This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.Because of the signs Moses performed and the plagues God sent upon Egypt, Pharaoh relented and let the Children of Israel go.
"Also We revealed unto Moses, 'Go with My servants by night; strike for them a dry path in the sea, fearing not overtaking, neither afraid.' Pharaoh followed them with his hosts, but they were overwhelmed by the sea; so Pharaoh had led his people astray, and was no guide to them." (Koran 20:79)The context of this verse in the Koran has Moses in the presence of Pharaoh. Moses throws down his staff and it becomes a serpent. The magicians try the same, and their staffs also become serpents, but Moses' serpent eat up the magician's serpents. In the end, Pharaoh refused to believe Moses' signs while the magicians believed.
However, the Jewish text places the release of the Israelites, not at the first meeting between Moses and Pharaoh, when Moses performed this sign, but after the last plague, the slaughter of the firstborn.
"Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle. Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead. Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, 'Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.'" (Exodus 12:29-31)All this happened because of the hardness of Pharaoh's heart that the oppression of the Israelites. The Koran records.
"So We took vengeance on them, and drowned them in the sea, for that they cried lies to Our signs [treated our signs as falsehoods] and heeded them not." (Koran 7:132)Every judgment Muhammad sees the the ancient scriptures he perceives as stemming from the people's refusal to believe the prophet. In this way, the retelling of Jewish stories are self-serving to Muhammad. He is constantly warning the people of what will happens to those who disbelieve the prophet. However, the judgment on Pharaoh, his army, and the people of Egypt was not because Pharaoh disbelieved Moses, but because of their oppression of the people of God and their hardness of heart towards them.
"The Lord said, 'I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians.'" (Exodus 3:7-8)The truth is, we are not judged because we believe of disbelieve the prophet or apostle, but we are judged because of the sin and evil that is in our hearts. These are the things that bring judgment down upon us, not whether or not we believe the messenger.
While in the wilderness, as Moses ascended the holy mountain to receive the Law, the people worried that Moses had been gone so long, so they proceeded to make an idol that it might be their God and may lead them, seeing that Moses had left and appeared not to be coming back again.
"We have not failed in our tryst [promise] with thee,' they said, 'of our volition [accord]; but we were loaded with fardels, even the ornaments of the people, and we cast them, as the Samaritan [Samiri] also threw them, into the fire.' (Then he brought out for them a Calf, a mere body that lowed; and they said, 'This is your god, and the god of Moses, whom he has forgotten.'... Moses said, 'And thou, Samaritan [Samiri], what was thy business [motive]?' 'I beheld what they beheld not,' he said, 'and I seized a handful of dust from the messenger's track, and cast it into the thing. So my soul prompted me.'" (Koran 20:90, 96)
However, when Moses returned from the mountain and saw them playing the idolater with the golden calf, he came to ask Aaron what he had done. However, the Koran records that it was not Arron who was responsible, but the Samiri who had created the golden idle.
"Yet Aaron had aforetime [before] said to them, 'My people, you have been tempted by this thing, no more; surety your Lord is the All-merciful; therefore follow me, and obey my commandment!' 'We will not cease,' they said, 'to cleave [devotion] to it, until Moses returns to us.')" (Koran 20:92-93)However, the Jewish account clearly states that Aaron was the one who fashioned and set the golden calf before the people.
"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, 'Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' Aaron said to them, 'Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.' Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.'" (Exodus 32:1-6)It was also Aaron who, upon Moses' return, made the ridiculous defense for himself saying that the people were in an uproar so he told them to bring their gold and jewels. "So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf." (Exodus 32:24) He simply threw it in and out came a calf. I'm not sure Moses bought that excuse.
When Moses returned from the holy mountain, he brought with him the Law of God.
"We gave Moses the Book [law], and appointed with him his brother Aaron as minister [councilor] and We said, 'Go to the people who have cried lies to Our signs'; then We destroyed them utterly." (Koran 25:37-38)
It is unclear to whom whom Muhammad is referring to as those who "cried lies" to the signs of God. We do know that, upon seeing the people out of control, he said, "'Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!' And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him." (Exodus 32:26-27) He then commanded the Levites to take their swords and execute judgment on the people. "So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day." (Exodus 32:28) It must be understood that the Levite were just one of twelve tribes in Israel, and a smaller tribe at that. Also, estimates put the number of Jews in the exodus as high as perhaps three and a half million people. If Muhammad was speaking of slaying the Isrealites that committed idolatry with the golden calf, then the death of three thousand out of three and a half million hardly constitutes an utter destruction as Muhammad claims. If however, Muhammad is speaking to some non-Hebrew people, then it must be understood that Moses was not sent to any but the Hebrew children. Moses plainly says, "The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today." (Deuteronomy 5:2-3) Either way, Muhammad seems mistaken in his retelling of these events.