Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when you said: O Moses! We will not believe in you) in what you say (till we see Allah plainly) until we see Him plainly as you did; (and even while you gazed the lightning seized you) the Fire burnt you while you were looking at it.
And when you said, having gone out with Moses to apologise before God for your worship of the calf, and having heard what he had said [to you]; ‘O Moses, we will not believe you till we see God openly’, with our own eyes; and the thunderbolt, the shout, took you, and you died, while you were beholding, what was happening to you.
And when you said, 'O Moses, we will not believe, on account of your guidance to the real faith until you reach the station of witnessing and eyewitness [you till we see God openly']; and the thunderbolt, of death, took you, which is annihilation in the self-disclosure of the Essence, while you were beholding, [while] you were observing and witnessing.
The Best among the Children of Israel ask to see Allah; their subsequent Death and Resurrection
Allah said, `Remember My favor on you for resurrecting you after you were seized with lightning when you asked to see Me directly, which neither you nor anyone else can bear or attain.' This was said by Ibn Jurayj. Ibn `Abbas said that the Ayah
(And (remember) when you said: "O Musa ! We shall never believe in you until we see Allah plainly.'') means, "Publicly'', "So that we gaze at Allah.'' Also, `Urwah bin Ruwaym said that Allah's statement,
(While you were looking) means, "Some of them were struck with lightning while others were watching.'' Allah resurrected those, and struck the others with lightning. As-Suddi commented on,
(But you were seized with a bolt of lightning) saying; "They died, and Musa stood up crying and supplicating to Allah, `O Lord! What should I say to the Children of Israel when I go back to them after You destroyed the best of them,
(If it had been Your will, You could have destroyed them and me before; would You destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us)' Allah revealed to Musa that these seventy men were among those who worshipped the calf. Afterwards, Allah brought them back to life one man at a time, while the rest of them were watching how Allah was bringing them back to life. That is why Allah's said,
(Then We raised you up after your death, so that you might be grateful.)''
Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said, "Death was their punishment, and they were resurrected after they died so they could finish out their lives.'' Qatadah said similarly.
`Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam commented on this Ayah, "Musa returned from meeting with his Lord carrying the Tablets on which He wrote the Tawrah. He found that they had worshipped the calf in his absence. Consequently, he commanded them to kill themselves, and they complied, and Allah forgave them. He said to them, `These Tablets have Allah's Book, containing what He commanded you and what He forbade for you.' They said, `Should we believe this statement because you said it By Allah, we will not believe until we see Allah in the open, until He shows us Himself and says: This is My Book, therefore, adhere to it. Why does He not talk to us as He talked to you, O, Musa''' Then he (`Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd) recited Allah's statement,
لَن نُّؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّى نَرَى اللَّهَ جَهْرَةً
(We shall never believe in you until we see Allah plainly) and said, "So Allah's wrath fell upon them, a thunderbolt struck them, and they all died. Then Allah brought them back to life after He killed them.'' Then he (`Abdur-Rahman) recited Allah's statement,
(Then We raised you up after your death, so that you might be grateful), and said, "Musa said to them, `Take the Book of Allah.' They said, `No.' He said, `What is the matter with you' They said, `The problem is that we died and came back to life.' He said, `Take the Book of Allah.' They said, `No.' So Allah sent some angels who made the mountain topple over them.''
This shows that the Children of Israel were required to fulfill the commandments after they were brought back to life. However, Al-Mawardy said that there are two opinions about this matter. The first opinion is that since the Children of Israel witnessed these miracles, they were compelled to believe, so they did not have to fulfill the commandments. The second opinion states that they were required to adhere to the commandments, so that no responsible adult is free of such responsibilities. Al-Qurtubi said that this is what is correct, because, he said, although the Children of Israel witnessed these tremendous calamities and incidents, that did not mean that they were not responsible for fulfilling the commandments any more. Rather they are responsible for that, and this is clear. Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
When Moses went up to Mount Tur for forty days and forty nights, he was also told to bring with him seventy of the chiefs of Israel. Then Allah bestowed upon him the Book and Criterion and gave him the stone tablets with Instructions and Commandments inscribed on them for the guidance of the people, and he presented these to the chiefs. The Qur'an says that at that time some wicked people from among them began to say: "How can we believe, on a mere statement of yours, that Allah has had a talk with you?" At this Allah became angry with them and punished them. But the Bible says, "And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink". (Exodus, 24: 1011). Strange though it may appear, the same Bible also tells us that Moses said," "I beseech thee, skew me thy glory. And He said, "Thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me, and live." (For further details please see Exodus, 33:18-23).
And when you said “O Moses we will not believe you till we see God openly”; and the thunderbolt took you while you were beholding. Demanding to see the Essence without divine blessing is an open act of sacrilege which is one of the signs of distance and misery whereas attesting to the attribute of [divine] governance in the unveilings of might as linked to the kindnesses of nearness is one of the marks of communion and the tokens of felicity. Surely when they spoke from ignorance without any sense whatsoever of shame the convulsion and the thunderbolt blast overtook them.
…and the thunderbolt took you even as you looked on When asked about this verse Sahl said:The thunderbolt (al-ṣāʿiqa) signifies death, and it also signifies every destructive punishment that God sends down upon whomever He wills of His servants, which they behold with their own eyes, whereby He shows to others among them a lesson and an admonishment.