King Solomon and Splitting the Baby

Al Arabiya TV has a program on Palestine.

In this program Arabs and Jews are interviewed about the 1948 war and its aftermath. At one point, the interviewer, to illustrate the refusal of the Palestinians to accept the UN partition plan, asked a Jewish Israeli if he knew the story of King Solomon and the two competing claims for a baby.

The Jewish interviewee says yes. He told the traditional reading of the story. There is a more reasonable reading of the story.

As a judge facing competing claims for a baby, the common thinking is that King Solomon devised a plan to find out who the real mother is.

King Solomon proposed splitting the baby with the understanding that the real mother would not accept the splitting of the baby while the false mother would.

King Solomon, the story goes, figured out that the woman that accepted spliting the baby is not the real mother so he gave the baby to the other woman- the real mother.

A more reasonable reading of the story is that King Solomon took what we now call the best interests of the child test. He reasonably concluded that a woman who would agree to splitting a baby is clearly unfit to raise a baby.

Splitting a baby means the baby would die.

Presumably, anyone even at that time knew that. The fact that the other woman would agree shows that either that she is mentally challenged and/ or mentally ill. In both circumstances, she would be unfit to take care of the child.

King Solomon gave the woman to the fit mother- his test did not reveal who the real mother is.


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