Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 3:16

Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Arbitration;   Judge;   Rulers;   Solomon;   Wisdom;   Thompson Chain Reference - Harlots;   Solomon;   Women;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Justice;   Magistrates;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Prostitution;   Solomon;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Prostitution;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Judges;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Book(s);   Court Systems;   Harlot;   King, Kingship;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Solomon;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Decision;   Israel;   Priests and Levites;   Wisdom;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Boyhood ;   Numbers;   Trial-At-Law;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Law of Moses;   Sol'omon;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Crime;   Decision;   Judge;   King;   Proverbs, Book of;   Queen of Sheba;   Solomon;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - King;   Solomon;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Then came there two women - harlots - The word זנות zonoth, which we here, and in some other places, improperly translate harlots, is by the Chaldee (the best judge in this case) rendered פונדקין pundekayan, tavern-keepers. (See on Joshua 2:1; (note)). If these had been harlots, it is not likely they would have dared to appear before Solomon; and if they had been common women, it is not likely they would have had children; nor is it likely that such persons would have been permitted under the reign of David. Though there is no mention of their husbands, it is probable they might have been at this time in other parts, following their necessary occupations; and the settling the present business could not have been delayed till their return; the appeal to justice must be made immediately.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-kings-3.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

SOLOMON JUDGED A VERY DIFFICULT CASE

"Then there came two women that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, Oh, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also; and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman's child died in the night, because she lay upon it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thy handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I arose in the morning to give my child suck, behold it was dead; but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king."

This was indeed a difficult case. It resembles other similar instances in antiquity. "A certain Thracian king was asked to choose between three men, each of whom claimed to be the son and heir of the dead Cimmerian king. He ordered the three men to cast a spear into the corpse of the dead king; and when one of them refused to do so, he was chosen."[11]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-kings-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then came there two women that were harlots unto the king,.... The same day, as Abarbinel thinks, the night before which the Lord had appeared to Solomon; this came to pass through the providence of God, that there should be immediately an instance and proof of the wisdom and understanding the Lord had given to Solomon; these women, according to the Targum, were victuallers or inn keepers; and so Ben Gersom thinks they were sellers of food, as Rahab; though he observes it is possible they might, prostitute themselves: this may be said in their favour, that common prostitutes do not usually bear children, or, when they do, take no care of them, have no affection for them, and much less are fond of them, as these seem to be; but, on the other hand, no mention being made of their husbands, and living together in one house, and alone, and being impudent, brawling, and litigious, give great suspicion of the truth of the character they bear in our version and others:

and stood before him; to lay their case before him, and each plead their own cause; it may be, it had been tried in another court before, and could not be determined, and so was brought to the king; and, if so, the wisdom of Solomon was the more conspicuous, in deciding it in the manner he did.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Then came there two women, [that were] harlots, unto the king, and k stood before him.

(k) By this example it appears that God kept his promise to Solomon in granting him wisdom.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-kings-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 3:16-28. His judgment between two harlots.

Then came there two women — Eastern monarchs, who generally administer justice in person, at least in all cases of difficulty, often appeal to the principles of human nature when they are at a loss otherwise to find a clue to the truth or see clearly their way through a mass of conflicting testimony. The modern history of the East abounds with anecdotes of judicial cases, in which the decision given was the result of an experiment similar to this of Solomon upon the natural feelings of the contending parties.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

Harlots — Or, victuallers: for the Hebrew words signifies both. Yet that they are unmarried persons, seems probable, both because there is no mention of any husbands, whose office it was, if there were any such, to contest for their wives; and because they lived a solitary life in one house.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-kings-3.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Kings 3:16 Then came there two women, [that were] harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

Ver. 16. Then came there two women that were harlots.] Or rather hostesses; for harlots would not have been so hardy as to have appeared in their colours before Solomon, who was yet in his prime, and zealous for God’s law. If, therefore, these were harlots, they were privy harlots; for there were then no stews or brothel houses allowed, as are now at Rome, and other places in Italy, for a commonwealth, say Papists, and for the avoiding of greater evils, adultery, incest, &c. But what saith Augustine? Cursed be that remedy of sin that is itself a sin. God will not have such a gain to be recompensed with such a loss.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-kings-3.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Harlots, or, victuallers; for the Hebrew word signifies both. See Poole "Joshua 2:1". And possibly they might be both; this by their open profession, and the other by their secret practice: not that they were common harlots; for neither would Solomon have tolerated such; nor durst such have presented themselves before so wise and just a ruler; nor did such use either to bring forth children, or to have such a tender care of and affection to them as these express. Yet that they were unmarried persons, and so guilty of fornication, seems most probable, both because there is no mention of any husbands, whose office it was, if there were any such, to contest for their wives; and because they lived a solitary life in one house.

