Source: Tafseer Ibn Katheer
(2.246. Have you not thought about the group of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Musa When they said to a Prophet of theirs, “Appoint for us a king and we will fight in Allah’s way.” He said, “Would you then refrain from fighting, if fighting was prescribed for you” They said, “Why should we not fight in Allah’s way while we have been driven out of our homes and our children (families have been taken as captives)” But when fighting was ordered for them, they turned away, all except a few of them. And Allah is All-Aware of the wrongdoers.)
Mujahid said that the Prophet (mentioned in the Ayah 2:246 above) is Shamwil (Samuel). Wahb bin Munabbih said: The Children of Israel remained on the straight path for a period of time after Moses. They then innovated in the religion and some of them even worshipped the idols. Yet, there were always Prophets sent among them who would command them to work righteous deeds, refrain from doing evil and who would rule them according to the commands of the Torah. When they (Israelites) committed the evil that they committed, Allah caused their enemies to overwhelm them, and many fatalities fell among them as a consequence. Their enemies also captured a great number of them, and took over large areas of their land. Earlier, anyone who would fight the Israelites would lose, because they had the Torah and the Tabut, which they inherited generation after generation ever since the time of Moses, who spoke to Allah directly. Yet, the Israelites kept indulging in misguidance until some king took the Tabut from them during a battle. That king also took possession of the Torah, and only a few of the Israelites who memorized it remained. The prophethood halted among their various tribes and only a pregnant woman remained of the offspring of Lavi (Levi), in whom the prophethood still appeared. Her husband had been killed, so the Israelites kept her in a house so that Allah may give her a boy, who would be their Prophet. The woman also kept invoking Allah to grant her a boy. Allah heard her pleas and gave her a boy whom she called `Shamwil’ meaning `Allah has heard my pleas.’ Some people said that the boy’s name was Sham`un (Simeon), which also has a similar meaning.
As that boy grew, Allah raised him to be a righteous person. When he reached the age of prophethood, Allah revealed to him and commanded him to call (his people) to Him and to His Tawhid (Oneness). Shamwil called the Children of Israel (to Allah) and they asked him to appoint a king over them so that they could fight their enemies under his command. The kingship had also ended among them. Their Prophet said to them, “What if Allah appoints a king over you, would you fulfill your vow to fight under his command”
(They said, “Why should we not fight in Allah’s way while we have been driven out of our homes and our children”) meaning, `After our land had been confiscated and our children had been taken from us’ Allah said:
(But when fighting was ordered for them, they turned away, all except a few of them. And Allah is All-Aware of the wrongdoers) meaning, only a few of them kept their promise, but the majority abandoned Jihad and Allah has full knowledge of them.
(247. And their Prophet said to them, “Indeed Allah has appointed Talut (Saul) as a king over you.” They said, “How can he be a king over us when we are fitter than him for the kingdom, and he has not been given enough wealth.” He said: “Verily, Allah has chosen him above you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allah grants His kingdom to whom He wills. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.”)
When the Israelites asked their Prophet to appoint a king over them, he appointed Talut (Saul), who was then a soldier. But, Talut was not a descendant of the house of kings among them, which was exclusively in the offspring of Yahudha (Judah). This is why they said:
(How can he be a king over us) meaning, how can he be the king for us,
(when we are fitter than him for the kingdom, and he has not been given enough wealth) They said that Talut was also poor and did not have the wealth that justifies him being king. Some people stated that Talut used to bring water to the people, while others stated that his profession was dyeing skins. The Jews, thus, disputed with their Prophet while they were supposed to obey him and to say good words to him.
