Friday, May 21, 2004
Revealing and concealing as a narrative strategy in Solomon's judgement (1 Kings 3:16-28)
Revealing and concealing as a narrative strategy in Solomon's judgement (1 Kings 3:16-28)
(ProQuest Information and Learning: Foreign characters omitted.)
AT FIRST GLANCE, the rhetorical strategy of the narrative of Solomon's judgment in the Book of Kings keeps the listener/reader guessing until King Solomon proposes a nonconventional solution that indeed uncovers the true mother of the living baby. At the same time, the Bible seems to conceal which prostitute speaks the truth: the first one or the "other one." Nevertheless, a careful study of the rhetorical structure of the narrative, the dialogue, and the words of the narrator-- what he reveals and what he conceals-shows that the story does eventually reveal which of the two women is the true mother of the living child.
We will begin our analysis of this story by adopting the distinction made by Wayne C. Booth between the actual writer, the narrator, and the implied author. An actual writer-the composer of a particular narrative and perhaps other narratives-generally has a well- or lesser-known biography. At times he enables us to learn something about himself from his compositions or by other means. The narrator of a story is an instrument through which all information flows and through whom the narrative materials are transmitted. The implied author is a fictitious term that indicates someone responsible for the meanings, open or concealed, that can be derived from the text.1
Biblical writers are for the most part anonymous. But in J. Liver's opinion the actual, original writer responsible for the story of Solomon's Judgment, as well as for other stories that greatly extol Solomon's wisdom, was one of the wise men in King Solomon's court. The narratives that emphasize the wisdom of Solomon were apparently included in an earlier book called "The Book of the Acts of Solomon" (1 Kgs 11:41). At a later time, the stories were integrated into the Deuteronomistic edition of the Book of Kings.2
The narrator of Solomon's Judgment is responsible for the transmission of the text, whether he is recounting the series of events or citing the speeches of the characters involved. When he quotes the words of the characters, there arises an illusion that one is listening to the various dialogues spoken by the characters of the narrative. It is as if the words reflect the special point of view of those characters: fairly completely when they are presented as direct speech, or partially when they are given as indirect speech through the mediation of the narrator. Yet even the speech of a literary character is actually heard through the mouth of the narrator, from whom and by whose mediation all literary information flows, including the direct speech of the characters of the story.
It is the implied author who has enabled the characters in the story to express themselves directly or indirectly and formulate their speeches; the implied author is therefore responsible for all of these, though using an agent, the narrator.3 Thus, the position of the implied author of our story can be crystallized through a reader's analysis of all parts and aspects of the text.
II. The Significance of Solomon's Judgment according to the Narrator
At this point, let us turn to the background and story of the judgment in the biblical text. The story of the judgment is integrated into the context of the last stage of the consolidation of Solomon's rule. The narrator first tells us that Solomon goes to Gibeon, where he is favored with a divine revelation in which he is promised wisdom greater than that of any human being (1 Kgs 3:4-15). Afterwards, Solomon returns to Jerusalem, the capital of his kingdom. There, he is called upon to judge two prostitutes, both of whom claim to be the mother of the same living child. In a brilliant manner, Solomon decides the case in favor of one of them and, as a result, becomes the ruler of the entire nation. The story concludes: "When all Israel heard the decision that the king rendered, they feared the king; for they saw that he possessed divine wisdom to execute justice" (1 Kgs 3:28). The narrator then adds to this a statement of outcome: "and King Solomon ruled over all Israel" (1 Kgs 4:1).
The juxtaposition of the narratives in chap. 3 indicates stages in the evolution of Solomon's status: in his dream at Gibeon, the young king requests wisdom, primarily to do justice;4 and the Lord indeed promises him such wisdom. When he returns to Jerusalem, there occurs the trial of the two prostitutes, and in it he succeeds in demonstrating his unique divine wisdom in the realm of righteousness and justice; and so he finally establishes his status as king over all Israel, which is the conclusion of the story. The contextual links between the request for judicial wisdom, the case of the two women, and the recognition of Solomon as king over all Israel have been analyzed by early commentators and later researchers.5
The story of Solomon's trip to Gibeon and his dream is recorded also in 2 Chr 1:1-13, though with many changes in text, context, and significance. The major textual changes inform us that Solomon, in his dream at Gibeon, was promised wisdom in leadership wisdom and general wisdom. The author of Chronicles was primarily interested in linking the leadership and general wisdom granted to Solomon with the building of the temple in Jerusalem.6 This served as a special argument in his debate and that of the returnees from the Babylonian exile who settled in Jerusalem with their adversaries, the Samaritans, who built a temple on Mount Gerizim.7 Since the wisdom promised to Solomon was not limited to judicial wisdom, the narrator of Chronicles did not include the story of the two prostitutes, which mainly illustrated the king's judicial wisdom.
In the narrative of Solomon's judgment in I Kings 3, the two women appear different in status. The first woman, the plaintiff, presents the case at length: she describes how the two of them have lived in one house and how she gave birth first and her adversary gave birth the third day afterwards. She emphasizes that there was no one else in the house at the time of the incident. She relates that the son of her adversary died during the night because his mother lay on him. She then describes what happened after that: while she was still sleeping, in the middle of the night her adversary rose and exchanged her own dead son for the live one. She herself discovered the deception in the morning.
Her adversary, the defendant, neither denies nor confirms the details of the incident. She merely declares that her son is the live one and that the dead child belongs to the plaintiff. The plaintiff, for her part, once again claims the opposite. The discussion between them continues. Finally, Solomon summarizes the position of both sides and orders that the living child be cut in half, and that each woman be given half a child. One mother has compassion on her son and asks Solomon to give the infant to her adversary, whereas the adversary demands that the king's decree be carried out. Solomon changes his decision and rules in favor of the compassionate woman, who took pity on the living child.
