Happy are You, Land, Whose King is a Noble
“May You give Your servant an understanding heart to discern between good and evil, for who can judge this vast people of Yours?” And the thing was good in the eyes of YHWH that Solomon had asked for this thing. And God said to him, “Inasmuch as you have asked for this thing and you did not ask for long life for yourself and did not ask wealth for yourself and did not ask for the life of your enemies, but you asked to discern and understand justice, look, I am doing according to your words. Look, I give you a wise and discerning heart, so that your like there will not have been before you, and after you none like you shall arise….
Then two whore-women did come to the king and stood in his presence. And the one woman said, “I beseech you, my lord. I and this woman live in a single house, and I gave birth alongside her in the house. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth that this woman, too, gave birth, and we were together, no stranger was with us in the house, just the two of us in the house. And this woman’s son died during the night, as she had lain upon him. And she rose in the middle of the night and took my son from by me, your servant being asleep, and she laid him in her lap, and her dead son she laid in my lap. And I rose in the morning to nurse my son, and, look, he was dead, and when I examined him in the morning, look, he was not my son whom I had borne.” And the other woman said, “No, for my son is the living one and your son is dead.” And the other said, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.” And they spoke before the king. And the king said, “This one says, ‘This is my live son and your son is dead,’ and this one says, ‘No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Fetch me a sword.” And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other.” And the woman whose son was alive said to the king, for her compassion welled up for her son, and she said, “I beseech you, my lord, give her the living newborn but absolutely do not put him to death.” And the other was saying, “Neither mine nor yours shall he be. Cut him apart!” And the king spoke up and said, “Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death. She is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had judged, and they held the king in awe, for they saw that God’s wisdom was within him to do justice (1 Kings 3:9–12, 16–28, on King Solomon’s use of physiognomy, see Abarbanel ad loc.; Rabbi David ibn Zimra, Responsa of the Radbaz, № 634).
The look on their countenance does witness against them (Isaiah 3:9).
“Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth, and your princes dine in the morning (Ecclesiastes 10:16). It is written, then two whore-women did come (1 Kings 3:16). Who were they? Rabbi Me’ir says: They were female spirits; the Rabbis say: They were yevamot [the widows of men with no male heir, see Deuteronomy 25:5-6]; Rabbi Simon says in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a: They were really whores, and Solomon gave his verdict without hearing witnesses and without giving warning [to the litigants, against the seriousness of perjury].
And the one woman said, ‘I beseech you, my lord…. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth… and this woman’s son died during the night’ (ibid., 17)—because she slipped and fell on him. And she rose in the middle of the night… and I rose in the morning to nurse my son… and the other woman said, ‘No, for my son is the living one….’ And the king said, ‘This one says…’ (ibid., 20).
Rabbi Pinḥas and Rabbi Yirmeyahu said in the name of Rabbi Ḥiyya son of Abba and Rav Bibi, and the tradition goes back to the name of Rav Pedat: The procedure of judging a case is as follows: The judge sits and those to be judged stand; the plaintiff states his claim, the defendant replies, and the judge decides between them. Rabbi Simon said: From here we learn that it is necessary for the judge to repeat their pleas. From these verses: And the king said, ‘This one says, “This is my live son and your son is dead,” and this one says, “No, for your son is dead and my son is the living one.”’ And the king said, ‘Fetch me a sword.’… And the woman whose son was alive… (ibid., 24).
Rabbi Yehudah said in the name of Rabbi Ilai: If I had been there I would have wound a rope of wool around his neck, and when he said, ‘Fetch me a sword,’ had she not been filled with compassion for the babe he would already have been strangled; and concerning that time it says, Woe to you, land, whose king is a youth. Then [Solomon] in his wisdom began a concluding argument and said, ‘Was it for nothing that the blessed Holy One created for man two eyes, two ears, two legs, and two hands? The blessed Holy One foresaw that this case was to happen’ [i.e., that the child might be cut in two and a half given to each woman]. So he did not tarry [in keeping the real mother in suspense] but [immediately] said, Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death (ibid. 27). Concerning that time it says, Happy are you, land, whose king is a noble, and your princes dine in fit time (Ecclesiastes 10:17)—in the time of the World that is Coming, not in שְּׁתִי (sheti), drunkenness (ibid.): in his strength, and not in תְשִׁישׁוּ (teshishu), his weakness. And the king spoke up and said, ‘Give her the living newborn, and absolutely do not put him to death’; and the Holy Spirit cried out, saying, ‘She is his mother, certainly’” (Qohelet Rabbah 10:15–18).
“In the image of God (Genesis 5:1)—in that exact form, as our Master [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai] has established. Further, This is the book of the generations of Adam (ibid.)—for features, in the mysteries of human features, to recognize those generations of a human being. The mysterious features of a human: in hair, in forehead, in eyes, in face, in lips, in ears, in lines of the hands. By these seven, humans are recognized….
Even so, Moses did not need this; rather, what is written? Moses chose men of caliber from all Israel (Exodus 18:25)—because Holy Spirit came to him, through whom he saw all. How do we know? As is written: When they have some matter, he comes to me (Exodus 18:16). It is not written they come to me, but rather he comes—Holy Spirit who came to him, through whom he knew, so he did not need all this examining and inspecting; rather, Moses knew instantly.
Similarly, King Solomon, by the throne—even though the Holy Spirit rested upon him. For whoever approached the throne was overcome with fear and awe, and thereby he judged cases without witnesses—because there were images on the throne, and if anyone approached with a lie, that image would vibrate and Solomon would know he was coming with a lie. So, fear of that throne fell upon all, and they all became virtuous in his presence.
King Messiah, by smell, as is written: His scenting will be by awe of YHWH: not by sight of eyes will he judge… (Isaiah 11:3). These three judged the world without witnesses or warning; the rest of the inhabitants of the world, by word of witnesses, by command of Torah. The wise who recognize those features, providing remedy for people and healing their souls—happy are they in this world and happy are they in the world that is coming!” (Zohar 2:70b; 78a, cf. BT Rosh ha-Shanah 21b).