Solomon, Sheba, and dividing the baby

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. — 1 Kings 3:23-28

As the Fram dispute continues on Wikipedia, and the (white, male) leadership alternately pat each other on the back and discuss ways to sabotage the Project, I am reminded of the story of the Judgment of Solomon.

Two women dispute over a baby. Solomon proposes to cut the baby in half,  then awards the baby to the woman to objects to the baby’s death. For this, (and okay, a few others, like letting the bee in to test for the fake flower, and the clavicula salomon of medieval grimoires for imprisoning demons),  Solomon gets credit for great wisdom.

But according to a description on Commons on theTripartite Mahzor manuscript, that decorates the frontispiece to the Song of Songs, there is a tradition that the Queen of Sheba was with Solomon on that day, and it was she who advised him on the judgment.


The story of Sheba’s visit to Solomon has been widely told, and from the standpoint of several cultures. In the Old Testament book Kings 1 and Chronicles 2, it is a meeting between heads of state, rather than a royal marriage or romance. But others attribute the subject of the Song of Solomon as Sheba. In Islam, Sheba is Bilqis. In Ethiopia, where Solomon is said to have fathered the royal line of emperors, she is Makeda. In Persia, Sheba is the daughter of a Chinese king and a peri, a magical being.

Here are a few representations of the Judgement of Solomon — or of Sheba, as the case may be.

 

 

And here are a couple of peris, just for good measure.

 

 

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