Perverse Conduct of Some of the People Among the Children of Israel
Initially, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) directed his struggle against Pharaoh. Before the Prophet Moses (pbuh) came, his people, the Children of Israel, were languishing in slavery. It was for that reason when the time Allah predetermined arrived, to flee, the entire tribe willingly followed him and left Egypt. However, this in no way implied sincere faith on their part. Among them were people who joined merely out of tribal loyalties. Therefore, rather than submitting themselves to the path of righteousness, some of these people in subject now and then returned to their idolatrous practices. Thus, they took every opoortunity to defy the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and resisted the true religion brought by him.
First, Allah commanded the Prophet Moses (pbuh) to divide the Children of Israel into twelve separate tribes:
We divided them up into twelve tribes—communities. We revealed to Moses, when his people asked him for water: "Strike the rock with your staff." Twelve fountains flowed out from it and all the people knew their drinking place. (Surat al-A'raf: 160)
Some of the Children of Israel failed to develop a deep-seated faith in their hearts. Even they dared to ask the Prophet Moses (pbuh) to show them Allah:
And when you said, "Moses, we will not believe in you until we see Allah with our own eyes." So the thunderbolt caught you while you were (all) looking on. (Surat al-Baqara: 55)
Apparently, the traits of some people among the Children of Israel were greed and ungratefulness. As sustenance for the Children of Israel, at one point, Allah miraculously prepared food for them. Some people among the Children of Israel were very unwise to display an attitude incompatible with respect despite the fact that this food, referred to as "manna and quails" in the Qur'an,was a blessing from Allah's Sight:
And We shaded you with clouds and sent down manna and quails to you: "Eat of the good things We have provided for you." They did not wrong Us; rather it was themselves they were wronging. (Surat al-Baqara: 57)
And when you said, "Moses, we will not put up with just one kind of food so ask your Lord to supply to us some of what the earth produces—its green vegetables, cucumbers, grains, lentils and onions," he said, "Do you want to replace what is better with what is inferior? Go back to Egypt, then you will have what you are asking for..." (Surat al-Baqara: 61)
This was yet another clear sign of the great ingratitude of some people among the Children of Israel.
The Story of Cow
Some people of the Prophet Moses (pbuh) clearly at no point seem to have had a grasp of true faith.
In an attempt to tailor the righteous Divine religion to their own desires and to their ancient superstitious religious practices, they, in their own way, made deliberate distortions to it. In total disregard for the easy and clear nature of the religion, they, mindlesslyrendered it complicated and difficult to practice. They were inclined to worship idols rather than Allah, and altered the religion into a series of rituals.
Their tendency of some people among the Children of Israel to needlessly complicate the religion is best explained in a story related in the Surat al-Baqara.
In this story, Allah commands the Children of Israel to sacrifice a cow. The command, conveyed by the Prophet Moses (pbuh) to his tribe, is a very simple one. However, deluded to believe that religion should be complicated, some people among the Children of Israel tried to complicatethis plain and easy command, and concerned themselves with all sorts of trivial details which were not required. The related verses read:
And when Moses said to his people, "Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow," they said, "What! Are you making a mockery of us?"
He said, "I seek refuge with Allah from being one of the ignorant!"
They said, "Ask your Lord to make it clear to us what it should be like."
He said, "He says it should be a cow, not old or virgin, but somewhere between the two. So do as you have been told."
They said, "Ask your Lord to make it clear to us what colour it should be."
He said, "He says it should be yellow, a rich yellow, a pleasure to all who look." They said, "Ask your Lord to make it clear to us what it should be like. Cows are all much the same to us. Then, if Allah wills, we will be guided."
He said, "He says it should be a cow not trained to plough or irrigate the fields—completely sound, without a blemish on it."
They said, "Now you have brought the truth."
So they sacrificed it—but they almost did not do it. (Surat al-Baqara: 67-71)
As related in the above account, some people among the tribe of the Prophet Moses (pbuh) constantly raised objections against the commands of Allah. Only when the command became almost non-practicable, due to the petty details they begged for, they relented. In fact, the command was quite plain: sacrifice a cow.
Rebellion of Some of the Children of Israel Against the Command of Allah
Upon the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt, Allah promised them a homeland in which to dwell. Much has been said about the objections raised against the Prophet Moses (pbuh) during this journey in the previous pages. This tendency of theirs persisted until the time they arrived in the Promised Land:
Remember when Moses said to his people, "My people! Remember Allah's blessing to you when He appointed Prophets among you and appointed kings for you, and gave you what He had not given to anyone else in all the worlds! My people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah has ordained for you. Do not turn back in your tracks and so become transformed into losers."
They said, "There are tyrants in it, Moses. We will not enter it until they leave. If they leave it, then we will go in." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 20-22)
Allah's help had always been with the Children of Israel. Allah saved them from Pharaoh by parting the sea and then gave them a land. Furthermore, He promised a definite victory, provided they waged a war against the tyrannical tribe dwelling there. They should have put their trust in Allah and followed His messenger. Instead, some of them did not heed the Prophet Moses' (pbuh) warnings and were fearful. Only two among the lot of them stated that they would put their trust in Allah and enter the land:
Two men among those who were afraid, but whom Allah had blessed, said, "Enter the gate against them! Once you have entered it, you will be victorious. Put your trust in Allah if you are believers." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 23)
Despite such warnings, some of the Children of Israel opposed the messenger of Allah, and displayed a very reprehensible morality towards him:
They said, "We will never enter it, Moses, as long as they are there. So you and your Lord go and fight. We will stay sitting here." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 24)
The insolence of some among the people of the Prophet Moses (pbuh) became aggravated to such an extent that they began to actually ignore the words of their prophets and openly objected to them. Therefore, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) pleaded our Lord and asked Him to save him and his brother, the Prophet Aaron (pbuh) from this insolent people:
He (Moses) said, "My Lord, I have no control over anyone but myself and my brother, so make a clear distinction between us and this deviant people."
He (Allah) said, "The land will be forbidden to them for forty years during which they will wander aimlessly about the earth. Do not waste grief on this deviant people." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 25-26)
As mentioned here, some of the Children of Israel were prohibited from the Promised Land for forty years, due to their insolence towards Allah and His messenger.
For much of his life, the Prophet Moses (pbuh) had tried to communicate Allah's message to them. He strove to save his tribe from the worship of idols and guide them to the true religion. His aim was merely to warn people and save them from the torment of Hell, a mission which he carried solely to earn the good pleasure of Allah. To this purpose, he had confronted Pharaoh and had attempted to rid his people's beliefs of superstition. Nevertheless, he became the object to the cruelties of Pharaoh, as well as some of his own people. However, he was a noble servant, who lived merely to attain the good pleasure of Allah, and our Lord saved him from all difficulties inflicted upon him.
There are lessons to be drawn from the ingratitude of some of the Children of Israel, a people who did not follow in their Prophets' footsteps, who turned their backs to the religion entrusted to them, and so perverse as to say, "you and your Lord go and fight." Allah has warned mankind against succumbing to the insolence of some of the Children of Israel towards their Prophet:
You who believe! Do not be like those who abused Moses. Allah absolved him of what they said and he was highly honored with Allah. (Surat al-Ahzab: 69)
Do not let their wealth and children impress you. Allah merely wants to punish them by them during their life in this world and for them to expire while they are disbelievers.