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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.”

Some have drawn a parallel between this verse and the account of
Gideon’s crossing the Jordan River in Judges 7:4–7, though the similarities are
typological and not historical. In the Gideon account, the test was known to
Gideon alone, the army was not aware they were being divided into two
categories (those who drank with their mouths and those who did so with their
hands), and the purpose was to reduce the army’s numbers to three hundred men,
so as to show that the Will of God could be carried out with a small number of
fighters. In the Quranic account, Saul openly tests the faith of his soldiers, who
are commanded to take only a handful of water and no more.
From a Quranic point of view, Saul’s test of his army could be a reenactment
of sacred history (Gideon lived before Samuel and Saul), much as parting the
waters is a recurring theme in the Old Testament, taking place at the hands of
Moses while the Israelites were escaping from the Egyptians through the Red
Sea and by the ark when the people were crossing the Jordan during the time of
Joshua (Joshua 3:14–17). That this incident echoes Gideon’s crossing, whose
purpose was to show that God could defeat many with few, is reinforced by the
statement in this verse of those who believed that they would meet their Lord,
“How many a small company have overcome a large company by God’s leave!”
This group deemed they would meet their Lord, meaning they were either certain
of the Hereafter or prepared to die (Q).

References:


Nasr, Hossein (2015). Study Quran. http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/TheStudyQuran.pdf

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