The story contains a number of gaps: the text does not reveal .if Solomon discerned, even before he ordered the division of the child, which one was the mother of the living child according to the appearance of the women before him or according to the way they presented their arguments. Similarly, the text does not explicitly declare who the mother of the living child was: the plaintiff or the defendant. These questions, among others, have been extensively treated by traditional commentators and by modern commentators and researchers.
Josephus (A.J. 8.2.2 sec 26-34) thought that the plaintiff was the real mother but that Solomon was able to determine the truth of her claim only on the basis of the sword test. Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508), on the other hand, thought that after listening to the arguments Solomon immediately discerned which one was the true mother and which the dissembler. The plaintiff describes the case in greater detail. She says that she gave birth first, and her adversary gave birth three days later. In this fashion, she hopes that the king will examine the children and discern who was born first and who was born later, and so reveal the truth. In contrast, the defendant speaks very briefly: she only presents the major aspects of her complaint, that the living child is hers and that the dead one belongs to her adversary. In Abarbanel's view, she was afraid to speak at length lest she err in her words. Thus, while the arguments are being presented, Solomon recognizes that the plaintiff is the real mother and that the defendant is lying. Solomon reveals his solution to his advisers, and only afterwards performs the test with the sword, so as to convince the advisers of the correctness of his decision and of his judicial ability.8
Rabbi Joseph Kara (1065-1135) maintained that it is possible to distinguish between a child who is a day old and one who is three days old. A day-old child is covered with congealed blood as a result of the pressure of the birth, whereas a three-day-old child's blood has already been absorbed into his body and the signs of congealed blood are disappearing.9
Radbaz (1480-1574) agreed with Abarbanel that Solomon had decided before the test of the sword that the plaintiff was the mother of the living child. Solomon observed that the facial characteristics of the living child were similar to those of the plaintiff, whereas the face of the dead child was similar to that of the defendant. Solomon also observed the character of the women: the first one was very careful and certainly did not kill her child by carelessness.10
Disagreeing with traditional commentators who view the plaintiff as the mother of the living child, M. L. Malbim (1809-1871) maintained that the defendant is the mother of the living child. He based his conclusion primarily on the fact that in her response to the complaint, the defendant opens her defense by stating that her child is the living one and only afterwards points out that the dead child is the son of her adversary. The plaintiff responds in the opposite manner (1 Kgs 3:22). In Malbim's view, the order in which the living child is mentioned by the two women indicates that the defendant is the true mother. She places the main point before the subsidiary one: first she notes that the living child is hers, and only then does she say that the dead child belongs to her adversary.11
To date, there are differences of opinion regarding whether or not, when the two women presented their arguments prior to the test with the sword, Solomon recognized who the true mother was, the plaintiff or the defendant. In the view of Ilya and Gila Leibowitz, as well as of Efraim Wizenberg, the defendant is the mother of the living child. Solomon could have decided this prior to the test, in accordance with the arguments of the women, because the plaintiff is able to tell precisely how the child died: his mother lay upon him. How could she know this if, according to her own words, she was asleep at the time? The answer is that she knew the cause of death inasmuch as she herself was the one who killed her son with her lack of care, and now, at the time of the trial, she tries to transfer the blame onto her companion.12 Similarly, the question of the order of reference, according to which the plaintiff mentions the dead child before the living child whereas the defendant does the opposite, reveals to Solomon that the plaintiff is the liar while the defendant is the mother of the living child. 13 In contrast, Gedalya and Josepha Rachman argue that the plaintiff is the true mother because her story is full of details that support her argument.14
Subsequent researchers transferred their interest from this question to the problem of communication and the nature of the relationship between the author and the readers. Does the author, in the manner of recounting the story, lead us to the conclusion regarding the identity of the true mother? And at which stages and by what means does the author manage to do so? Many answers have been offered to this question. According to one view, the author leads us to the conclusion that the plaintiff is speaking the truth and that she is the true mother of the living child. Indeed, she is the one who wins the case, and her son is returned to her.15 According to the opposite view, the narrator hints that it is the defendant who is the mother of the living child and that Solomon recognizes that fact by means of the test with the sword.16 Still another view maintains that the author does not support either identification. From the dramatic development of the narrative, it is impossible to determine which woman speaks the truth. The reader remains in the dark, without any knowledge, and Solomon arrives at a solution only by tactic of the test; and even after the decision, the reader cannot clearly decide who won the living child, the plaintiff or the defendant.17
III. The Narrative Structure and Strategy
As we noted at the beginning, we are convinced the reader can eventually determine, by means of detailed investigation into the rhetorical structure of the different stages of the story, the words of the narrator, and the interwoven dialogues of the characters of the narrative, that the plaintiff is the true mother of the living child whereas the defendant is the mother of the dead child.
Let us first examine the significance of some of the vocabulary used in the story. The narration opens with an exposition by the narrator:
"Later two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him." (1 Kgs 3:16)
In the previous story, which relates Solomon's request at Gibeon for wisdom, he is always referred to as "Solomon." However, in our story he is referred to only by his title "the king," for he functions as the royal dispenser of justice. The two underlined verbs, "[they] came" and "and [they] stood before him," link the story of the judgment of Solomon with the conclusion of Solomon's dream in the previous verse (3:15), which concluded with those same two verbs:
"Then Solomon awoke: it was a dream! He went (lit. came) to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the Lord."
Likewise, the two stories have in common the verbs from the roots ... and ... (3:9, 11, 28).18 So, too, the two narratives have in common the word ..., "and behold" (vv. 15, 21). The common terminology links the two narratives associatively19 and places them within the literary genre of dreams and their realization, which is widespread in the Bible. In Solomon's dream, the king is promised judicial wisdom, and immediately on his return to Jerusalem he is able to demonstrate that God has indeed granted him divine wisdom in order to see to it that justice is carried out.
