First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Solomon went up to Gibeon to offer sacrifice in the high place where the tabernacle and altar of Moses stood. And he offered a thousand hosts (burnt offerings) as one entire sacrifice. And the Lord appeared to him by night in a dream, and asked Solomon to say what he desired the Lord to give him. And he wished for wisdom in ruling over his people. This wish pleased the Lord, and the Lord said, because you have not asked for riches, nor for the death of your enemies, nor long life (for yourself), you have been heard. I have given you a wise heart, so that there was none like you before you.[I Kings 3:1-15.] The first judgment in which Solomon's wisdom manifested itself was in the case of the sons of two women (that were prostitutes), one of whom had lain upon her child during the night. And they quarreled as to which of them the surviving child belonged. But when Solomon gave judgment that the living child should be divided into two parts, the true mother asked that the child be given alive and entirely to the other woman. And Solomon judged that she was the rightful mother and he awarded her the child.

I Kings 3:16-28. Added to the end of this paragraph in the German edition of the Chronicle is the following passage:

And although in no other single individual before him were found such clear wisdom, such high degree of pleasure, such great honor, such riches, and such secret communion with God, yet in his later years Solomon marred and perverted these qualities by his love of women and his idolatrous practices.

Which, in turn, is derived from 1 Kings 11:1-8:

But Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said to the children of Israel, you shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father. . . . And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David, his father. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.

In the fourth year of his reign Solomon began to build to the Lord the most celebrated temple in all the world. This was in the 480th year after Israel's exodus from Egypt, and the birth of Abraham the 984th; and he completed the structure in the eighth year. The temple was built in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where Abraham wanted to sacrifice his son, and where Jacob, in his dream, saw the ladder that reached from heaven to the earth. This temple was built entirely of white stone. It was erected with much skill and constructed of polished stones wonderfully joined together. Its length was 60 cubits; and the breadth of it 20 cubits; and the height 120, with such proportions that the height from the pavement at the ground to the first floor was 30 cubits; and from the first floor to the second 30 cubits; and from this to the third, that is to the roof of the temple, is 60 cubits. And so the temple had two floors between the pavement and the roof. And at each floor and at the roof there was a balcony round about; and there, it is said, the Lord Christ was tempted by the devil; and before these balconies were grates, so that persons passing about the same would not fall off. The temple was divided into two parts. One was called the sanctum (‘holy'). It was 40 cubits in length, and at this end was the entrance to the temple from the east. The other was called the sanctum sanctorum (‘holy of holies'), 20 cubits in length. Between the sanctum and the sanctum sanctorum was a wall of cedar boards, overlaid with plates of gold, and 20 cubits in height. Before it there hung a thin, beautifully woven veil, which at the time of Christ's suffering was rent from top to bottom. In the sanctum sanctorum was placed the ark of the Lord that Moses had made. Within the ark were the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Into this sanctum sanctorum the high priest alone went once in each year, on the day that is called the Day of Atonement with great solemnity and adoration. But into the sanctum the priests often went because of various sacrifices, to light the candles or lamps. And there, to the south was the golden candlestick with the seven lights that Moses had made. To the north was the table of offering. In the middle was the golden altar that Moses had made. But to this Solomon added ten other candlesticks equally beautiful, but larger, five to the right and five to the left; likewise ten larger golden tables. In the middle was the altar of incense.[For the original and more accurate description of the temple and its furnishings, see I Kings 6.]


5½" x 8⅞"

"Then came there two women, who were harlots, to their king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, 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 that 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 your handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give the child suck, behold it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, No; but the living is my son, and the dead is your son. And the other one said, No; but the dead is your son, and the living is my son. Thus they spoke before the king. Then said the king, The one says, This is my son that lives, and your son is the dead one: and the other says, No; but your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.

"And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spoke the woman whose living child was before the king, for her heart yearned for her son, and she said, My lord, give her the living child, and in no way slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor yours but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no way slay it: she is the mother of it.

"And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment."

I Kings 3:16-28

Of course, no artist creating pictorial material for a work of this nature would overlook the opportunity of portraying the judgment of Solomon upon the rival claims to motherhood. And so here the artist has wisely chosen, and he has done a good piece of work.

Complacently Solomon sits upon the judgment seat. He wears a crown and a simple but voluminous robe and in the exercise of his authority he holds the scepter to indicate that he is wielding the authority of his office. At this point the hearing is really over. The corpus delicti–a dead child and a live one–are present at the foot of the throne. The rival claimants to the living youngster have made their interesting pleas, as set forth in the biblical narrative quoted above. We are beyond the point of tentative judgment that the living child was to be divided, and the executioner who stands at the right idly holds his sword in his left hand, while with the right he pushes back his cap and scratches his head as though puzzled by the proceedings, or disappointed in the result. The false mother and the true, in their attitude toward the living child, have given the king the true solution.

To the left of the picture kneels the false claimant to whom the judgment has left the dead child. Behind her, silhouetted against a window with diamond-shaped panes, are two venerable men, one with a flowing beard, the other with a braided one, who may be councilors or advisers to the king; certainly they are not acting for either of the claimants, as each woman pleaded her own cause.

To the right of the throne is a space apparently open to the general public—a sort of porch, resembling the old Court of the Arches in London. The place is crowded with people, deeply interested in the proceedings. It is in this direction that the successful mother turns, holding her child by the hand. In parting, she looks back at the king in gratitude and proud satisfaction, and even the child seems to wave the good judge a ‘Thank you!' And so, there was no work for the Lord High Executioner.