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.
And this was done, according to the king's command, though lamentations arose from the two supplicants. And the women departed from his palace, stricken with grief.
This could just as easily have been the wisdom of God that was so justly feared by King Solomon's people. We cannot be certain that the telling that has survived to us is in any sense true, beyond its truth as a parable. It may, indeed, have been a kind of propaganda. We do not, cannot, know.
The solitary question remains, then: is the parable satisfactory, on a moral if not narrative level? Were Solomon's deceptive means acceptable, given the end of finding truth, and was the true mother's sacrifice something that should have been asked of her? Or perhaps the fearsome judgment of God was more to be feared than desired, and we have indeed progressed from this much-lauded golden age.