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Rebuttal to James Aralandson's article
Saul and Gideon: revelation or error?

 An analysis of Sura 2:249

 By Sami Zaatari

 

 

 

http://answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/saul_gideon.htm

He Wrote

Here is one piece of evidence of this error.

In the context of Saul being chosen as king to lead ancient Israel into battle against their enemies the Amalekites and the Philistines, Talut (Saul) tests his soldiers with drinking at an unnamed river.

The Quran in Sura 2:249 says:

2:249 When Talut [Saul] set out with his forces, he said to them, "God will test you with a river. Anyone who drinks from it will not belong with me, but anyone who refrains from tasting it will belong with me; if he scoops up just one handful [he will be excused]." But they all drank [deep] from it, except a few . . . (first insertion is mine; the last two are Haleem’s).

The passage goes on to recount David’s victory over Goliath, and the Israelis over the Philistines.

Besides the illogical and unwise announcement to the soldiers of a test before it is enacted, Allah’s inspiration seems to mislead the prophet about the chronology and the characters. Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the Bible knows that this Quranic episode conflates an event in Gideon’s life.

The Bible in Judges 7:4-5 says:

7:4 The Lord said to Gideon, "There are still too many men [in the army]. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there . . . 5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, "Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink. Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their hands and knees. (New International Version; my insertion)

Though some of the small details differ, the Quran and the Bible share remarkable similarities in at least five ways.

First, the large context of a military campaign occurs in both.

Second, both passages share the same drink test by water. The Bible says the spring of Haran was the place of testing, whereas the Quran says that the location was an unnamed river. But the element is the same—water. That is, it is not the case that the Bible says that drinking water is the test, whereas the Quran says that throwing a spear the farthest or ingesting food a certain way is the test.

Third, the method of drinking is similar. In the Quran, even if the men take a scoopful of water, they will be excused from fighting. How much more will they be exempt if they drink deep? This parallels the Biblical text. Either the men lap the water up from their hand as they stand (= scooping in the Quran), or they kneel down and drink (= drinking deeply in the Quran).

Fourth, the immediate purpose of the test is the same. Both are designed to separate or sift men from the army.

Fifth, the overall purpose in the Biblical passage is to prevent Israel from boasting in his own strength (7:2). Instead, Israel should boast in God’s deliverance. The Quran says or implies the same in the rest of Sura 2:249.

So how should we account for this error or confusion of Saul with Gideon?

 

My Response

So basically James has no argument. All his argument is that the two accounts are a bit similar, so therefore this means the Quran borrowed the story and changed it around. Does James prove this? NO. All he does is assume.

He also assumes his Bible is correct. For all we know, the Bible could be wrong on Gideon, and that someone falsely borrowed from the true event of Saul and twisted it around with Gideon.

How can James be sure that is not the case? He assumes his Bible is true, yet he does not prove it, how convenient. Such blatant arrogance is amusing to say the least.

So as we see, James is in a bit of a hole now, the reason being is that the story he shows from the Bible could be a corrupted borrowed version of Saul and his troops.

Secondly, just because there may be some similarities does not mean they have to be borrowed or stolen. As James admits, there are differences between the two, the two stories are different.

Thirdly, could not God once again make a similar test to another group of soldiers and people later on? Off course he could. In fact if you read the OT, you will find that several stories in the OT are very similar and say the same things. Such as in Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Go read these three books, and you will basically be reading the same thing in each one with slight differences. So therefore yes, it is very plausible that God could have tested another group of people in a similar way to a past generation.

With that said, we now turn our concentration on the two texts and what both say, I will be quoting more than one passage from the Quran, I will quote the whole story.


002.246

YUSUFALI: Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (That was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.


02.247

YUSUFALI: Their Prophet said to them: "Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?" He said: "Allah hath Chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah Granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah careth for all, and He knoweth all things."


002.248

YUSUFALI: And (further) their Prophet said to them: "A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith."


002.249

YUSUFALI: When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." but they all drank of it, except a few. When they crossed the river,- He and the faithful ones with him,- they said: "This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." but those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, Hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere."