B. The Two Adversaries
At the beginning of the story the implied author, by means of a messenger, the narrator, grants equal status and anonymity to the two women. They are defined as "women" and as "prostitutes," and they come together and stand before the king equally, neither of them being identified or characterized. This state changes quickly. The implied author lets one of them speak first; she appears as the plaintiff and presents her case before the king [and the readers] in detail and relatively at length. Thus, the plaintiff acquires a preferential status over the defendant, based on a psychological-literary convention. Within the framework of a text, whoever is granted the right to speak first and at length, and uses this right to describe the case and develop arguments in detail, has a better chance of convincing the audience of the justice of his or her claim. In contrast, the one who speaks afterwards, and whose words are curt and limited, appears less convincing.
Of course, this is not an absolute indicator that the plaintiff is speaking the truth. S. Lasine brings proof that the length of the speech of one litigant as against the short speech of the other litigant is not a guarantee that the first litigant is correct.20 In principle, he is right. Nevertheless, there is a widespread tendency among readers to use such characterizations as a means to identify the one who is telling the truth. One cannot ignore the fact that providing the plaintiff with a platform to present the case in detail counts in her favor. This occurs elsewhere in the Bible. For example, when Samuel and the people discuss appointing a king in Israel, the implied author gives preferential status to the prophet, and Samuel's advantage is emphasized in the lengthy and well-formed speech that the narrator puts into his mouth (1 Sam 8:11-18). This contrasts markedly with the short, succinct response of the people (vv. 19-20).21
a. The Plaintiffs Case
At the start of the trial, the plaintiff turns to the king. She begins with the phrase ..., "Please, my lord" (1 Kgs 3:17). This phrase denotes submission, request, and supplication; it is a formula by means of which a person of lower status addresses a ruler.22 In the course of her speech, the plaintiff refers to herself as ..., "your maidservant," as a wise woman would when addressing a ruler or king. Compare, for example, 1 Sam 25:24, 25, 28, 31; 2 Sam 14:15, 16; 20:17. These polite, submissive expressions by the prostitute, who is normally considered to be of low social status, add points in her favor in the eyes of the reader.23
The woman begins to present her case with great clarity: "I and this woman dwelt in one house, and I gave birth with her in the house" (3:17). In noting that they dwelt in the same house and that at the time of the birth the second woman was also in the house, the plaintiff wishes to emphasize that the second woman knows that the plaintiffs child was born first. Then the plaintiff describes the birth of the second child: "On the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth to a child. We were alone; and there was no one else with us in the house, just the two of us in the house" (3:18). By once more emphasizing that the two of them were alone in the house for both births and that no stranger was present, the woman stresses that the incidents occurred in the presence of both of them and no one else. No other person knew anything about what happened, and thus there were no witnesses to call. Nor was there a stranger who knew about the birth and could thus be involved in the exchange of the live child for the dead one. The absence of other people in the home of the two prostitutes is not ironic and does not detract from the credibility of the story.24 Indeed, one must remember that the two women were at an advanced stage of pregnancy and afterwards gave birth, so that their physical condition kept potential clients at a distance.25 The description of the background and the events by the plaintiff creates for the reader a momentary impression of harmony between two women, since they live together in the same house and are closely associated in their lives, even in the births of their infants.
However, this harmony and association break down in the next stage of the plaintiff's discourse. She chooses her words with relative delicacy; she does not specifically say that the defendant killed her son but states that the baby died as a result of an accident, when his mother lay upon him. Indeed, this does not reflect a difference in the actual description of the act, but only the plaintiffs attempt to speak neutrally when explaining how she thinks the tragedy occurred. The plaintiff continues to describe how the defendant then rose during the night, took the son of the plaintiff, who was asleep, and placed the live baby in her own bosom. She then placed the dead son in the bosom of the plaintiff. The latter is very meticulous in her language. She herself had been very careful to place her baby nearby on the bed, so that the defendant took him ..., "from beside me" (e.g., Gen 41:3; Lev 10:12). In contrast, the defendant acted differently when she exchanged the children. She placed the living child ..., "in her [own] bosom," and the dead child ..., "in my bosom" (that is, of the plaintiff). Placing the child in the bosom means linking it to the body (e.g., 2 Sam 12:3; 1 Kgs 1:2).
This distinction, in the view of the plaintiff, shows that she herself was careful in that she customarily placed her son nearby, though not linked to her body, whereas the defendant placed the two infants joined to the body of the two mothers. Indeed, earlier that night the accident was caused because the defendant placed her child in her bosom. It is possible to claim that the defendant placed the dead child in the bosom of the plaintiff so that the plaintiff would mistakenly assume that she had suffocated or crushed the dead child in her sleep. But the defendant repeated her earlier mistake when she placed the living child, whom she had stolen, in her own bosom. Though she may have placed the living child as close as possible to herself for fear that her adversary would come and take back the living child, her deed nonetheless endangered the life of the kidnapped child.
Commentators and researchers have noted internal contradictions in the plaintiff's speech. If, as she maintains, she was asleep when the tragic event occurred as well as during its aftermath, how did she know that her adversary caused the death of her son by lying upon him, and how did she know that her adversary exchanged the children?26 It is not difficult to answer these questions. The plaintiff offers a logical deduction and an acceptable explanation as to how the son of her adversary suddenly died at night and how the children were found in the wrong mother's care. Since there was no stranger in the house during the time of the action, the plaintiff solves the riddle by accusing her neighbor, the defendant, based on where she customarily placed a baby: in the mother's bosom.27 Indeed, the implied author creates an interesting analogy between two riddle solvers: (1) the woman who solves the riddle by reconstructing the criminal act of the defendant, even though she, the plaintiff, was asleep at the time; and (2) Solomon, who adopts the arguments of the plaintiff and successfully solves the riddle to the satisfaction of the people.
