Thursday, November 20, 2008

Solomon's Justice: Kill the Baby

1 Kings 3:16-28

We all know the story:

Solomon prays for wisdom. Then he has this case where two women are fighting over a baby. His solution is to cut the baby in half. One woman says to go ahead and do it. The other begs Solomon not to kill the baby, but she would give up the baby so he could live. So Solomon gives the baby to the woman who would give him up for his life.

What kind of man would propose killing a baby out of a spirit of fairness?

This actually isn't a post about Barak Obama's stated policies, although I could go there.

No. Rather, turn to Exodus 32.

[Edit: I added this summary of Exodus 32.]

The Israelites make a golden calf and worship it while Moses is on the mountain talking to God. God tells Moses to leave Him so He can wipe out the Israelites and start over with Moses. Moses argues that everything God did to glorify himself in Egypt would be for naught if that happened. So God refrains from killing the Israelites. Moses goes down the mountain, grinds up the calf into water and makes everyone drink it. Then he has the Levites go out and kill 3000 people. Moses then goes back up the mountain and begs God to forgive the Israelites and if He won't, then to judge Moses along with them. God condemns only those who have sinned and sends a plague on the Israelites.

The Creator of the universe can do with His creation what He wants. Some may have a problem with God wanting to destroy all His people and start over with Moses, but if you actually believe in a divine Creator, then how could you have a problem with it? Where most people stumble in this account is on verses 11-14 where Moses apparently causes God to change His mind. Open theists answer this by claiming that God really doesn't know everything. Other libertarian free-willers answer this different ways. For example, they may say that God does know everything, but that He "limits Himself." It brings into question God's immutability.

Did Solomon actually intend to kill the innocent baby in order to judge fairly between the women? No. That's silly. I supposed they believed he would actually do it, but you don't kill an innocent person in the spirit of fairness. For Solomon, he never intended to kill the baby. He intended to discover who the real mother was, or at least who would be a good mother to the baby.

Why do we read that God "repented"? To say that God "repented" is an anthropomorphism. Where there is ever an apparent choice to make, there can only be one choice made. God's anthropomorphic repentance is what Moses needed to embolden him to accomplish God's purpose. It was part of God's whole presentation to him. God is not so ignorant a Creator to fail to plan, or even merely know, the outcome. Why else would God threaten to kill the Israelites if He knew that He would "repent" of it?

God never intended to kill all the Israelites.

Did God lie when He threatened to kill the Israelites? Did Solomon lie when He threatened to kill the baby? Technically no. They both gave good laweresque statements.

Solomon: 24 And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king. 25 And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other."

God: 9 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."

Solomon's statement was an order that could be rescinded. It was not a statement of intent.

God's statement was conditional on Moses leaving Him alone.

Solomon's intent was to determine who the mother was.

God's intent was to teach Moses not to leave Him.

Solomon's tactic required that the true mother be willing to give of herself for another.

God's tactic eventually required Moses to offer himself up for judgment along with Israel. (v 32)

In both cases, the requirement was an act of constrained will against a previous desire. The mother desired to have the baby, but the baby's well-being was more important. Moses desired God's forgiveness, but not at the expense of God's righteous judgment and His glory.

Both Solomon and God achieved their goals.

God will achieve His goals in us. Praise Him to His glory.

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