 

Here is the Bible story which is similar but much different:

Now therefore go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand. 4 And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go. 5 So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. 6 And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men: but all the rest of the people bowed down upon their knees to drink water. 7 And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place. 8 So the people took victuals in their hand, and their trumpets: and he sent all the rest of Israel every man unto his tent, and retained those three hundred men: and the host of Midian was beneath him in the valley.

 

To begin with, there are a number of differences between the two events. As we see, in the Quran this was purely a test of the soldiers and how they would obey God and their leader, where as in the Bible's story, God simply wanted to get rid of many soldiers since they were to many, and he basically made this test because he knew many would fail and therefore he would get rid of them.

Secondly, had James read the context of the Quran, the story would make much more sense to him. So here is an analysis of the verses and how everything adds up to each other:


02.247

YUSUFALI: Their Prophet said to them: "Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?" He said: "Allah hath Chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah Granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah careth for all, and He knoweth all things."


So note, the prophet tells the children of
Israel, that Allah has appointed a king over them, which is what they had requested:


002.246

YUSUFALI: Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (That was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.


So Allah had granted them this request, and had appointed a king over them, this king was Saul (Talut). However so, as usual, the children of
Israel were not satisfied and rebelled:


02.247

YUSUFALI: Their Prophet said to them: "Allah hath appointed Talut as king over you." They said: "How can he exercise authority over us when we are better fitted than he to exercise authority, and he is not even gifted, with wealth in abundance?" He said: "Allah hath Chosen him above you, and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and bodily prowess: Allah Granteth His authority to whom He pleaseth. Allah careth for all, and He knoweth all things."


So they were not to happy, they were expecting someone else, not Saul, however so, Allah chooses who he wills.

We then read:

002.248

YUSUFALI: And (further) their Prophet said to them: "A Sign of his authority is that there shall come to you the Ark of the covenant, with (an assurance) therein of security from your Lord, and the relics left by the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, carried by angels. In this is a symbol for you if ye indeed have faith."


The prophet now also tells them about a sign of authority of Saul. What does become more and more clear now, is that Allah wants to test if the people will follow Saul, because by following Saul they will basically be following Allah, since Allah commands you to follow this man. The children of
Israel asked for a king, they had gotten one, now it was time to see if they would follow this king.


002.249

YUSUFALI: When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." but they all drank of it, except a few. When they crossed the river,- He and the faithful ones with him,- they said: "This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." but those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, Hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere."


So note, as they set out for battle, Saul tells them Allah will test you by a river, if you drink of it, you will not come with me, if you don’t drink it except a little, then you will come with me. This was now the ultimate test for the people, would they listen to Saul their king? Would they follow Allah's command, or would they turn on their backs as usual? As we see, many of them as usual don’t obey Allah. They also don’t obey Saul, which is whom Allah put in power, which was the request of the Children of Israel. The children of Israel were supposed to follow this king, and Allah was testing whether they would do it. They did not.

So when read in context, the whole story comes together, the testing of the river is not one isolated incident, it is connected with the other verses, and from that we can see the whole context of what is going on. The context is clear, Allah wanted to see if the Children of Israel would follow the king, after asking Allah for a king, he had given them one, now it was time to see if they would do it. As we see, at first they were not satisfied, so hence Allah wanted to test them. As usual, they failed the test.

So the context between the two stories is very different! The Bible story is simply God wanting to get rid of soldiers. The Quran's story of Saul and the testing of the river is to see if the children of Israel would obey the king, which ultimately would be obeying God, and to see if they would even live up to their own words which was:


002.246

YUSUFALI: Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (That was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.


So they wanted a king over them, so they could fight. Allah was testing their sincerity to see if they really wanted to fight, and as we see they did not. So two complete different contexts between the two accounts. The Bible story is not a real test to test the people, it was a test that was meant to fail un-purpose to reduce the number of soldiers. The Quran's story was to test the sincerity of the people, and to see if their mouths was saying what was in their hearts.

