The Quran about children of Israel

In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful.

When analysing historical events in the Quran, there is a certain division in the perception of the concepts of “Jews” and “children of Israel.” Jews are more personified with a certain religious idea, while the concept of “the children of Israel” refers us to a certain nation – Jews.

According to the Quran, the children of Israel began to be mentioned in connection with the life story of Moses. This fact makes us think about the meaning of the name “Israel” (in the Arabic transcription “Isra,iila”). The Jewish tradition says that Jacob was called Israel after he fought, according to one version with God, according to another version with an angel. Therefore, he was given the name – “Israel” – “Wrestles with God.” There are many versions of the etymology of the word “Israel”, but we will try to consider this name regarding the Arabic language and the essence of the history described in the Quran.

Conventionally, “isra,iilya” can be divided into two constituent roots – “isra”, meaning “to be captivated” in the plural, and “,iila”, close to the word “aalya”, meaning “genus, tribe, dynasty”. Thus, the term “isra,iila” can be understood as a “captive race, tribe”. This understanding is explicable, because the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt after the death of Joseph. An interesting fact is that earlier the genus of Joseph was called in the Quran as the genus of Jacob:

And thus have your Lord chosen you! He will teach you the interpretation of narratives and complete His favor upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He completed it upon your fathers before, Ibrahim (Abraham) and Isaac! Indeed, your Lord is Knowing and Wise!” (12:6)

We are shown clearly that Jacob was not yet called “Israel.” Only with the appearance of Moses, we learn that the descendants of Joseph began to be called the children of Israel.

To clarify this situation, we will analyse everything in order. Moses, after his escape from Egypt, together with his brother, was sent by God to Egypt with the mission entrusted to them – to rescue the children of Israel from captivity:

I am obligated not to say about God except the truth! I have come to you with clear evidence from your Lord, so send with me the Children of Israel!” (7:105)


So go to him and say, ‘Indeed, we are messengers of your Lord! So send with us the children of Israel and do not torment them. We have come to you with a sign from your Lord! And peace will be upon he who follows the guidance! (20:47)


“Truly, send with us the children of Israel!'” (26:47)


It was from this moment that the people of Moses were called “the children of Israel.”

Once, Moses grew up at the courtyard of Pharaoh. This fact of his life caused reproaches for the “non-patriotism” of Moses, to which he replied as follows:

And this is a favor granted to me is expressed in that you have enslaved the children of Israel!” (26:22)


In order to rescue the people from slavery, Moses was endowed with signs:

And We had certainly given Moses nine evident signs, so ask the children of Israel, when he came to them and pharaoh said to him, “Indeed I think, O Moses, that you are affected by magic!” (17:101)


These signs were to force the nobility to free the children of Israel from captivity:

And when the punishment descended upon them, they said, “O Moses, invoke for us your Lord because there is the obligation with you. If you remove the punishment from us, we will believe you, and we will surely let the children of Israel go with you!” (7:134)


The result of the mission of Moses was the salvation of the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery and the death of the pharaoh:

And We took the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh and his soldiers pursued them in tyranny and enmity until, when drowning overtook him.

Pharaoh said, “I believe that there is no deity except that in whom the children of Israel believe, and I am of the humble.” (10:90)


And We certainly saved the children of Israel from the humiliating torment of pharaoh! (44:30)


The story of the children of Israel continued after a miraculous salvation:

O children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy, and We made an appointment with you at the right side of the mount, and We sent down to you manna and quails. (20:80)


The meaning of the salvation of the children of Israel is that monotheism is preserved in these people. However, the influence of the polytheistic environment on them has not passed without a trace:

And We caused the people who had been oppressed to inherit the eastern regions of the land and the western ones, which We had blessed! And the good word of your Lord was fulfilled for the children of Israel because of what they had patiently endured. And We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people did and in what they had been dwelling. And We took the children of Israel across the sea; then they came upon a people intent in devotion to the idols of theirs.

They said, “O Moses! Make for us a god just as they have gods!”

He replied, “Indeed, you are a people behaving ignorantly!” (7:137-138)

Such a situation brought Moses out of the spiritual balance and resulted in anger that fell upon Aaron:

Harun [Aaron] replied, “O son of my mother! Do not seize my beard or my head! Indeed, I feared that you would say, ‘You caused division among the children of Israel, and you did not observe my word!” (20:94)


Monotheism was restored through the sending down of the Prescription to Moses:

And We gave Moses the Scripture and made it a guidance for the Children of Israel that you not take other than Me as Disposer of affairs, (17:2)

And We certainly gave Moses the Scripture, so do not be in doubt over his meeting. And we made the Torah guidance for the Children of Israel. (32:23)

And We had certainly given Moses guidance, and We caused the Children of Israel to inherit the Scripture (40:53)

Over time, the children of Israel began to depart from the divine commandments. One of the messages of the Quran was to remind them of the past:

O children of Israel! Remember My favor which I have bestowed upon you. Fulfil the obligation before Me that I will fulfil My obligation before you. Beware of Me! (2:40)

O children of Israel! Remember My favor that I have bestowed upon you and that I preferred you over the mankind. (2:47)

When We took the covenant from the children of Israel, to serve only God, and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good and establish prayer and give purifying expenditure.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing. (2:83)

Ask the children of Israel how many a sign of evidence We have given them. And whoever exchanges the favor of God after it has come to him – then indeed, God is severe in penalty. (2:211)

God had already taken a covenant from the children of Israel. We delegated from among them twelve seniors. And God said, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give purifying expenditures and believe My messengers and support them and loan God a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow. But whoever of you closes himself after that has certainly strayed from the straight way.” (5:12)

