The State of the Israelites After Joshua
Ibn Jarir reported that the condition of the Israelites
deteriorated. They committed many sins and killed whom they wished of
the prophets. Consequently Allah sent them tyrannous king who
ill-treated them and spilled their blood, and set their enemies from
outside against them as well. They used to go war, taking with them The
Ark of the Covenant. They did this so that they would be victorious by
its blessings, and it became a symbol of calm and a relic left behind
by Moses's people. When they went to war with the people of Gaza and
Askalon, they were defeated because the Ark of the Covenant was
captured from them. When the king of the Israelites heard of this he
died on the spot.
The children of Israel remained like sheep without a
shepherd until Almighty Allah sent them a prophet named Samuel
(Shammil) (pbuh). They asked him to appoint a king over them to lead in
a war against their enemies.
The Ark of the
According to Ibn 'Asaker, the Israelites believed their
Ark of the Covenant to be very holy and an important symbol of their
history. The carried the Ark even in battle and believed that, because
of it, Allah would protect them from their enemies. This belief gave
them peace of mind and great courage, and their enemies were terrified
by it. Their enemies also believed that it was given special power by
Allah. Gradually the Israelites started to ignore Allah's law; evil
habits became part of their lives. Allah sent upon them an enemy, the
Philistines, who defeated the Israelites, captured their Ark, drove
them out of their homes, and took away their children to use or sell as
slaves. Their power was broken. They separated from one another and
were very disheartened.
Samuel Comes to the
Then came Prophet Samuel (pbuh) among them to bring
some relief. They asked the prophet's help in appointing a strong
leader, a king under whose banner they could unite and fight the
Philistines. Prophet Samuel (pbuh), knowing their weakness, told them:
"I fear that when the time comes to fight you may refuse." But they
assured him that they had suffered enough insults and were now ready to
fight in the way of Allah, even if they lost their lives.
Prophet Samuel prayed to Allah for guidance. Allah
revealed to him that He had chosen one, Saul (Talut), to be their king.
The prophet wanted to know how to recognize the future king. He was
told that Saul would come to him by himself and that they should then
hand over the control of kingdom to him, for he would lead them in
battle against the Philistines.
Saul is Appointed King
Saul was tall and sturdy, pious, and very intelligent.
He lived and worked with his father on their farm. One day, several of
their donkeys were lost. Accompanied by his servant, Saul went in
search of them. They traveled for many days and were very tired. Saul
said to his servant: "Let us rather go back, for I am sure that my
father will be worried by now, and the other animals must also be cared
for." His servant suggested that as they were already in the land of
Samuel the prophet, they should go to him to inquire about the lost
Saul agreed, and they carried on. On their way, they
asked directions from some maidens carrying water. They were told to go
in the direction of the mountain. Here, a vast crowd was waiting for
the Prophet Samuel. When Saul set eyes on him, he instantly recognized
him as a prophet by his holy men. Samuel also recognized Saul as the
king that Allah had chosen for them. Saul greeted the prophet
respectfully. When he asked about his missing donkeys, Samuel told him
not to worry, his donkeys were already on their way to his fat's farm.
He then told Saul that Allah had chosen him as the
king of the children of Israel. His duty would be to take charge of
their affairs, to unite them under one banner, and to protect them from
their enemies. If he carried out Allah's commands, he would be given
victory. Saul was surprised by this sudden honor offered to him. It was
also a heavy responsibility. He protested to the prophet that he was a
of the children of Benjamin, the least famous of the tribes of Jacob;
he did not know anything of leadership or kingship and had no wealth.
Samuel told him that it was the will of Allah that he should be the
king, that he should thank Allah for His favor and be strong in faith.
Saul is Appointed King
Taking Saul by the hand, Samuel led him to the children
of Israel, but they insisted on a direct sign from Allah. Prophet
Samuel told them to go outside the city to see the sign, which they
did. Almighty Allah revealed: "Have you not thought about the
group of children of Israel after (the time of ) Moses? When they said
to a Prophet of theirs: "Appoint for us a king and we will fight in
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 Zalimeen
(polytheists, and wrongdoers).
And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them: "Indeed
Allah has appointed Saul as a king over you."
They said: "How can he be a king over us when we are
better fitted than him for the kingdom, and he has not been given
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."
And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them:
"Have you not thought about the group of the Children
of Israel after (the time of) Musâ (Moses)? When they said to a
Prophet of theirs, "Appoint for us a king and we will fight in
Allâh's Way." He said, "Would you then refrain from fighting, if
fighting was prescribed for you?" They said, "Why should we not fight
in Allâh'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
Allâh is All-Aware of the Zâlimûn (polytheists and
And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them, "Indeed
Allâh has appointed Talût (Saul) as a king over you." They
said, "How can he be a king over us when we are better fitted than him
for the kingdom, and he has not been given enough wealth." He said:
"Verily, Allâh has chosen him above you and has increased him
abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allâh grants His Kingdom
to whom He wills. And Allâh is All-Sufficient for His creatures'
And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them:
Verily! The sign of His Kingdom is that there shall come to you
At-Tâbût (a wooden box), wherein is Sakinah (peace and
reassurance) from your Lord and a remnant of that which Musâ
(Moses) and Hârûn (Aaron) left behind, carried by the
angels. Verily, in this is a sign for you if you are indeed believers."
(Ch. 2: 246-250)
Saul Leads an Army - Quranic
Then when Saul set out with the army, he said:
"Verily! Allah will try you by a river. So whoever drinks thereof,
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 on this day against Goliath and his
But those who knew with certainty that they were to
meet their Lord, said: "How often a small group overcame a mighty host
by Allah's Leave?" And Allah is with the patient.
And when they advanced to meet Goliath and his
forces, they invoked:
"Then when Talût (Saul) set out with the army,
he said: "Verily! Allâh 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 Jalût (Goliath) and his hosts." But
those who knew with certainty that they were to meet their Lord, said:
"How often a small group overcame a mighty host by Allâh's
Leave?" And Allâh is with As-Sâbirin (the patient ones,
when they advanced to meet Jalût (Goliath) and his forces, they
invoked: "Our Lord! Pour forth on us patience and make us victorious
over the disbelieving people."
Saul Leads an Army
Saul set about organizing his army with strong faith
and wisdom. He ordered that only men free from responsibilities should
join. Those engaged in building homes, men who were about to be married
and those occupied with business should not join.
After establishing a well-trained army, he decided to
put them to the test. He told them that along the route they would pass
a river where they should drink enough water to quench their thirst but
not more than that. To his disappointment, he discovered the majority
of them drank more water than they should have. He discharged them for
disobedience and kept only the few who had obeyed him, as they were the
ones who proved their sincerity. This resulted in a split in the army,
but he was not bothered. He believed in quality and not numbers; better
a small band of true believers he could rely on than a huge army of
Saul's Army Sees the
Saul's men sighted the enemy on the other side of the
river. Their opponents appeared physically strong and were armed with
better weapons. They were led by the mighty warrior Goliath (Galut),
known for his huge build and brute strength. A great number of Saul's
men ran away on seeing this strong force. The small band that remained
was willing to fight, whatever the outcome, for they had heard that
there had been many incidents in the past in which Allah had caused a
small force to defeat a larger one.