Shafaqna – Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:248)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Dawood (David) and Jalut (Goliath) Part-3
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ آيَةَ مُلْكِهِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ التَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَىٰ وَآلُ هَارُونَ تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ ۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٢٤٨﴾
2:248 And their prophet said to them: “Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you, in it (is) tranquility from your Lord, and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left, carried by the angels. Indeed, in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.”
Commentary: The Israelites did not buy Prophet Samuel’s (AS) argument that Allah (SWT) had chosen Talut as their king. Prophet Samuel (AS) could have avoided further discussion, but he was a divine prophet who could not leave his people in error. He prayed for a divine sign, a miracle, which persuades Israelites to accept Talut’s kingship. God answered his prayer and returned to them the Ark of the Covenant, which they had lost to their enemy in previous wars. In particular, verse 2:248 says:
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ آيَةَ مُلْكِهِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ التَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَىٰ وَآلُ هَارُونَ … ﴿٢٤٨﴾
2:248 And their prophet said to them, “Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you, in it (is) tranquility from your Lord, and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left …”
The Ark of Covenant: In the year of Musa’s (AS) birth, Pharaoh (Firon) was killing all sons who were being born to Israelites. Prophet Musa’s(AS) mother placed him in a wooden chest (التَّابُوتُ) and set it to float in the Nile river, which passed by Firon’s palace [Ta-Ha 20:38-40]. The river current brought the chest to the shores of the court. Firon’s men saw the floating chest and took it out of the river, and in it, they found an infant boy.
The chest was in Firon’s palace until it fell into the hands of the Children of Israel. In the last days of his life, Prophet Musa (AS) placed the tablets of Torah, his armor, and other relics in the chest and (وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ آلُ مُوسَىٰ وَآلُ هَارُونَ) entrusted the chest to his vicegerent, Yusha’-ibn-Nun (Joshua) [Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol.2, P.240].
The chest, with its content, is called the Ark of the Covenant. It was one of the most sacred symbols of faith and a source of peace and tranquility to Israelites (فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ). They took it along in battles to reassure victory. In one of the fights, they lost it to the enemy. Hence, Prophet Samuel promised them the angels would return the Ark of the Covenant as proof of the legitimacy of Talut’s kingship (تَحْمِلُهُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ).
Tranquility from the Lord (سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ): ‘‘As-Sakīnah’’ (اَلْسَّكِينَةٌ) means tranquility, and it is derived from As-Sukūn (اَلْسَّكُون), which means static. The tranquility characteristic is the fruit of strong faith in Allah (SWT), enabling believers to be steadfast in pursuing their decisions. Allah (SWT) considers it one of His precious gifts to a believer [Al-Mizan, Vol.2, P.438].
In chapter Al-Mujadila (58:22), the Quran mentions that Allah (SWT) will support believers with spirit from Him (وَأَيَّدَهُم بِرُوحٍ مِّنْهُ). This divine spirit is the tranquility that Allah (SWT) bestows to the hearts of believers [(أَنزَلَ السَّكِينَةَ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ), Al-Fath 48:4 & (فَأَنزَلَ السَّكِينَةَ عَلَيْهِمْ) Al-Fath 48:18]. [Al-Mizan, Vol.2, P.438]. In the following paragraph, a Quranic example of tranquility will be explored.
When Prophet Musa (AS) led the exodus of the Children of Israel out of Egypt by night, Firon and his army realized the Israelites’ departure and immediately began pursuing them. The Israelites reached the Nile bank (or the Red Sea) and became terrified of seeing the river. Nile river was in their front, which they had no boat to cross it, and Firon’s army was behind them.
The Children of Israel said: “We are to be overtaken” [(إِنَّا لَمُدْرَكُونَ) Ash-Shu’ara 16:61]. This scenery never shook Prophet Musa’s (AS) confidence in his divine mission. With full assurance, he said:
قَالَ كَلَّا ۖ إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ ﴿٦٢﴾
26:62 [Prophet Musa (AS)] said, “No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; God will guide me.” There is a clear distinction between the reaction of Prophet Musa (AS) with his companions. His companions said: “We are to be overtaken” whereas Prophet Musa (AS) with confidence said: “No way, with me is my Lord; He will guide me [out of this predicament]”.
The Return of Arak: The verse does not provide details on how the angels returned the Arc to the Children of Israel.
One narration is that the adversary kept the Ark of the Covenant at their temple, next to their idols. Many troubles and afflictions had followed them since. They eventually considered it a bad omen and decided to take it out of the temple and leave it somewhere outside the city. Since no one was willing to do that, they tied the Arc to two cows and led the cows to the wilderness. This incident coincided with the appointment of Talut as a king to the Children of Israel. As the cows were carrying the Ark, the angels led the two animals to the city of Prophet Samuel (AS).
The Ark’s miraculous return proved Prophet Samuel’s (AS) claim that Allah (SWT) had appointed Talut as the king of Israel’s children. The verse ends with the point that the return of the Ark was a sign to believers if they had faith:
… إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ ﴿٢٤٨﴾
2:247 …Indeed, in that (return of Ark) is a sign for you (the children of Israel) if you are a believer.
2:248 [وَقَالَ] And said [لَهُمْ] to them [نَبِيُّهُمْ] their Prophet, [إِنَّ] indeed [آيَةَ] a sign [مُلْكِهِ] of his kingship [أَن] is that [يَأْتِيَكُمُ] will come to you [التَّابُوتُ] the ark [فِيهِ] in it [سَكِينَةٌ] is tranquility [مِّن] from [رَّبِّكُمْ] your Lord, [وَبَقِيَّةٌ] and remnant [مِّمَّا] of what [تَرَكَ] was left [آلُ] by the family of [مُوسَىٰ] Musa [وَآلُ] and the family of [هَارُونَ] Harun [تَحْمِلُهُ] will carry it [الْمَلَائِكَةُ]the angels. [إِنَّ] Indeed [فِي] in [ذَٰلِكَ] that [لَآيَةً] is surely a sign [لَّكُمْ] for you [إِن] if [كُنتُم] you are [مُّؤْمِنِينَ] believers.