Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(The People of the Scripture) Ka'b and his followers (ask of thee that thou shouldst cause an (actual) Book to descend upon them from heaven) in one bulk just as the Torah was sent down; it is also said that this means: they ask you to bring down for them a book that contains all that is good for them and all that is bad for them, their rewards and punishments. (They asked a greater thing of Moses aforetime) greater than what they have asked you, (for they said: Show us Allah plainly) such that they could see Him with their own eyes. (The storm of lightning seized them) the Fire burnt them (for their wickedness) for their rejection of Moses and their boldness vis-à-vis Allah. (Then (even after that) they chose the calf) they worshipped the calf (after clear proofs) commands and prohibitions (had come unto them. And We forgave them that!) We left them and did not exterminate them. (And We bestowed on Moses evident authority) evident proof: the staff and the white hand.
The People of the Scripture, the Jews, will ask of you, O Muhammad (s), to cause a Book to be revealed to them from the heaven, all at once, as was revealed to Moses, merely to harass [you]. If you consider this shocking, then [know that], they, their forefathers, asked Moses for something greater than that, for they said, ‘Show us God openly’, before our eyes; so the thunderbolt, death, seized them, as punishment for them, for their evildoing, when they harassed him [Moses] with this demand. They then took to themselves the [golden] calf, for a god, after clear proofs, the miracles testifying to God’s Oneness, had come to them; yet We pardoned that, and did not annihilate them; and We bestowed upon Moses clear authority, evident and manifest sway over them, for when he commanded them to slay themselves in repentance, they obeyed him.
[The People of the Scripture will ask of you to cause] a Book from the heaven, a certain knowledge, [to be revealed to them], by means of an unveiling from the heaven of the spirit. [They asked Moses for] something greater than that, since witnessing is greater and more exalted than unveiling, [for they said, 'Show us God openly' so the thunderbolt seized them] for their evildoing, for demanding the witnessing while their essences subsisted, because the existence of remnants at the moment of witnessing is to have something in a place where it does not belong. To demand a witnessing while there are remnants is a tyranny of the soul that arises from its contemplation of the perfections of the attributes for itself, and that is an injustice; [and We bestowed upon Moses clear] authority, the capacity to have mastery over them through a proof against them after his return to consciousness.
Muhammad bin Ka`b Al-Qurazi, As-Suddi and Qatadah said that the Jews asked the Messenger of Allah to cause a book to come down to them from heaven, just as the Tawrah was sent down to Musa. Ibn Jurayj said that the Jews asked the Messenger to cause books to come down to them addressed to so-and-so among them, testifying to the truth of what he was sent with. The Jews only asked for this because of their stubbornness, defiance, rejection and disbelief. The disbelievers of Quraysh also asked for similar things from the Prophet, as is mentioned in Surat Al-Isra',
(Indeed, they asked Musa for even greater than that, when they said, "Show us Allah in public,'' but they were struck with a bolt of lightning for their wickedness.) injustice, transgression, defiance and rebellion. This part was explained in Surat Al-Baqarah,
(And (remember) when you said: "O Musa! We shall never believe in you until we see Allah plainly.'' But you were struck by a bolt of lightning while you were looking. Then We raised you up after your death, so that you might be grateful.) (2:55,56) Allah's statement,
(Then they worshipped the calf even after Al-Bayyinat had come to them.) meaning, after they witnessed the tremendous miracles and unequivocal proofs at the hand of Musa in Egypt. They also witnessed the demise of their enemy, Fir`awn and his soldiers, when they all drowned in the sea. Yet soon after, when they passed by a people who were worshipping idols, they said to Musa,
اجْعَلْ لَّنَآ إِلَـهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ ءَالِهَةٌ
(Make for us a god as they have gods.) Allah explains the story of the Jews worshipping the calf in Surat Al-A`raf (7) and Surah Ta Ha (20) after Musa went to meet with his Lord. When Musa returned, Allah decreed that in order for the Jews to earn accepted repentance, then those who did not worship the calf would have to kill those who worshipped it. They complied with this command, and Allah resurrected them afterwards. Allah said here,
((Even) so We forgave them. And We gave Musa a clear proof of authority. ) Allah then said,
وَرَفَعْنَا فَوْقَهُمُ الطُّورَ بِمِيثَـقِهِمْ
(And for their covenant, We raised over them the mount,) This was when they refrained from implementing the rulings of the Tawrah and refused what Musa brought them from Allah. So Allah raised the mountain above their heads and they were ordered to prostrate, which they did. Even so, they were looking above when they were prostrating for fear that the mountain might fall on them,
(And (remember) when We raised the mountain over them as if it had been a canopy, and they thought that it was going to fall on them. (We said): "Hold firmly to what We have given you.'') Allah then said,
وَقُلْنَا لَهُمُ ادْخُلُواْ الْبَابَ سُجَّداً
(and We said, "Enter the gate prostrating (or bowing) with humility;'') meaning that they also defied this command in word and action. They were commanded to enter Bayt Al-Quds (in Jerusalem) while bowing and saying "Hittah'', meaning: `O Allah! take from us our sin of abandoning Jihad.' This was the cause of their wandering in the desert of Tih for forty years. Yet, they entered the House while crawling on their rear ends and saying `Hintah (a wheat grain) in Sha`rah (the hair)'.
