The Wisdom of Solomon
Different ways of knowing
by Manon Ceridwen James
Suitable for Key Stage 2 - Church Schools
To explore different forms of learning as well as ‘wisdom’.
Preparation and materials
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible story in the passage 1 Kings 3.16-28, in which Soloman has to decide which of two women who claim to be the mother of a baby is the real mother. You can use the text given in the 'Assembly' (from NRSV) or use one you feel suits your audience best. Obviously some of the themes in this story are difficult so whichever version is used, it is important to treat the contents sensitively.
- You will also need a baby doll or cuddly toy wrapped in a blanket to use as the baby in the tableau relating to the story in the 'Assembly'.
- Introduce the assembly by saying that you are going to be thinking about what’s called the 'different intelligences'.
Explain that different people are good at different things. Ask the children, 'What does the word "intelligence" mean to you? Being clever? Can you play football "intelligently"? Is it possible to be really good at, say, gardening or making new friends?'
There are things we can be good at that don’t involve words or writing. Being good at maths or writing stories at school are just one kind of being intelligent.
- Ask the children to spend a few moments quietly thinking about what they are good at. Do they think of themselves as clever or intelligent? Maybe not, but our skills and what we’re good at don’t just have to be about what we do in class and in school.
- Explore with the children the ‘intelligence’ of ‘wisdom’. Have they heard about the word 'wisdom'? What does it mean for them?
Explain that it’s maybe about common sense, about knowing what is the right thing to do in different situations. It’s about knowing about people and what they think and feel.
- Tell the story about Solomon and his wisdom. There were two women who were quarrelling over one baby. They were both saying that the baby was theirs and refusing to back down. One woman was holding on to the baby tightly. The other woman looked very unhappy. Whose baby was it?
Create a tableau with children as the characters in the story. Have one child grabbing hold of the ‘baby’, another child also trying to hold the baby, while another child stands apart from them looking thoughtful.
Solomon’s wisdom in making a judgement
Later, two women . . . came to the king and stood before him. One woman said, ‘Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.’ But the other woman said, ‘No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.’ The first said, ‘No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.’ So they argued before the king.
Then the king said, ‘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.” ’ So the king said, ‘Bring me a sword’, and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, ‘Divide the living boy in two; then give half to one, and half to the other.’ 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.’ Then the king responded: ‘Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.’ All Israel heard of the judgement 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.
Ask the children some rhetorical questions to cover the key points of the story. 'Did Solomon give the baby to the first woman do you think or to the second woman? What did he do?'Explain that Soloman's decision was a shocking one – he called over a soldier (ask another child to join the tableau as the soldier) and told him these shocking words: cut the baby in half! Ask the ‘soldier’ to raise his or her hands as if holding a sword, ready to ‘cut’ the baby in half.
- Explore with the children how they feel about this. Was Solomon really wise to have said this? If they haven't heard the story before, engage fully with the horror and shock of what Soloman suggested.
- Move on to the next part of the story. The woman holding the baby said, 'Fine, go ahead.' The other woman said, 'No! Give her the baby. I would rather she had the baby and the baby lived than it was killed.'
Then Solomon said, 'You’re the mother' to the woman who was willing to give the baby away and then gave her the baby back. How did he know she was the real mother? She was willing to see the baby raised by the other woman because she truly loved the baby and didn’t want to see it harmed.
Solomon knew this would happen and that is why he was seen as wise, because he understood people and how they worked.
- Describe how sometimes we can need help to make the right decisions. Sometimes our older relatives or teachers know what’s right in a situation because they’re older and have had more time to make mistakes and learn how people work than us. Learning how to be wise ourselves is important - very often more important than any other learning we do in school.
- If you wish, you can end the assembly by talking with the children and trying to think of situations in which wisdom is important in their lives - in the playground when there is an argument or at home with brothers and sisters.
Finally, explain that wisdom helps us to know how to help in an argument and not make things worse. Ask the children, 'Do you have your own stories to tell of when wisdom has helped or you have noticed someone doing or saying something wise?'
Time for reflection
Have a litle think now about wisdom. How will you try to be wise today . . . this week?
We thank you for wisdom and how you help us to know what to do in different situations.
Help us to learn what we are taught in school, but to learn wisdom above all.