International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 15, 2012
Scripture Text: 1 Kings 3:16-28 & 2 Chronicles 9:8 (NRSV)
Purpose: To grasp that justice is not simply a matter of rigidly following rules but also requires wisdom
1 Kings 3:16-28
(16) Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. (17) The one woman said, "Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. (18) Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. (19) Then this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. (20) She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. (21) When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne." (22) But the other woman said, "No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours." The first said, "No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine." So they argued before the king. (23) Then the king said, "The one says, "This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; while the other says, "Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.' “(24) So the king said, "Bring me a sword," and they brought a sword before the king. (25) The king said, "Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other." (26) But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—"Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!" The other said, "It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it." (27) Then the king responded: "Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother." (28) All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.
2 Chronicles 9:8
(8) Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as King for the Lord your God. Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness."
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
I have an early childhood memory of my father telling me this story as he prepared to teach his Sunday school class in our little old country church in northeastern Indiana. Each Sunday morning after the cows were milked and the chickens and hogs were fed, my father would set and go over the Sunday School Lesson he would teach to his young adult’s class. Back then my father would always use the Higley Bible Commentary, the tradition was for the class to present him with a present each Christmas and it was always the same, a Higley commentary for the coming year for The International Sunday School Lessons, maybe that is why I have always loved this series.
I remember thinking how clever and wise Solomon must have been at the age of 20. I longed for that kind of wisdom. In the early part of the chapter used for today's lesson we see how Solomon obtained that wisdom from God, and how God blessed him with not only wisdom but also with riches that he did not ask for. (Verses 12-13 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. (13) I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you )
Our text seems to fall into the midst of a celebration, and may have been a demonstration to amuse the gathered court and show off the new young Kings wisdom. These two prostitutes may have been a part of the household of this new king or leftovers from David's court. Both David and Solomon had plenty of wives and concubines as well as servants. Otherwise it is hard to explain their situation and their ability to get a hearing before the King.
The story itself is said to be a part of many different cultures and one told about many different wise rulers from all over the world and found in many different languages and artifacts of old civilizations. However, it should not be discounted as anything but what scripture has recorded for us, evidence of Solomon's wisdom and God's reward for his faithfulness.
Solomon was the last born son of David and Bathsheba, and had been raised by the prophet Nathan. After several attempts of other sons to overthrow David, Solomon finds himself anointed king at about the age of twenty to succeed his father who dies soon after the anointing.
Solomon s wisdom was well known throughout the world and he was visited by many Arab kings and also by the Queen of Sheba, which is where our final verse comes from.
The object of our lesson is to point out for the difference between justice and law. In today's Ocala Star Banner there is just such a story. It seems a few years ago an elderly, almost blind, diabetic veteran was involved in a disturbance in a neighborhood and fired a gun. While the judge wanted to show some civility for the man that had no criminal record, he had committed a crime in which no one was hurt, the law required a 20 year sentence. While in prison this man's health continued to deteriorate, and has required several surgeries while in prison. Just recently all of that was overturned, and the man was set free. I think this current event story shows the real difference between justice and following a set of rules and laws. Wisdom and discernment are a gift from God, one that all of us should pray to attain.