This is an account of how the Bani Israel kept breaking the pledge taken from them. Whenever a Messenger brought a command which did not suit their fancy, they would break their pledge and go about betraying Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to the limit that they would falsify His Messengers, even kill some of them.
لَقَدْ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَ بَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ وَأَرْسَلْنَآ إِلَيْهِمْ رُسُلاً كُلَّمَا جَآءَهُمْ رَسُولٌ بِمَا لاَ تَهْوَى أَنفُسُهُمْ فَرِيقاً كَذَّبُواْ وَفَرِيقاً يَقْتُلُونَ
Verily, We took the covenant of the Children of Israel and sent Messengers to them. Whenever there came to them a Messenger with what they themselves desired not, a group of them they called liars, and others among them they killed.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala reminds that He took the covenant and pledges from the Children of Israel. What was this covenant? We learn about it in Surah al-Ma’idah Ayah 12, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give zakah and believe in My messengers and support them and loan Allah a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow. But whoever of you disbelieves after that has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way.”
They were commanded to believe in Allah, do righteous deeds, to hear and obey Him and His Messengers. However, the Bani Israel repeatedly broke their pledges and covenants and followed their lusts and desires instead of the law, and whichever part of the law they agreed with, they took it. Otherwise, they abandoned it, if it did not conform to their desires.
They became so reckless and carefree, as if they would not have to pay for what they have done, that they killed some prophets and put some other behind bars.
– We learn about Allah’s mercy over His people that He didn’t leave people to find their own way, after taking a covenant but also sent Messengers to guide them the right way.
– We learn about the warning against breaking covenant of Allah. The incident has not been mentioned here so that we humiliate them rather the stories that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has mentioned are for us to take lessons from. We should not deny the messengers or oppose them. Whatever the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam told us we must accept and follow it even if it’s against our desire.
– When we find a command of Allah difficult we have two options either one abandons the command, ignores it or accept it and do sabr. The Bani Israel abandoned the command of Allah and were punished.
– In this ayah, there’s also warning against following the desires of the nafs because when one keeps following the nafs he harms himself. When we follow our desires we do things which are unacceptable in deen as well as to those around us.