Their Prophet answered them:
(Verily, Allah has chosen him above you) meaning, `Allah chose Talut from amongst you while having better knowledge about him.’ Their Prophet stated, “I did not choose Talut to be your king on my own. Rather, Allah has commanded that upon your request.” Further:
(…and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature.) meaning, `Talut is more knowledgeable and honorable than you, and stronger and more patient during combat, and has more knowledge of warfare. In short, he has more knowledge and is stronger than you are. The king should have sufficient knowledge, be fair looking and should have a strong soul and body.’ He then said:
(And Allah grants His kingdom to whom He wills.) meaning, Allah Alone is the Supreme Authority Who does what He wills and no one can ask Him about His actions, while they will be asked (about their actions by Him). This is because Allah has perfect knowledge, wisdom and kindness with His creation. Allah said:
(And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knower.) meaning, His favor is encompassing and He grants His mercy to whom He wills. He also knows those who deserve to be kings and those who do not deserve it.
(248. And their Prophet said to them: “Verily! The sign of His kingdom is that there shall come to you At-Tabut, wherein is Sakinah (peace and reassurance) from your Lord and a remnant of that which Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) left behind, carried by the angels. Verily, in this is a sign for you if you are indeed believers.)
Their Prophet then proclaimed, “The sign of the blessings of Talut’s kingship over you is that Allah will give you back the Tabut (wooden box) that has been taken from you.” Allah said:
(wherein is Sakinah from your Lord) meaning, peace (or grace) and reassurance. `Abdur-Razzaq stated that Qatadah said:
(wherein is Sakinah) means grace. In addition, Ar-Rabi` said that Sakinah means mercy. This is also the meaning given by Ibn `Abbas, as Al-`Awfi narrated.
Allah then said:
(…and a remnant of that which Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) left behind,)
Ibn Jarir related that Ibn `Abbas said about this Ayah:
(…and a remnant of that which Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) left behind, ) Meaning, Moses’ staff and the remnants of the Tablets. This is the same Tafsir of Qatadah, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and `Ikrimah, who added, “And also the Torah.” `Abdur-Razzaq said that he asked Ath-Thawri about the meaning of,
(…and a remnant of that which Musa (Moses) and Harun (Aaron) left behind,)
Ath-Thawri said, “Some said that it contained a pot of manna and the remnants of the Tablets, while some others said that it contained (Moses’) staff and two shoes (and refer to 20:12).”
Allah then said:
(…carried by the angels.)
Ibn Jurayj stated that Ibn `Abbas said, “The angels came down while carrying the Tabut between the sky and the earth, until they placed it before Talut while the people were watching.” As-Suddi said, “The Tabut was brought to Talut’s house, so the people believed in the prophethood of Sham`un (Simeon) and obeyed Talut”
The Prophet then said:
(Verily, in this is a sign for you) testifying to my truth in what I was sent with, my prophethood, and my command to you to obey Talut,
(if you are indeed believers. ) in Allah and the Hereafter.”
(249. Then when Talut set out with the army, he said: “Verily, Allah will try you by a river. So whoever drinks thereof, he is not of me; and whoever tastes it not, he is of me, except him who takes (thereof) in the hollow of his hand.” Yet, they drank thereof, all, except a few of them. So when he had crossed it (the river), he and those who believed with him, they said: “We have no power this day against Jalut (Goliath) and his hosts.” But those who knew with certainty that they were going to meet Allah, said: “How often has a small group overcome a mighty host by Allah’s leave” And Allah is with As-Sabirin (the patient).)
Allah states that Talut, the king of the Children of Israel, marched forth with his soldiers and the Israelites who obeyed him. His army was of eighty thousand then, according to As-Suddi, but Allah knows best. Talut said:
(Verily, Allah will try you) meaning, He will test you with a river, which flowed between Jordan and Palestine, i.e. , the Shari`ah river, according to Ibn `Abbas and others. He continued,
(So whoever drinks thereof, he is not of me;) meaning, shall not accompany me today,
(and whoever tastes it not, he is of me, except him who takes (thereof) in the hollow of his hand.) meaning, there is no harm in this case. Allah then said:
(Yet, they drank thereof, all, except a few of them.)