The plaintiff describes the series of events step by step and clearly. After her companion exchanged the children, the plaintiff arose in the morning to nurse her son, and she was surprised to discover ..., "behold, he was dead." The word ... is an elliptical term, an abbreviation of the expression "and I saw, and behold."28 In many cases in the Bible, the word "behold" expresses the speaker's viewpoint,29 especially the speaker's surprise. The plaintiff was surprised that a dead child lay in her bosom. The plaintiff continues to describe the next stage:
"But when I looked closely at him in the morning, [lit., and behold] it was not the son I had borne." (v. 21)
Actually, the plaintiff waited for the light of the morning in order to view her son, and she was surprised again when she saw that the child in her bosom was not her son. This surprise finds expression once again with the use of the word ....
The survey of events, stage after stage, with attention paid to details, gives the plaintiff an advantage in the struggle for the sympathy of the listeners present at this dramatic legal event as well as of the readers. Indeed, there are those who note the plaintiff's repetitiousness and link it either to her emotional involvement or to her being a woman of low status, a commoner.30 However, repetitions in speech are characteristic of biblical literature and of early Semitic literature in general. They are an integral part of speeches of wise women such as Abigail (1 Sam 25:24-31), the wise woman of Tekoah (2 Sam 14:4-20), and the wise woman from Abel Beth-maacah (2 Sam 20:16-19).
In our view, the plaintiffs is a carefully thought out and planned speech with regard to both the vocabulary and the significance of her part of the dialogue.31 The plaintiff repeats the word "house" four times; it is a key or guiding word (LeitworT): "This woman and I live in the same house ..., and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house (...).... We were alone; and there was no one else in the house (...), just the two of us in the house" (...) (vv. 17-18). Repetition of the word "house" shows the closeness that originally existed between the women. Whenever it is mentioned, the plaintiff emphasizes the close association of the two women, which includes the fact that they gave birth at about the same time in the same house. The house is more than a roof over their heads; it symbolizes unity and linkage. Elsewhere in the Bible, the term "house" also signifies family (e.g., Exod 1:1). It is easy to comprehend why the plaintiff feels betrayed by her companion, who destroyed the close relationship between the two when she exploited the fact that the two were alone in that house to exchange the children.
One should also note that darkness is associated with the defendant but light with the plaintiff. There is a dual use of the word ..., "night," in the description of the negative actions of the defendant: "During the night this woman's child died, because she lay on it. She arose in the night and she took my son from my side" (vv. 19-20). The defendant acted at night: first, she acted with lack of care when she caused the death of the child; afterwards, under the cover of darkness, she committed a criminal act by exchanging the children.
In contrast, light is associated with the plaintiff. The word ..."in the morning," appears twice in connection with the activities of the plaintiff: "When I arose in the morning to nurse my son, there [lit., and behold] he was dead; but when I looked closely in the morning, it was not the son I had borne" (v. 21). The plaintiff woke up in the morning to nurse her son. She is pictured as a responsible woman who is devoted to her son and wants his well-being, so she arose very early in order to nurse him, even before the child began crying. She was then surprised to find him lifeless. She again examined him when there was more light, so that she could see his facial features clearly.
The structural contrast between the night, which signifies the defendant's actions, and the morning, which signifies the plaintiffs actions, emphasizes the different character of the women. Similarly, the repetition of the word CIP, "to arise," emphasizes the difference between the two of them: whereas the defendant arose in the night to exchange the children (v. 20), the plaintiff arose in the morning to nurse her son (v. 21). There can be no doubt that the plaintiff wins the interest and sympathy of the reader by reason of her manner and her detailed descriptions.
b. The Defendant's Case
Now comes the defendant's turn to reply to the plaintiffs accusations and to try to win the sympathy of the king and the others present. Will she succeed in obtaining their sympathy as well as the sympathy of the reader?
Through the narrator, the implied author presents the defendant as ... ..., "the other woman" (v. 22). I have not found among the commentators anyone who has commented on the meaning of this epithet, perhaps because they considered it a simple, technical remark. The first woman is referred to as ..., "one woman" (v. 17); afterwards, permission to speak is granted to the second woman, who is called "the other woman," rather than "the second woman." Is there any significance to the author's specific choice of the phrase "the other woman" to describe the defendant?
The phrase ..., "another woman," occurs only twice elsewhere in the Bible. The first occurrence is in Judg 11:2, where it is told that Yiftah, son of Gilead, was the son of a prostitute. When he grew up, his stepbrothers, the sons of Gilead's legitimate wife, informed Yiftah, "you will not inherit in our father's house, for you are the son of another woman." The connotation of "another woman" brings out the lack of legitimacy of that woman and of her son. They are therefore ostracized by the legitimate family and denied the rights of inheritance, in contrast to the legitimate wife and her sons.
The second occurrence of this phrase is 1 Chr 2:26, where it is said: "Jerahmeel had another woman." The text distinguishes between the legitimate sons of Jerahmeel, from his legitimate wife, and those who were born of another woman and are of lower status with regard to tribal identity and inheritance. Indeed, the lower status of Jerahmeel's family is reflected here among the families of the tribe of Judah. Apparently, the families of Jerahmeel were foreigners who joined families of the tribe of Judah but were of a lower status.32 In these two cases the term "other woman" is a derogatory description of a woman of lower social status. The derogatory description of the defendant in the story of the judgment of Solomon as "the other woman" is an additional hint from the implied author that the second woman was of lower status than the first woman. The implied author thus hints at his preference for the first one.
