Verse 25. "Divide the living child in two" - This was apparently a very strange decision, and such as nothing could vindicate had it been carried into execution; but Solomon saw that the only way to find out the real mother was by the affection and tenderness which she would necessarily show to her offspring. He plainly saw that the real mother would rather relinquish her claim to her child than see it hewn in pieces before her eyes, while it was probable the pretender would see this with indifference. He therefore orders such a mode of trial as would put the maternal affection of the real mother to the utmost proof; the plan was tried, and it succeeded.
This was a proof of his sound judgment, penetration, and acquaintance with human nature; but surely it is not produced as a proof of extraordinary and supernatural wisdom. We have several similar decisions even among heathens.
Suetonius, in his life of the Emperor Claudius, cap. xv., whom he celebrates for his wonderful sagacity and penetration on some particular occasions, tells us, that this emperor discovered a woman to be the mother of a certain young man, whom she refused to acknowledge as her son, by commanding her to marry him, the proofs being doubtful on both sides; for, rather than commit this incest, she confessed the truth. His words are: Feminam, non agnoscentem fllium suum, dubia utrinque argumentorum fide, ad confessionem compulit, indicto matrimonio juvenis.
Ariopharnes, king of Thrace, being appointed to decide between three young men, who each professed to be the son of the deceased king of the Cimmerians, and claimed the crown in consequence, found out the real son by commanding each to shoot an arrow into the body of the dead king: two of them did this without hesitation, the third refused, and was therefore judged by Ariopharnes to be the real son of the deceased. Grotius, on this place, quotes this relation from Diodourus Siculus; I quote this on his authority, but have not been able to find the place in Diodourus. This is a parallel case to that in the text; a covert appeal was made to the principle of affection; and the truth was discovered, as in the case of the mother of the living child.
Verse 28. "They feared the king" - This decision proved that they could not impose upon him; and they were afraid to do those things which might bring them before his judgment-seat.
"They saw that the wisdom of God was in him" - They perceived that he was taught of God, judged impartially, and could not be deceived. What was done to the other woman we are not told; justice certainly required that she should be punished for her lies and fraud.