Unto the king: haply they had presented their cause to the inferior courts, who could not determine; and therefore now they bring it to the king, as the supreme magistrate, and famous for his wisdom.

Stood there before him, desiring and expecting his sentence in the case.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-kings-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

SOLOMON’S JUDICIAL SAGACITY, 1 Kings 3:16-28.

16.Then came there two women — This seems to have been the first judicial decision of the new king, and it established in all Israel (1 Kings 3:28) his reputation as a wise ruler and judge. It is added here, immediately after the history of his journey to Gibeon, as an illustration of the wisdom which he asked and received from God. “A monarch’s sagacity in the administration of justice,” says Kitto, “was calculated to make the most marked impression upon the popular mind, and likely to be most generally talked about through the land. This quality also came more home to the personal concerns of his subjects than any other, and was for that reason alone the more carefully regarded. The administration of justice was in all ancient monarchies, as it is now in the East, a most important part of the royal duties and functions; and there is no quality more highly prized than that keen discernment in the royal judge which detects the clew of real evidence amidst conflicting testimony, or that ready tact which devises a test of truth, where the evidence affords not even the clew to any grounds of decision.” And so this incident throws light upon the manners of those times. Even harlots, (for true criticism will not allow the Chaldee rendering of the word זנות by innkeepers, ) persons of abandoned character, were permitted to appear in the royal presence and plead their own causes.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-3.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 3:16. Two women that were harlots — Or, victuallers; for the Hebrew word signifies both. Yet that they were unmarried persons seems probable, both because there is no mention of any husbands, whose office it was, if there were any such, to contest for their wives; and because they lived a solitary life in one house. Unto the king — Probably they had presented their cause to the inferior courts, and as they could not determine it, they now bring it to the king as the supreme magistrate, and famous for wisdom. And stood there before him — Desiring and expecting his sentence in the case.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Harlots. Rather than simply, "innkeepers." (Chaldean) (Menochius) --- The latter signification of Zona might, however, seem more natural; as harlots seldom have children; or, at least, any affection for them. Neither would such people have dared to appear before the king, Deuteronomy xxiii. 17.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-kings-3.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.

Then came there two women. Eastern monarchs, who generally administer justice in person-at least in all cases of difficulty-having their seat in the gate of the city (Solomon afterward built "the porch of judgment," 1 Kings 7:7), often appeal to the principles of human nature when they are at a loss otherwise to find a clue to the truth, or see clearly their way through a mass of conflicting testimony. The modern history of the East abounds with anecdotes of judicial cases in which the decision given was the result of an experiment similar to this of Solomon, upon the natural feelings of the contending parties.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Then came there.—The celebrated “judgment of Solomon,” given here as a specimen of his wisdom, is simply an instance of intuitive sagacity, cutting the Gordian knot of hopeless difficulty by the appear to maternal instinct—an appeal which might, of course, fail, but which was, under the exceptional circumstances, the only appeal possible. It is in the knowledge how to risk failure rather than be reduced to impotence, and how to go straight to the heart of a difficulty when the slow, regular approaches of science are impossible, that we recognise what men call “a touch of genius,” and what Scripture here calls the “wisdom of God.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
two women
Leviticus 19:29; Deuteronomy 23:17; Joshua 2:1
harlots
The word zanoth, rendered harlots, is here translated by the Targumist, the best judge in this case, pundekon, "tavern-keepers:" see on Jos 2:1.
Judges 11:1; Had these women been harlots, it is not likely that they would have dared to appear before Solomon; nor is it likely that such persons would have been permitted in the reign of David. Their husbands might at this time have been following their necessary occupations in distant parts.
stood
Exodus 18:13,16; Numbers 27:2
Reciprocal: Exodus 18:26 - the hard causes;  Deuteronomy 17:8 - arise;  2 Samuel 15:2 - came;  2 Chronicles 32:4 - find;  Job 9:33 - that might;  Job 29:16 - the cause

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-kings-3.html.