1 Kings 3:17–21 (ESV)

17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house.

In 1 Kings 3:17–21 the complaint of one of the women (the Bible later calls her the first) is presented. The woman’s complaint alleged that her fellow prostitute had stolen the complainant’s baby after accidentally smothering her own in the night. Both women, the first said, had given birth within the space of three days of one another.

The alleged circumstances were not difficult to understand, but discerning their truth was. By her own admission, the first woman and the other lived alone in their house. Both children were male, so there was not an easy test of gender to settle the dispute. The word of this woman is all that she can bring as proof. She had come, nevertheless, to seek justice from the king.

The situation of these two women, who lived by prostitution, made the recognition of the maternity of the child more than a matter of motherly affection. They were without family, and when they would no longer be able to attract men in their illicit trade, they would be without means of support other than that an offspring could provide when coming to adulthood.

Her story, as she tells it, is one that appeals to our sympathy. Yet, truth and not the listener’s sympathy is the issue at stake. There is a danger to judge a matter according to one’s emotional reaction to the tale that is told. Yet, lies are easy to manufacture; hence the ninth commandment's injunction against bearing false witness. There is a proverb in the English-speaking world, There are two sides to every story. The next verse gives us an example of the proverb's truth.