SOLOMON was a very young man, not more than twenty years old, when he became king and bore the heavy care of a great land. For his kingdom was larger than the twelve tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. On the north he ruled over all Syria, from Mount Hermon as far as the great river Euphrates. On the east, Ammon and Moab were under his power, and in the south all the land of Edom, far down into the desert where the Israelites had wandered long before. He had no wars, as David had before him, but at home and abroad his great realm was at peace as long as Solomon reigned.
Soon after Solomon became king he went to Gibeon, a few miles north of Jerusalem, where the altar of the Lord stood until the Temple was built. At Gibeon Solomon made offerings and worshipped the Lord God of Israel.
And that night the Lord God came to Solomon, and spoke to him. The Lord said, "Ask of me whatever you choose, and I will give it to you."
And Solomon said to the Lord, "O Lord, thou didst show great kindness to my father, David; and now thou hast made me king in my father's place. I am only a child, O Lord. I know not how to rule this great people, which is like the dust of the earth in number. Give me, O Lord, I pray thee, wisdom and knowledge, that I may judge this people, and may know how to rule them aright."
The Lord was pleased with Solomon's choice, and the Lord said to Solomon, "Since you have not asked of me long life, nor great riches for yourself, nor victory over your enemies, nor great power, but have asked wisdom and knowledge to judge this people, I have given you wisdom greater than that of any king before you, and greater than that of any king that shall come after you. And because you have asked this, I will give you not only wisdom, but also honor and riches. And if you will obey my words, as your father David obeyed, you shall have long life, and shall rule for many years."
Then Solomon awoke and found that it was a dream. But it was a dream that came true, for God gave to Solomon all that he had promised, wisdom, and riches, and honor, and power, and long life.
Soon after this Solomon showed his wisdom. Two women came before him with two little babies, one dead and the other living. Each of the two women claimed the living child as her own, and said that the dead child belonged to the other woman. One of the women said, "O my lord, we two women were sleeping with our children in one bed. And this woman in her sleep lay upon her child, and it died. Then she placed her dead child beside me while I was asleep, and took my child. In the morning I saw that it was not my child; but she says it is mine, and the living child is hers. Now, O king, command this woman to give me my own child." Then the other woman said, "That is not true. The dead baby is her own, and the living one is mine, which she is trying to take from me."
The young king listened to both women. Then he said, "Bring me a sword."
They brought a sword, and then Solomon said, "Take this sword, and cut the living child in two, and give half of it to each one."
Then one of the women cried out, and said, "O my lord, do not kill my child! Let the other woman have it, but let the child live!"
But the other woman said, "No, cut the child in two, and divide it between us!"
Then Solomon said, "Give the living child to the woman who would not have it slain, for she is its mother."
And all the people wondered at the wisdom of one so young; and they saw that God had gave him understanding.
Solomon chose some of the great men who had helped his father David, to stand beside his throne and do his will. Among those was a man named Benaiah, the son of Jehoioda. He was one of those who had come to David while he was hiding from Saul. At that time Benaiah, while still a young man, did a very bold deed. He found a lion in a deep pit, leaped into the pit, and killed the lion. For this act, Benaiah became famous, for few people would dare to venture so near to a lion, with the weapons in use at that time. This brave man was old in Solomon's day, but he was still strong, and Solomon gave him a high place, at the head of his guards.