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Wisdom of Solomon

One day two prostitutes sharing living quarters delivered babies within three days of one another. When one woman's infant died, she switched it for the other while its mother slept.

Though the other woman was hardly fooled by the deception, the thief refused to cooperate. When, appearing before King Solomon, each still claimed the child as her own, the king ordered that a sword be brought and the baby be cut in half and shared between the plaintiffs.

The rightful mother, stirred by maternal love, was horrified: "O my lord," she pleaded, "give her the living child, and in no wise slay it." The other woman remained indifferent: "Let it be neither mine or thine," she said, "but divide it."

The king, recognizing the compassion of the first woman as that of a true mother, promptly ordered that the baby be returned to her.

[This famous judgment has often been spoofed. In a classic "Seinfeld" episode, Newman suggests cutting a bicycle in half to settle a dispute between Kramer and Elaine. And in a classic episode of "The Simpsons," Homer dreams of adjudicating a dispute over a pie. His ruling? "The pie shall be divided in half and each man shall receive... death! I'll eat the pie."]

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