I have thought a lot recently about the story of Solomon and the two mothers. It’s well known. Two women had come before the king, each had given birth to a child, but one baby had died. The claim from each woman was that the living son was hers. One mother claimed, “This woman’s son died in the night, because she smothered him while she slept with him, then switched the children in the night.” The other woman retorted, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son. She is making up this story to steal my son.”
Solomon examined the situation as each woman made her case, then announced he had a great way to resolve the problem: he would take out his sword, cut the baby in two halves to give to each of the women. Suddenly, one of the women shrieked, fell to her knees and begged him not to do that. She gave up her claim if only the king would spare the child’s life. Solomon then looked upon the weeping woman and told his royal guard, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”
There is an amazing amount of wisdom (it’s Solomon after all) to this account. However, I think much of it is lost today. Imagine for a moment if a family law judge today would announce a resolution such as this. Both mothers, their attorneys and the media covering the trial would laugh. The bailiffs would not follow the command. And the judge would likely be committed for psychiatric evaluation.
The point is not that the idea is outdated; however, our ability to relate may be as we cannot truly empathize with the story. A threat of cutting a child in half would never come from a benevolent authority figure today. Such a threat would only come from someone we view as evil or criminal, and that’s how we would likely view a modern-day Solomon if something similar occurred today – like an evil man, instead of a wise king.
I firmly believe that Solomon never intended to kill the baby. However, the two women did not know that. In their day, the king had absolute authority and control over people’s lives, even to the point of choosing life or death at his impulse. This concept is foreign to us, perhaps outdated, but to these women, it was the harsh reality.
I have to wonder at times if this lack of relating to an all-powerful figure causes members of modern society to lose respect for the concept of God. We are defiantly independent now. The idea of any all-powerful figure who has control and authority of life and death is laughable to us today. We cannot relate to the notion of having to submit to God – and sometimes we struggle with submitting to any authority because of our modern “rights.”
Moreover, when bad things happen or when the threat of life lost occurs, we become angry and bitter at God, viewing Him as a vile and criminal figure. “How could God threaten to cut that baby in half?” we question.
I don’t want to advance to topic of free-will versus predetermined events, whether God divinely intervenes and how often that happens. It would be easy to go there and get lost for I have a lot of thoughts on Providence. However, I want to think about when bad events threaten our lives and our reaction towards God, even the concept of God, when they do.
Perhaps some of these events are not as harsh, vile, criminal and evil as we choose to fear. I think this way because I simply do not believe that God ever intends “to divide the baby in half.” However, I do think that like Solomon, God may make announcements that He could. For those who believe in the existence of and intervention by God, let me propose that what happens after the “threat” depends upon our response and our respect of His ability and authority to control the outcome.