Now "the other woman," the defendant, responds. Again, direct speech is used, and we note the blatant difference between her words and those of her predecessor. Whereas the plaintiff opened her speech in a submissive manner and addressed the king directly, "Please, my lord," the defendant speaks directly to her rival, disregarding the king and his nobles, and making no submissive introduction. One also notices that her words are much briefer than those of her predecessor: she does not relate to or respond at all to the plaintiffs description of events. Her response is limited to the declaration that the living son is hers and the dead one is her companion's. Her unmannerly behavior lessens greatly the sympathy of the readers toward her. One scholar even compares her behavior to that of a "fishwife."33
The defendant speaks briefly, concentrating only on the ownership of the sons. Hence, her disregard for the plaintiff's detailed description of events leads one to suspect that the defendant fears her tongue will trip her up, and her mouth will give away her deceitful action.34 At this stage of the narrative, the implied author leads the reader to surmise that the plaintiff is speaking the truth whereas the defendant is lying. But in fact, there is nothing in the words of the two women thus far that absolutely proves, or is legally acceptable proof, that the first one speaks the truth and the second one is lying.35 Nevertheless, the rhetoric and the hints that are integrated into the text in both the voice of the narrator and the embedded direct speeches of the adversaries turn the sympathy of the readers in favor of the plaintiff and cause them to surmise that the defendant is guilty of exchanging the children and that she spoke falsely in a court of justice.
c. A Second Round of Arguments
In the second round of arguments, however, there is a considerable drop in the absolute sympathy that the readers feel for the plaintiff and in their readiness to guess the solution to the riddle and decide that the defendant is guilty of exchanging the children and lying before the king. This drop in sympathy results when the plaintiff loses her self-control after listening to the defendant. Now she, too, disregards the presence of the king. She responds directly to the defendant, reversing the words of her adversary in structure (which is chiastic) and content:
"And this one spoke, 'No, your son is the dead one, and my son is the live one.'" (v. 22)
The acrimonious exchange between the plaintiff and the defendant and their complete disregard for the king, for judicial procedure, and for conventionally obligatory manners in the presence of the king create, at this late stage, the appearance of a common or lower status for the two adversaries. The plaintiff loses part of the sympathy she had won in the opening stage, when she presented her side of the case with submission and good manners, at length and clearly, and with a thoughtful literary structure. The narrator continues: "and they spoke before the king." This summary indicates that the adversaries continued their arguments on the legal situation before the king. The short summation with which the implied author decided to end the accusatory exchanges between the rivals hints that the rivals have reached the stage where they repeat themselves or introduce irrelevant details. This enables the author to waive the need to cite their words directly or indirectly. Instead, by means of the narrator's voice, he briefly intimates that a fruitless discussion and lack of progress ensued, which increases the suspense and paves the way for Solomon's solution.
C. Solomon's Verdict
Solomon begins with a summation of the adversaries' arguments that further diminishes the reader's early sympathy toward the plaintiff. "The king said, `This one says, "this is my son, the live one, and your son is the dead one," and this one says, "No, your son is the dead one, and my son is the live one" ' " (v. 23). It is difficult to know to which of the two women Solomon refers in each of the two parts of his short summation of the adversaries' arguments. On the surface, in the first part he cites the "other woman," the defendant, the one who, in her argument, maintains that her son is the live one and that the son of her adversary is the dead one; such is, indeed, the order of Solomon's words. But it is possible that the king changes the structure of the adversaries' words and that he does not cite exactly what they said and in the same order. Instead, he may have inverted the order of their words in chiastic form, as occurs many times in biblical texts. The wording of the text is inconclusive. Moreover, it is possible that Solomon summarizes the two women's arguments in the order of their appearance at the trial. Thus, he refers to the plaintiff in the first part, because she was the one who presented the case first, whereas he summarizes the defendant's response to the charges in the second part.36
In any case, Solomon sums up the arguments in a balanced manner without revealing a preference for either one of the adversaries. This heightens the suspense. It brings the readers, who may have played with the thought that they have succeeded in discerning that the plaintiff is speaking the truth, to a stage of confusion and doubt regarding the problem of who is really speaking the truth? The situation at this stage is almost a stalemate, and the plaintiff now receives less sympathy from the readers than previously, although she still has a relative advantage over the defendant because of her impressive presentation at the beginning of the trial.
In the next stage, the narrator brings us to the climax with a description of the deed of judgment (v. 24). This stage is marked by the double use of ... "and [the king] said," related to the same speaker at the beginning of two sentences in a row-a device used frequently in the Hebrew Bible. First, the narrator presents Solomon's quotation of the similar claims of the women, preceded by "and the king said" (v. 23). When the king issues the command to bring him a sword, the formula "and the king said" is repeated despite the fact that the speaker has not changed. In many biblical texts, this technique intimates a break between one speech and another by the same speaker.37 In the case before us, it expresses a time out for thinking and a break between the summation of the arguments by Solomon and the stage of his command to bring the sword.
Moreover, the double occurrence of "and the king said" creates a dramatic pause that whets the curiosity of the reader: How will Solomon solve a case of such complexity? The dramatic tension is heightened even more when the king's brief command is heard: "Bring me a sword," and the sword is brought and placed before the king (v. 24). The observers at the trial as well as the readers do not understand why the young king suddenly needs the sword. The tension mounts and reaches a climax. At this point, the narrator does not slow down the pace. The sentences are short, followed by the command to execute the decision: "and the king said, 'Cut the living child into two and give half to one and half to the other'" (v. 25). The implied author does not permit his readers to wonder: Does the king, the young lad, really know what he is doing?