So hence in the Quran, Allah simply wanted to see if the children of Israel would live up to their own words. Which is 'WE WANT TO FIGHT, SO APPOINT US A KING TO LEAD US'. Now you quote this verse:


002.249

YUSUFALI: When Talut set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." but they all drank of it, except a few. When they crossed the river,- He and the faithful ones with him,- they said: "This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." but those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, Hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere."


So it all becomes clear and makes sense. Especially when you read the first verse on this whole incident:


002.246

YUSUFALI: Hast thou not Turned thy vision to the Chiefs of the Children of Israel after (the time of) Moses? they said to a prophet (That was) among them: "Appoint for us a king, that we May fight in the cause of Allah." He said: "Is it not possible, if ye were commanded to fight, that that ye will not fight?" They said: "How could we refuse to fight in the cause of Allah, seeing that we were turned out of our homes and our families?" but when they were commanded to fight, they turned back, except a small band among them. But Allah Has full knowledge of those who do wrong.


Children of Israel were asking for a king to lead them to fight, they got this king to lead them to fight. Right before the battle, they were tested, if they really wanted to fight that badly, they would have listened to Saul and drink very little water, rather than drinking a lot of it thus disqualifying themselves from going to battle. Hence this shows, they weren’t very willing to fight, or else they would have followed Saul. We all know, if you really want to do something, and you are told don’t do this certain thing, or else you wont be able to do the thing you really want to do, then I think you wouldn’t do the certain thing which would not allow you to do what you really want to do! :)

This shows the Children of Israel were cowards. What is also possible is that those who drank the water did it on purpose to avoid going into battle!

So hence James really has to quote in context next time, because as we see, the meaning behind both stories is very very different.


To summarize:

1- The children of Israel said 'we want to fight'!

2- They asked God to give them a king who would lead them to fight.

3- They were given a king.

4- They didn’t like this king.

5- Right before battle Allah tests their will of how badly they want to fight.

6- The test is given to them by Saul, their king, who they had asked for, to be given a king, and Allah gave them one, so now we would see if they would obey their king which would also mean obey Allah.

7- The test was do not drink of the water, if you do, then you don’t go with me, meaning you wont fight.

8- Many drank a lot of water.

9- Those who drank a lot of water were not allowed to go fight since they did not listen to Saul.

10- They were proven hypocrites, since if they really wanted to fight, and wanted it badly, they would have been able to pass the test easily, since their thirst for battle should have been more.

11- This all means they did not really want to fight so badly.

12- They were liars when they said we want to fight.

13- Allah exposed them, and once again exposed the hypocrites.

:)


Also again, they could have drank a lot un-purpose to simply fail the test intentionally, thus meaning they wouldn’t have to fight.

So with that all said, the stories are very different. When read in context, when we see the meaning behind both stories, they are not even remotely the same. The Bible's story simply wanted men to fail, to reduce the number of soldiers.

In light of all this, I suggest that James next time decides to read in context, and here is what he says in the end:

 

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is not to put down a holy book. Rather, it is intended to make us think critically about its implications.

 

RESPONSE

Oh really? You did not want to put the Holy Quran down? Then why could you not quote in context, and simply quoted one part of the story, isolating one incident and putting it by itself. This exposes you as a liar yet again. Logically, if you are going to quote a story, you should quote part of it, or at least enough to make us know the background and so on, you don’t just quote one small part of it alone. You should always have context, background info. James did not take that into consideration. All he did was read two verses, which on the surface looked a bit similar, yet when we go deeper into both, we realize they actually aren’t that similar, they are only if you take one verse and isolate it alone, and compare it with another which is what James did.

And James is supposed to be some scholar right?

Praise Allah, and may he send his peace and blessing on the last prophet Muhammad, and may he curse those who dis-obeyed him and his appointed king Talut.

 

 

 

 

Rebuttals, and exposing the lies of the Answering Islam team section.

Rebuttals to James Arlandson's Articles section.

Sami Zaatari's Rebuttals section.


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