Ibn Jurayj stated that Ibn `Abbas commented, “Whoever took some of it (the river’s water) in the hollow of his hand, quenched his thirst; as for those who drank freely from it, their thirst was not quenched.”
Ibn Jarir reported that Al-Bara’ bin `Azib said, “We used to say that the Companions of Muhammad who accompanied him on the battle of Badr were more than three hundred and ten, just as many as the soldiers who crossed the river with Talut. Only those who believed crossed the river with him.” Al-Bukhari also reported this.
This is why Allah said:
(So when he had crossed it (the river), he and those who believed with him, they said: “We have no power this day against Jalut (Goliath) and his hosts.”)
This Ayah indicates that the Israelites (who remained with Saul) thought that they were few in the face of their enemy who were many then. So, their knowledgeable scholars strengthened their resolve by stating that Allah’s promise is true and that triumph comes from Allah Alone, not from the large numbers or the adequacy of the supplies. They said to them:
(“How often has a small group overcome a mighty host by Allah’s leave” And Allah is with As-Sabirin (the patient).)
(250. And when they advanced to meet Jalut (Goliath) and his forces, they invoked: “Our Lord! Pour forth on us patience, and set firm our feet and make us victorious over the disbelieving people.”) (251. So they routed them by Allah’s leave and Dawud (David) killed Jalut (Goliath), and Allah gave him (Dawud) the kingdom ﴿after the death of Talut and Samuel﴾ and Al-Hikmah (prophethood), and taught him of that which He willed. And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief. But Allah is full of bounty to the `Alamin (mankind, Jinn and all that exists).) (252. These are the verses of Allah, We recite them to you (O Muhammad ) in truth, and surely, you are one of the Messengers (of Allah.)
When the faithful party, who were few under the command of Talut, faced their enemy, who were many under the command of Jalut,
(they invoked: “Our Lord! Pour forth on us patience…”) meaning, send down patience on us from You.
(and set firm our feet) meaning, against the enemy and save us from running away and from feebleness,
(and make us victorious over the disbelieving people.)
(So they routed them by Allah’s leave) meaning, they defeated and overwhelmed them by Allah’s aid and support. Then,
(and Dawud killed Jalut)
Israelite accounts claimed that (Prophet) David killed Goliath with a slingshot that he had, which he launched at Goliath causing his death.
Talut promised that whoever killed Jalut, would marry his daughter and would share his kingship and authority. He kept his promise. Later, the kingship was transferred to Prophet Dawud in addition to being granted Prophethood by Allah. So, Allah said:
(…and Allah gave him (Dawud) the kingdom) that Talut had and,
(and Al-Hikmah) that comes with the prophethood, meaning, after Shamwil. ﴿Allah then said:﴾
(and taught him of that which He willed.) meaning, what He willed of the knowledge that He bestowed on (Prophet) Dawud.
Next, Allah said:
(And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief.)
This Ayah indicates that if it were not for the fact that Allah checks one set of people with another, such as when Talut and the bravery of Dawud helped the Children of Israel (against Goliath), then people would have perished. Similarly, Allah said:
(For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and Masjids, wherein the Name of Allah is mentioned much, would surely, have been pulled down.) (22:40)
Allah then said:
(But Allah is full of bounty to the `Alamin (mankind, Jinn and all that exists)) meaning, by His mercy and favor He fixes some of them by some others. Surely, Allah has the wisdom, the supreme authority and the clear proof against His creation in all of His actions and statements.
(These are the verses of Allah, We recite them to you (O Muhammad ) in truth, and surely, you are one of the Messengers (of Allah).)
This Ayah states, `These Ayat (verses) of Allah that We have narrated for you in truth conform to the exact manner that these stories have occurred and to the truth that still remain in the (Divine) Books that the scholars of the Children of Israel have and know. Allah said: O Muhammad,
(one of the Messengers (of Allah)) emphatically stating the truth of his prophet hood