Two Starving Mothers
The Old Testament account of two mothers starving during the siege of King Ben-hadad in Samaria at the time of great famine tugs at the heart, but does not justify the act of murder. The siege and famine drove prices for food out of reach for poor people. One day the king of Israel passed a wall, where a woman cried out, “Help, my lord, O king” (2 Kings 6:26). Approaching, he asked her what was wrong. She replied that she had a son, and that the woman with her had told her to boil the son so they could eat him, which they did. The next day, the woman who no longer had a child asked the other woman to hand over her son for them to eat, but the woman hid her son. The king felt a great heaviness upon his heart. In mournful horror at what they had done and sadness for the dead child, he tore his clothes.
He did not punish the women for the murder of the boy, but sent a messenger to Elisha swearing his vengeance upon him as God's representative. As the King saw it, God had cursed the land with misery and suffering.
The narrative of the two starving mothers was most likely used to illustrate the desperate situation in Samaria; for what could be worse than the plight of women who would devour their own young in order to survive? Then, as now, the idea was reprehensible.