At this point the true mother breaks down. The narrator does not reveal if the true mother is the plaintiff or the defendant, but from the standpoint of an omniscient narrator and with a penetrating glance into the depths of the soul of the true mother, he characterizes her as "the woman whose son was the live one ... because she had pity on her son" (v. 26a). When the narrator reveals her identity, he describes what is happening in her soul at the same time, and even explains the motive that brought her to waive her rights to her son. Only afterwards does he describe how she addressed her request to the king and his court:
"and she said, 'Please my lord, give her the live child, do not kill him."' (v. 26b)
Here, too, in the two parts of v. 26, the word ..., "and she said," is repeated in reference to the true mother without the speaker being changed. According to one view, this repetition expresses the confusion of the true mother when she hears the command to kill her baby. At first she is silent, but then she manages to recover quickly and act to save her son. This moment of confusion and silence finds expression in the doubling of ..., "and she said," before she actually speaks.31 According to another explanation, the intervention of the narrator in the identification of the woman, the penetration to her soul, and the explanation of her motives creates a closed sentence that necessitates a Wiederaufnahme, that is, a return to the path and flow of the story by verbal repetition. The doubling of ... serves this purpose; it links the two parts of the dialogue that were disturbed by the narrator's parenthetical remark.39
The true mother, clearly identified by the intervention of the narrator, speaks again, reverting to her submissive, mannerly approach to the king, ..., "Please, my lord" (v. 26), which were the opening words of the plaintiffs speech at the start of the trial (v. 17a). This strengthens the conclusion that the mannerly plaintiff is the one called the merciful mother at the end of the trial, The implied author also helps the reader reach this final identification by comparing the women in the concluding stage. The true mother is mannerly, addresses the king and his court in a submissive manner, and does everything in her power not to antagonize the king and his court in order to prevent her infant from being killed. Moreover, she is prepared even to waive her complaint and to leave her son in the kidnapper's hands.
In contrast, the lying kidnapper acts grossly. She does not address the king and his court submissively, as is obligatory under the circumstances. On the contrary, she again completely disregards the presence of the king and his court. She addresses her adversary, the true mother, directly, briefly, and cruelly, without expressing humane emotions. Her speech contains six words, five consisting of one syllable, and the concluding word consisting of two:
..., "It shall be neither yours nor mine!"40
Then, with a single word, she commands that the execution be carried out: "Cut" (v. 26). The kidnapper acts as if she has the authority to approve the king's decree and to order execution of the decree.41 Indeed, this is an extremely rare case in the Bible where a person of lower social status gives a command in the presence of the king to his servants to carry out his decision.42
The readers, who already at the beginning of the trial distinguished between the different characters of the plaintiff and the defendant, are satisfied when, at the conclusion of the process, it becomes clear to them that their early impressions are proved correct. The mannerly plaintiff is indeed the mother of the living child, whereas the crass defendant, who continued even at the concluding stages to act unmannerly and cruelly, is a kidnapper and the mother of the dead child.
There are a number of options for an author who develops a narrative that contains characteristics of a legal riddle and a detective story.43
(1) The author can formulate the story utilizing vagueness, deception, and a red herring to point the readers to the wrong solution. This method is widespread in modern detective stories in which the author deliberately directs suspicion against various characters in the story; only at the end of the narrative does it become clear to the readers that the suspicious characters are free of all wrongdoing, while the very quiet, sympathetic character is the actual criminal. By means of this narrative technique, the author teases and maintains a superior position to the readers, who toil to solve the riddle but are led astray by the author's hints. It finally becomes clear to them how much the author has teased them and led them in wrong directions. The author of the story of Solomon's Judgment did not choose to follow this path.
(2) A contrasting option is one in which the implied author, by means of an all-knowing narrator, lets the readers participate from the beginning in solving the riddle. The narrator, who points to the suspect and the latter's motives, enables the reader to be a partner in relevant knowledge from the beginning. In fact, the reader is likely to know more than the main hero, the detective, or the bright lawyer who toils to solve the riddle.
Formulating a narrative in this fashion very much diminishes the narrative tension. The reader knows the solution from the beginning and is much wiser than the hero of the story, who faces surprises in the course of solving the riddle. The author of the story of Solomon did not choose this option, either.
(3) The third option is to tell the story neutrally and objectively. The author who chooses this approach neither divulges hints that lead the reader in the direction of innocent people nor deceives the readers into thinking that the criminal is an upright and law-abiding person, as in option 1 above. Nor does this author volunteer signs or decisive proofs that point directly at the criminal already in the early stages of the story, as in option 2 above. On the contrary, the author tries to develop the story by removing all hints that will enable the reader to identify the upright character or the criminal. Even a story of this sort creates a distance between the story and the reader. The reader is interested in becoming a partner and companion to the story, always searching for hints and indications in the narrative so as to form an opinion on the characters and their true value. The author of Solomon's Judgment did not choose even this neutral manner, though many commentators and researchers feel that he did.
An author could take an integrated approach, using one technique at the beginning and shifting to another during the course of the story. In my opinion, the author of Solomon's judgment chose this combined approach. The plaintiff opens the presentation of the incident. Her manners and skill at description, which find expression in her well-thought-out opening speech and her conclusion, provide her with an advantage. In contrast, the defendant is defined as "the other woman" by the implied author, who thus hints at the lack of legitimacy of her status in comparison with the one who appeared first. In addition, the implied author has her respond only very briefly. Her presentation is not convincing. She does not address the king as is obligatory in a judicial situation, but addresses her rival directly; she does not relate or respond to the details of the event as described by her adversary, but determines absolutely that the living child is hers and that the dead one belongs to her rival. Until this stage in the narrative, the implied author inclines the readers to view the mannerly and fluent plaintiff as the true mother and the crass defendant as the kidnapper. But this stage of the story could have an unsatisfactory outcome: the readers are likely to reach a negative opinion of Solomon's solution and his wisdom since even they can guess which mother is speaking the truth and which one is the liar. Therefore, the author directs the readers not to be hasty in their enthusiasm and decision in favor of the plaintiff.
