The story of the two mothers in 1 Kings 3 is often told to highlight the wisdom of Solomon. But there’s another theme playing through the story…one of a mother’s sacrifice.
What it Means to Sacrifice
At its most basic level, sacrifice is giving up something you value for another person. It is “esteeming others better than yourselves” to the point that you choose their happiness or well-being over yours.
The Story of a Mother
The story of the mother’s sacrifice in 1 Kings 3 begins with an encounter between Solomon and God. Solomon had recently ascended to the throne and when God asked what he wanted, he chose wisdom. The story of the two mothers is often used to depict the wisdom of Solomon.
But let’s look at the story again through the eyes of the mother’s sacrifice.
Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”
But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”
Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”
But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother” (1 Kings 3 16-27 NIV).
I imagine that the idea of cutting a baby in two seems like a horrible verdict for the young king to pass as these two mothers stood before him. What if they had both agreed? But then, why would anyone agree to such a barbaric and cruel act?
A Mother’s Sacrifice
Yet, we see two responses in this story. One woman eagerly agreed to the king’s suggestion while the other just as quickly rejected it. 1 Kings 3:26 in the King James Version reads “the bowels of the woman yearned for her son”. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea what it means for bowels to yearn. Do bowels even know how to yearn? Let’s go back to the original language and see if we can figure it out.
The Hebrew word for bowels is racham. It could also have been translated as womb, compassion, mercy, or pity. The word translated as yearn is the Hebrew kamar. Another way of translating it could have been “grow warm and tender” or “become emotionally agitated”. I almost get the feeling that the woman’s womb twinged when she thought about the child she had labored to bring into the world being cut in two.
She couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t let anything happen to her innocent child. She would rather live without him than have to live with the idea that he was dead. She was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for her child: she would give him to the other woman if it meant his life would be spared.
The Greatest Sacrifice of All Times
This mother’s sacrifice reminds me of the sacrifice Jesus and our Heavenly Father made on our behalf. Long before you and I were born, God knew we would sin. He knew the consequence of sin was death–eternal death. But rather than trying to find ways for us not to sin, our Heavenly Father put a plan in place. He would send his son–his perfect son–to die in our place. We would have the chance to live and be reconciled with him.
Jesus also had a choice in his sacrifice. He didn’t have to agree to the plan to die in the place of sinful human beings who chose to disobey God’s command. But he did. He chose to make that sacrifice and to put himself in our place because he loved us. Just as that woman loved her son enough to live without him, God loves us enough to die in our place.
The Sacrifices of a Mother
As mothers, there are many things we would do for our children. I’m sure if I asked you what you would sacrifice for your child I would get a long list of the things you’ve already done and
will continue to do for your child. I want you to you right now, mother, whether you have biological children or just darlings of your heart, our Heavenly Father sees your sacrifice. He sees the things you do to safeguard the welfare of your child. He knows just how far you would go to protect your children.
But I want to implore you, sweet mother, do not sacrifice your relationship with God for your children. I encourage you to remind them of the greatest sacrifice that was made on all our behalf. I pray that through your sacrifices you remind them of the greatest love story ever told. I pray that your mother’s sacrifice will be a tale of love and forgiveness. I pray that like the woman in 1 Kings, the story of your mother’s sacrifice will be told long after you no longer walk the earth.
Check out the other mothers in the series!
Aminata Coote is a Christian author and blogger. She is passionate about teaching others how to study the Bible. She is a wife, mother, author, and follower of Jesus Christ who encourages women to spend time with God and root their identities in Christ so they’ll be able to focus on running the race God has set before them.
She is the author of multiple books including How to Find Your Gratitude Attitude and Through God’s Eyes: Marriage Lessons for Women.Visit her website for more content that encourages you to know God, know yourself, run your race. Connect with Aminata on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter