1 Kings 3. 16-28

Solomon’s Judgment

The New American Bible – NAB

King James Version – KJV

Today’s New International Version – TNIV

Holman Christian Standard Bible - HCSB


ü      The genre of this biblical excerpt seems to be a narrative about the wisdom of the mighty king Solomon.

ü     V. 16 of the NAB mentions two harlots coming up to the king, whereas the KJV refers to them as two women who are harlots, and finally, TNIV refers to them as prostitutes.

ü      In v. 19 of the NAB, the first woman says to Solomon that the second woman’s child died because while sleeping, she laid on top of him and smothered him, but in the other two versions, it just says that in her sleep, the mother laid on top of the baby.

ü      V. 20 of the NAB does not give a specific time when the second mother woke up and placed her dead baby in the first mother’s bosom, and took the living baby.  The KJV says that the woman awoke at midnight.  The TNIV doesn’t give a specific time, either.

ü      V. 21 of both the NAB and TNIV ends with, “it was not the son whom I had borne;” whereas, the KJV ends with, “it was not my son, which I did bear.”  This shows different tenses of the verb “to bear.”

ü      V. 28 of the NAB, TNIV and the HCSB says, “they were in awe of him;” whereas, the KJV says “and they feared the king.”

ü      In summary, each version is very similar to the other, with the KJV being most different.  It displays archaic pronouns and verb forms, such as thy, instead of your, saith, instead of say, liveth, instead of live, etc.  This style indicates the age of the King James Version, which was published in 1611.


In v. 16-21, two harlots came to the king who is Solomon.  The first woman said that she and another woman both lived in the same house, and each of them bore a son.  The first woman then explains that the other woman killed her own son by smothering him, and then, while the first woman was sleeping, the other woman switched her dead son with the first woman’s living son. (However, there is no evidence, thus far, that the other woman actually killed her son, because the first woman, who accuses the other woman of this, and of taking her son, claims to have been sleeping.)  The two women then argued over who was the real mother of the surviving child.  Upon hearing this, Solomon orders someone, who is not specified, but is most likely a guard or servant, to bring him a sword.  He then says that he will cut the living son into two, and give half to each woman.  Solomon’s intention was to discover who the true mother was.  He succeeds, as the first woman begs Solomon to spare the child and give him to the other woman, while the other woman demands that the child be divided.  Solomon is then sure that the child belongs to the first woman, because she is willing to give him up totally, rather than see him injured; whereas, the other woman demonstrates a total disregard for the well-being of the child. 

                  The surrounding context (v. 1-15) is definitely related to the passage discussed here.  In v. 1-15, Solomon, while speaking to God, asks for and is granted an understanding heart, so that he may be able to distinguish right from wrong.  He uses this gift to help him make the right decision with regard to the child.    

                  The theological message conveyed in this passage is that honesty and truthfulness will be rewarded.


B. Tinney


M. Milliagn


"1 Kings 3.(King James Version)" Biblegateway.com. 2007. 17 Dec 2007 http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/

“1 Kings 3 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)” Biblegateway.com. 2007. 17 Dec. 2007 http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/

“1 Kings 3 (Today's New International Version)” Biblegateway.com. 2007. 17 Dec. 2007 http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/

The New American Bible. 1987. Devore & Sons, Inc. Witchita, Kansas