Because of that, We decreed upon the children of Israel that whoever kills a personality not for killing a personality or for corruption in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely! (5:32)

Those were the ones upon whom God bestowed favor from among the prophets of the descendants of Adam and of those We carried with Noah, and of the descendants of Abraham and Israel, and of those whom We guided and chose. When the verses of the Merciful were recited to them, they fell in prostration and weeping! (19:58)

Thus, We caused to inherit it the children of Israel. (26:59)

And We did certainly give the children of Israel the Prescription, judgement and messages. And We provided them with good things and preferred them over the nations. (45:16)

Departure from the divine path brought the children of Israel to the point that they began to confront the messengers of God:

Indeed, We had already taken the covenant from the children of Israel and had sent to them messengers. Whenever there came to them a messenger with what they did not desire, a party of them they called liars, and another party they killed. (5:70)

If they recognized any of the messengers, they still resisted the dictates of the Creator:

Have you not considered the eminent ones of the сhildren of Israel after Moses?

When they said to a prophet of theirs, “Send to us a king, and we will fight in the way of God!”

He said, “Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?”

They said, “And why should we not fight in the way of God when we have been driven out from our homes and from our children?” But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. And God is Knowing of the obscurantists! (2:246)

Such a state of the people began to affect the religious field. Innovations were legalized in the faith:

All food was lawful to the children of Israel except what Israel had made unlawful to himself before the Torah was revealed.

Say, “So bring the Torah and recite it, if you should be truthful!” (3:93)


There was no disagreement in the environment of the children of Israel before Moses. Only with the appearance of the messenger and the sending down of the Prescription, the stratification began among the children of Israel:

And We had certainty settled the children of Israel in an agreeable settlement and provided them with good things. And they did not differ until the knowledge had come to them. Indeed, your Lord will judge between them on the day of standing before Him concerning that over which they used to differ! (10:93)


About such behaviour it was known from the messages, the result of which was also predetermined:

And We conveyed to the Children of Israel in the Prescription that, “You will surely cause corruption on the earth twice, and you will surely reach great haughtiness!”

So when the promise came for the first of them, We sent against you servants of Ours – those of great military might, and they probed into the homes, and it was a promise fulfilled. Then We gave back to you a return victory over them. And We reinforced you with wealth and sons and made you more numerous help! “If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you do evil, you do it to yourselves.”

Then when the final promise came, to sadden your faces and to enter the place for earthly worship, as they entered it the first time, and to destroy what they had taken over with destruction. (17:4-7)


And We said after that to the children of Israel, “Dwell in the land, and when there comes the final promise, We will appear with your group!” (17:104)


Despite the resistance and violation of the divine injunctions, the Creator did not leave the children of Israel without the truth. The last messenger, personally to them, was Jesus:

And He will teach him Prescription and judgement and the Torah and the Gospel and a messenger to the children of Israel, ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of God. And I will cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of God. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers! (3:48-49)

But the children of Israel managed to reject and slander Jesus as well:

Cursed were those who closed themselves among the children of Israel by the tongue of Dawood (David) and of Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary). That was because they disobeyed and transgressed! (5:78)

Only a small part of people believed and followed Jesus:

O you who have believed! Be helpers of God, as when Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), said to the disciples, “Who are my helpers for God?” The disciples said, “We are helpers of God!” And a faction of the children of Israel believed and a faction closed themselves. So We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became victors! (61:14)

Several generations later, Jesus’ followers distorted his teaching:

They have certainly closed themselves who say, “God is the anointed, the son of Maryam (Mary)!” But the anointed has said, “O children of Israel! Serve God, my Lord and your Lord! Indeed, he who associates others with God – God has forbidden him the garden. His refuge is the fire and there are not for the obscurantists any helpers!” (5:72)


On the Day of Debt, Jesus will certainly reject the lie about him and his teaching:

When God will ask, “O, Isa (Jesus), Son of Maryam (Mary), remember My favor upon you and upon your mother! I supported you with the Pure Spirit. You spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and when I taught you Prescription and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you designed from clay like the form of a bird with My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with My permission; and you healed the blind and the leper with My permission; and when you brought forth the dead with My permission; and when I restrained the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear proofs and those who closed themselves among them said, “This is not but obvious magic!” (5:110)

When God will say, “O, Isa (Jesus), Son of Maryam (Mary), did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides God?'”, so he replied

“Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right! If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the hidden! I said not to them except what You commanded me: “Serve God, my Lord and your Lord!” And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness. If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (5:116-118)

Around the personality of Jesus, many legends and myths arose. The Quran is making corrections in his representation:

Jesus was not but a servant upon whom We bestowed favor, and We made him an example for the children of Israel. (43:59)

The Quran also reminds that Jesus informed about Muhammad’s coming:

When Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), said “O children of Israel! Indeed I am the messenger of God to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad!” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic!” (61:6)


In spite of the fact that most of the children of Israel did not accept Muhammad’s messenger mission, among them there were impartial people who testified about him:

And has it not been a sign to them that he is recognized by the scholars of the children of Israel? (26:197)


Competent in the Prescription from the children of Israel witnessed not only the messenger, but also the Quran itself:

Say, “Have you considered: if the Quran was from God, and you closed themselves from it, while a witness from the children of Israel has testified to something similar and believed while you were arrogant?” Indeed, God does not guide the obscurantists! (46:10)


These knowledgeable people from among the children of Israel clearly understood that they needed a single opinion in the faith, which the adoption of the Quran gives:

Indeed, this Literature (Quran) narrates to the children of Israel most of that over which they disagree. (27:76)


The children of Israel do not need to give up everything inherited from the Prescription. They only need to correct some of the provisions and take into account the remarks from the Quran.