وَقُلْنَا لَهُمْ لاَ تَعْدُواْ فِى السَّبْتِ
(and We commanded them, "Transgress not the Sabbath (Saturday).'') meaning, We commanded them to honor the Sabbath and honor what Allah prohibited them on that day.
وَأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُمْ مِّيثَـقاً غَلِيظاً
t(And We took from them a firm covenant.) meaning, strong covenant. They rebelled, transgressed and committed what Allah prohibited by using deceit and trickery, as is mentioned in Surat Al-A`raf (7),
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This was one of the strange demands of the Jews of Madinah. They said to the Holy Prophet, "We will not accept you as a Prophet unless you cause a written Book to come down to us from heaven before our very eyes or cause a written message to come down to each one of us to this effect: Muhammad (peace be upon him) is Our Messenger; so believe in him'."
A mere mention of this incident has been made in the short list of the crimes of the Israelites to which reference has been made here to show how impertinent they had become. This incident has already been mentioned in v. 55 of AI-Baqarah (For details, please see E.N. 17, Al-Baqarah).
"Clear signs": the signs which the children of Israel had seen, one after the other, since the time of the Prophet Moses appointment as a Messenger. They had also witnessed the drowning of Pharaoh and his army and many other signs during their exodus froth Egypt. Therefore, they knew full well that it was Allah, Lord of the Universe, and not a calf, Who had rescued them froth the tyranny of a powerful ruler like Pharaoh. Yet they were so enamored of false gods that they forsook God, their real Benefactor, and made the calf of gold the object of their worship.
"Clear Commandment": the Commandments inscribed on the tablets which were given to the Prophet Moses. (See also Al-Baqarah 11:63 and Al-A'raf V11:171).
The "Covenant" was the pledge taken from the chiefs of Israel at the foot of Mount Tur. This has already been mentioned in Al-Baqarah,II: 63 and is also referred to in AI-A' raf VII:171.
Please refer to vv. 58-89 and E.N. 75 of Al-Baqarah.
Please see v. 65 and E.N.'s 82 and 83 of Al-Baqarah.
Reference has already been made to such a saying of the Jews in Al Baqarah II:88. Just as all the worshipers of falsehood are proud of their obduracy against the truth, so were the Jews proud of their beliefs, prejudices, rituals and customs that they had inherited from their forefathers and could not be persuaded to give them up. That is why they always turned a deaf ear to the Message of the Prophets of Allah with the answer: "We are determined to reject your invitation, even though you bring strong arguments in support thereof. We will adhere strongly and faithfully to what we believe and practice." (Also see E.N. 94 of Al-Baqarah).
The people of the scripture will ask of you to cause a Book to be revealed to them from the heaven. They asked Moses for something greater than that for they said “show us God openly”; so the thunderbolt seized them for their evildoing. They then took to themselves the [golden] calf after clear proofs had come to them; yet We pardoned that; and We bestowed upon Moses clear authority. The verse includes two kinds of unseemly acts. The first was their asking to be shown [God] and the second was their worshiping the calf after clear signs had been made manifest to them. Their asking to be shown [God] was blameworthy because they impudently demanded it and there was no excuse for this after miracles had come to them. Therefore they were not seeking the vision for instruction nor as a means to confirm their faith nor were they brought to that [point] by intense longing. This shows a lack of manners sūÌ adab. There is an allusion [in the reference] to those who are content to have the calf as their object of worship. While submitting themselves to it how can they bear witness to the Realḍ It is said that the innermost selves of the people were untouched by deeper knowledge and they therefore clung with their intellects to a limited thing maḥdūd allowing that to be their object of worship maʿbūd. And we bestowed upon Moses clear authority: a manifest proof-indeed a light that preserved him from declaring any likeness [to God] tamthīl or stripping [Him] of His attributes taʿṬīl. The clear authority is actualization taḥṣīl and declaring God incomparable tanzīh neither stripping God of His attributes taʿṬīl nor comparing Him to His creation tashbīh. It is said that the clear authority is the power to hear the [divine] speech al-khiṬāb without intermediary. It is said that the clear authority belongs to this community in the future and it is their abiding in the state of meeting [God]. In the tradition of the vision [the Prophet] ﷺ said “You will not be gathered together [in one group] in seeing Him.”
(The people of the Scripture ask of thee that thou shouldst cause an (actual) Book to descend upon them from heaven…) [4:153]. This was revealed about the Jews. They said to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: “If you are truly a prophet, bring us an actual Book from heaven as Moses did”, and so this verse was revealed.