In the second round of arguments, the plaintiff is affected by her rival's manner. The latter ignores the fact that she is in the midst of a judicial proceeding before the king and his court and enters into a direct dialogue with her opponent. The king's summation of the mothers' words brings the reader to a more careful reevaluation. The plaintiff has a relative advantage, but the legal status is still complex and a creative solution is called for.
Solomon indeed arrives at a nonconventional solution to uncover the truth and reveal the identity of the true mother. It becomes clear to the reader after catching the hints, especially that of the opening formula "Please, my lord," which is used twice-at the beginning of the story and at the end-that the plaintiff is speaking the truth: she is the mother of the living child, whereas the defendant is the kidnapper.
The intelligent reader has enjoyed being a partner in the solution. Solomon solved the riddle in an unconventional manner; the reader, by means of literary analysis, can solve the additional riddle presented by the narrator: Which of the two women, the plaintiff or the defendant, gains the living child based on Solomon's decision? This narrative strategy of revealing and concealing who is the true mother and who is the guilty party activates the readers to participate in the effort of solving the riddle, and to enjoy themselves upon its solution.
1 W C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961) 71-76; J. Ewen, "Writer, Narrator, and Implied Author" (in Hebrew), Hasifrut 18-19 (1974) 137-63 (English
abstract, pp. vii-ix). M. Sternberg (The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading [Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987] 74-75) prefers to refer to the narrator in his analyses of biblical storytelling, and he does not make use of the distinction between narrator and implied author; in his opinion, both merge into one in the biblical narrative.
2 J. Liver, "The Book of the Acts of Solomon," Bib 68 (1967) 75-101.
3 For a different view, see Ellen Van Wolde, "Who Guides Whom? Embeddedness and Perspective in Biblical Hebrew and in 1 Kings 3:16-28," JBL 114 (1995) 623-42.
4 J. A. Montgomery and H. S. Gehman, The Books of Kings (ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1967) 107; J. Gray, I & 11 Kings: A Commentary (OTL; London: SCM, 1970) 126; M. Noth, Konige (BKAT; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1968) 51; R. B. Y. Scott, "Solomon and the Beginnings of Wisdom in Israel," in Wisdom in Israel and in the Ancient Near East (ed. M. Noth and D. W. Thomas; VTSup 3; Leiden: Brill, 1955) 262-79.
5 Among earlier commentators, see R. David Kimchi (1160?-]235?) on 1 Kgs 3:16; 41; R. Joseph Kara on 1 Kgs 3:15-16; in Miqraot Gedolot-Haketer (in Hebrew; ed. M. Kohen; Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1995) 25; R. Isaac Abarbanel (1437-1508) on I Kgs 3:16; 4:1, in Commentary on Early Prophets (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Torah and Daat edition) 481-83. Later researchers include S. Zalevsky, Solomon's Ascension to the Throne: Studies in the Books of Kings and Chronicles (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Marcus, 1981) 188-92; M. Garsiel, "Solomon's Travel to Gibeon and his Dream," in B. Ben Yehuda Jubilee Volume (ed. B. Lourie; Tel Aviv: Society for Biblical Research, 1981) 192, 195; N. Ararat, Drama in the Bible (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: World Jewish Bible Center, 1996) 291-92, 295.
6 For an in-depth discussion of the significance of the changes in the description of the dream in the Book of Chronicles as well as the reason for the omission of the trial of the women, see Garsiel, "Solomon's Travel To Gibeon," 206-10.
7 For the anti-Samaritan tendency of the Book of Chronicles, see M. Garsiel, "The Structure and Contents of Chronicles as a Veiled Polemic against the Samaritans," in Jerusalem and the Land of Israel (ed. J. Schwartz et al.; Tel Aviv: Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies & Eretz-Israel Museum, 2000) 42-60.
Abarbanel on 1 Kings 3, in Commentary on the Early Prophets, 481-82.
9 Commentary of Rabbi Joseph Qara to the Book of Kings 25 (in Hebrew).
10 R. David ibn Zimra, Responsa of the Radbaz, Part 2 (in Hebrew; ed. B. Zetzer and N. Shriftgisser; Warsaw, 1882) Responsum 634, pp. 128-29.
11 Miqraot Gedolot (in Hebrew; Beney Beraq: Hameir Le-Yisrael, 1998).
12 E. and G. Leibowitz, "Solomon's Judgment" (in Hebrew), Beth Mikra 35 (1990) 242-44; E. Y. Wizenberg, "Solomon's Judgment" (in Hebrew), Niv Hamidrashia 9-10 (1973) 41-42.
13 Ibid. This argument was raised already by Malbim (see n. 11).
14 G. and Y. Rahaman, "Solomon's Judgment" (in Hebrew), Beth Mikra 38 (1992) 91-94.
15 B. O. Long, 1 Kings: With an Introduction to Historical Literature (FOTL 9; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984) 67-70; H. C. Brichto, Toward a Grammar of Biblical Poetics: Tales of the Prophets (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) 47-63; Zalevsky, Solomon's Ascension to the Throne, 206.
16 G. A. Rendsburg, "The Guilty Party in I Kings III 16-28," VT 48 (1998) 534-41.
17 Stemberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative, 66-70; Van Wolde, "Who Guides Whom?" 623-42; S. Lasine, "Solomon, Daniel, and the Detective Story: The Social Functions of a Literary Genre," HAR 11 (1987) 247-51; idem, "The Riddle of Solomon's Judgment and the Riddle of Human Nature in the Hebrew Bible," JSOT 45 (1989) 61-86; A. Reinhartz, "Anonymous Women and the Collapse of the Monarchy: A Study in Narrative Technique," in A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings (ed. A. Brenner; The Feminist Companion to the Bible 5; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994) 53-54.
