else should a man sit in judgement over such a people as this, great as thy people is great?
The Lord listened well pleased, and looked with favour on the choice he had made.
For this request of thine, he told Solomon, thou shalt be rewarded. Thou didst not ask for a long life, or riches, or vengeance upon thy enemies, but for wisdom to administer justice.
Thy prayer is granted; hereby I grant thee a heart full of wisdom and discernment, beyond all that went before thee or shall come after thee.
And I grant thee moreover all thou didst not ask for; in wealth, in glory, no king that ever was may compare with thee.
And if thou wilt follow the paths I have chosen for thee, as thy father did, keeping charge and commandment of mine, long life thou shalt have too.
With that, Solomon awoke; it was a dream. But when he came back to Jerusalem, he stood before the ark that bears record of the Lord’s covenant, and brought burnt-sacrifice, and made welcome-offerings, with a great feast for all his servants.
And now two women, harlots both of them, came and stood in the royal presence.
Justice, my lord! said one of them. This woman and I share a single house, and there, in her presence, I gave birth to a child;
three days after my delivery, she too gave birth. We were still living together; none else was in the house but we two.
Then, one night, she overlay her child as she slept, and it died.
So, rising at dead of night, when all was still, she took my son from beside me, my lord, while I slept, put him in her own bosom, and her dead son in mine.
In the morning, when I raised myself to give my child suck, a dead child was there; and it was not till I looked at it more closely under the full light of day that I found this was never the child I bore.
And when the other woman said, No, it is thy child that is dead, mine that is alive, she persisted in answering, Thou liest; it is my child that lives, thine that is dead. Such was the angry debate they held in the king’s presence.
See, said the king, it is all, My child lives and thine is dead, on the one side, and Thy child is dead and mine lives, on the other.
Bring me a sword. So a sword was brought out before the king.
Cut the living child in two, he said, and give half to one, half to the other.
Whereupon the true mother of the living child, whose heart went out to her son, cried out, No, my lord, give her the living child; never kill it! Not so the other; Neither mine nor thine, she said; let it be divided between us.✻
No, said the king, do not kill the living child, give It to the first; she is its mother.✻
This award was talked of throughout all Israel, and men feared the king, that was so inspired by divine wisdom in the judgements he gave.
The Holy Bible