The Children of Israel were to Kill each other for Repentance
This was the repentance required from the Children of Israel for worshiping the calf. Here, “kill yourselves” does not mean commit suicide rather as per Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala told the Children of Israel to slay by the sword every person that they meet, be it father or son.
When they took the calf as their god, their nation was divided into three groups:
1. Those who committed the act;
2. Those who stopped the wrongdoers;
3. And those who remained indifferent. They neither participated in the act nor stopped the wrongdoers.
The third group was commanded to kill the first group.
This incident is also mentioned in Surah Al-‘A’raf,
“And when a community among them said, ‘Why do you advise [or warn] a people whom Allah is [about] to destroy or to punish with a severe punishment?” they [the advisors] said, ‘To be absolved before your Lord and perhaps they may fear Him.’ And when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We saved those who had forbidden evil and seized those who wronged, with a wretched punishment, because they were defiantly disobeying,” [Al-‘A’raf 7: 164-165].
Here, we learn the importance of encouraging good and forbidding evil. We should never stand as spectators rather if we have knowledge we must step up and stop the wrong. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us the courage to stand up for the truth, ameen.
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu commented Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ordered Musa ‘alayhi salaam to command his people to kill each other. He ordered those who worshipped the calf to sit down and those who did not worship the calf to stand holding knives in their hands. When they started killing them, a great darkness suddenly overcame them. After the darkness lifted, they had killed seventy thousand of them. Those who were killed among them were forgiven and those who remained alive were also forgiven.
Levels of Sins
There are certain levels of sins:
1. There are sins that are wiped out with good deeds. These are the small sins which are wiped out by performing ablution, offering prayers, etc.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) extends His hand at night to give forgiveness to those who sinned during that day, and He extends His hand during the day to give forgiveness to those who sinned during the night. This will continue to be the case until the sun rises from the west.” [Muslim, 2759]
He salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said, “Sometimes I perceive a veil over my heart and ask Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) for forgiveness one hundred times a day.” [Muslim, 2702]
3. Those sins for which expiation must be given. This killing of the wrongdoers was an expiation for their sin.
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the One Who accepts the repentance, the Most Merciful.
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing,” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]