King Solomon is best known for his brilliance and wisdom, attributes that were actually a requested gift from God. It happened this way:

One night, God spoke to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he desired. The adolescent Solomon responded that he was “but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in” (Kings I 3:7). He therefore requested that God “give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge Your great people?” (Kings I 3:9).

In the dream, God grants him his wish, greatly pleased that Solomon had not requested riches or vengeance upon Israel’s enemies (or his own).

Solomon’s new found wisdom is quickly tested by the famous “Case of the Two Mothers.”

Two harlots who lived together gave birth within a few days of each other. Harlot A claimed that Harlot B had accidentally lain on her own child and killed him, and then exchanged the dead baby for Harlot A’s living baby. The defendant’s response was, “No! The living one is mine!” Solomon listened to them and, unable to clarify the case without witnesses, he surprised everyone by ordering that the child be cut in two, giving each mother half.

Solomon knew the true mother (and awarded her the baby) when she called out a plea to retract his cruel order, offering to waive her claim to save the baby’s life. The other woman, however, insisted on letting the sword do its grisly work. (Kings I 3:16-27).