18 B. Porten, "The Structure and Theme of the Solomon Narrative (I Kings 3-11)," HUCA 38 (1967) 99-100; Zalevsky, Solomon's Ascension to the Throne, 191-92.
19 On linking sections in biblical literature by means of linguistic associations, see U. Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies (2 vols.; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1973- ) 1. 1-6.
20 See Lasine, "Riddle of Solomon's Judgment," 61-69; idem, "Solomon, Daniel, and the Detective Story," 247-51.
21 See M. Garsiel, "Samuel's Speech Pertaining `the Custom of the King"' (in Hebrew), Hagut Bamikra, vol. 5 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1988) 112-36.
22 See Gen 43:2; 44:18; Exod 4:10, 13; Num 12:11; Josh 7:5; Judg 6:13, 16; 1 Sam 1:26. For this expression and the various views as to its etymology, see M. J. Mulder, I Kings (Historical Commentary on the Old Testament; Leuven: Peeters, 1998- ) 1. 155.
23 Lasine ("Riddle of Solomon's Judgment," 80 n. 11), however, does not regard a mannerly and humble opening as an indicator accurate enough to identify the one who is telling the truth.
24 Contra W. A. M. Beuken, "No Wise King Without a Wise Woman (I Kings III 16-28)," in New Avenues in the Study of the Old Testament: A Collection... Published on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Oudtestamentisch Werkgezellschap (ed. A. S. van der Woude; OTS 25; Leiden: Brill, 1989) 6; K. A. Deurloo, "The King's Wisdom in Judgment: Narration as Example (I Kings iii)," ibid., 17.
25 P. A. Bird, "The Harlot as Heroine: Narrative Art and Social Presupposition in Three Old Testament Texts," Semeia 46 (1989) 119-39, here 132.
26 Many commentators and researchers noted this contradiction. See, e.g., Wizenberg, "Solomon's Judgment," 41-42; Leibowitz, "Solomon's Judgment," 243; J. T. Walsh, "The Characterization of Solomon in First Kings 1-5," CBQ 57 (1995) 471-93, here 479. The Septuagint omits the admission of the plaintiff that she was asleep in the course of events that she describes. The translators omitted the phrase "and your maidservant was asleep," because they thought that the plaintiff was the true mother of the living child and thus they sought to eliminate the contradiction. See Lasine, "Riddle of Solomon's Judgment," 67.
27 See S. J. de Vries, I Kings (WBC; Waco, TX: Word, 1985) 59.
28 S. Kogut, "On the Meaning and Syntactical Status of i3 in Biblical Hebrew," in Studies in Bible (ed. S. Japhet; ScrHier 31; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1986) 133-54.
29 A. Berlin, Poetics and Interpretation of Biblical Narrative (Sheffield: Almond, 1983) 62, 91-95.
30 B. Uffenheimer, Ancient Prophecy in Israel (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1984) 253.
31 See the detailed and well-reasoned discussion by Zalevsky, Solomon's Ascension to the Throne, 195-98.
32 See J. Liver, "Yerahme'el" (in Hebrew), Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1958) 861-63.
33 Brichto, Grammar of Biblical Poetics, 52.
34 Abarbanel, in the introduction to this story.
35 Lasine ("Riddle of Solomon's Judgment," 64, 68-69, 78, 80) offered many examples that show that mannerly speech and detailed, well-constructed testimony by litigants in court do not necessarily show the correctness of those who speak this way. The danger exists that smooth-talking people will deceive a court. Despite this, judges are accustomed to listening to the speeches of litigants and witnesses, to observing their character, and at times to deciding according to their impression as to who is speaking the truth and who is not. But legal standards are not the issue at hand when one is dealing with a literary analysis, as is the case here. The issue is not what constitutes admissible testimony in a court of law but what rhetorical means and literary stratagems the narrator might have used to secure the reader's sympathy and appreciation towards various characters in the story. The criteria of literary analysis for deciding truth are different from those used in ancient or modern courts.
36 Compare Rendsburg, "Guilty Party in I Kings III, 16-28," who maintains that it is possible to recognize the lying mother by means of an identity tag provided by the narrator, namely, rTI ... (... + conjunctive waw), "and this one says." The narrator attaches this tag to the lying mother in v. 26b; but before this, it was attached to the plaintiff in v. 22b, and again to the plaintiff in v. 23b, as part of the summation by the king. As we posited in body of the article, however, it is entirely possible that the king summarized the speeches of the women in the order of their appearance before him, first the plaintiff and then the defendant, and that he changed the internal order of the speeches in a chiastic manner in summarizing them. This eliminates the basis for Rendsburg's argument, which fails to buttress his view that the defendant is the mother of the living child.
37 M. Shiloah, ...(in Hebrew), in Korengreen Volume (ed. A. Wiezer and B. Lourie; Tel Aviv: Society for Biblical Research, 1964) 251-67, esp. 257, 262.
38 Ibid., 265.
39 Samuel A. Meier, Speaking of Speaking: Marking Direct Discourse in the Hebrew Bible (VTSup 46; Leiden: Brill, 1992) 70-71.
40 For a somewhat different explanation, see F. Polak, Biblical Narrative: Aspects of Art and Design (in Hebrew; Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1994) 273.
41 Indeed, there is quite a bit of irony in the command of the king and, afterwards, in the command of the kidnapper, who repeats the king's command 1"In, "cut!" The denotation is cutting the living child in two, precisely as the king commanded; but this is accompanied by an ironic connotation of ..., "deciding the case," in accordance with the use of ... in late texts (Job 22:8; Esth 2:1 ).
42 Uziel Mali, "The Language of Conversation in the Former Prophets" (in Hebrew; Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1983) 162-63.
43 For an in-depth discussion of these characteristics from a sociological and anthropological standpoint, see Lasine, "Solomon, Daniel, and the Detective Story"; idem, "Riddle of Solomon's Judgment."
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