Introducing The Zabur

Dawood or Dawud (also David – PBUH) is very important among the prophets. The prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) started a new dispensation (ie the way that Allah relates to people) with the promise of descendants and a great nation – and then gave the great sacrifice. The Prophet Musa (PBUH) freed the Israelites from slavery – through the Passover sacrifice – and then gave them a Law so they could be a nation. But what was lacking was a King who would rule in such a way that they would receive the blessings instead of the curses from Allah. Dawood (PBUH) was that king and prophet. He started another dispensation – that of the Kings ruling from Jerusalem.

Who was King Dawood (David – PBUH)?

You can see from the timelines in History of the Israelites, that Dawood (PBUH) lived about 1000BC, a thousand years after Ibrahim (PBUH) and 500 years after Musa (PBUH). Dawood (PBUH) started out as a shepherd tending his family’s sheep. The giant and great enemy of the Israelites – Goliath – led an army to conquer the Israelites, and the Israelites were discouraged and defeated. Dawood (PBUH) however challenged Goliath and killed him in battle. It was so remarkable that a young shepherd boy could kill a giant soldier that Dawood (PBUH) became famous. Then the Israelites went on to defeat their enemies. The Qur’an informs us of this battle between Dawood (PBUH) and Goliath in the following ayah

By God’s will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and God gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not God Check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: But God is full of bounty to all the worlds. (Surah 2:251 – The Cow)

Dawood’s fame as a warrior grew after this battle. However, he became King only after long and difficult experiences because he had many enemies, both abroad and among the Israelites, who opposed him. The books of I and II Samuel in the Bible (al Kitab) recount these struggles and victories of Dawood (PBUH). Samuel (PBUH) was the prophet who anointed Dawood (PBUH) as King.

Dawood (PBUH) was also famous as a musician that composed beautiful songs and poems to Allah. This is mentioned in the Qur’an in the following ayat

Have patience at what they say, and remember our servant David, the man of strength: for he ever turned (to God). It was We that made the hills declare, in unison with him, Our Praises, at eventide and at break of day, And the birds gathered (in assemblies): all with him did turn (to God). We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision. (Surah 38:17-20 – SAD the Letter)

These ayat affirm the warrior’s strength of Dawood (PBUH), but also the ‘Praises’ which were as beautiful as the songs of birds to their Creator. And as King he was ‘given’ wisdom in ‘speech’ by Allah himself. These songs and poems of Dawood (PBUH) were recorded and form the first book of the Zabur (or Zaboor) – what is known as the Psalms. Because the wisdom of his words were given to him by Allah, these records of Dawood (PBUH) were also Holy and inspired like the Taurat. The Qur’an explains it like this:

And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms. (Surah 17:55 – Isra)

Suleiman – continuing Zabur

But these inspired writings did not end with Dawood (PBUH) who died at an old age as King. His son and heir was Suleiman (or Solomon – PBUH), also inspired by Allah for his wisdom. The Qur’an describes it like this:

To David We gave Solomon (for a son),- How excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)! (Surah 38:30 – SAD the Letter)

And

And remember David and Solomon, when they gave judgment in the matter of the field into which the sheep of certain people had strayed by night: We did witness their judgment. To Solomon We inspired the (right) understanding of the matter: to each (of them) We gave Judgment and Knowledge; it was Our power that made the hills and the birds celebrate Our praises, with David: it was We Who did (all these things). (Surah 21:78-79 – The Prophets)

We gave (in the past) knowledge to David and Solomon: And they both said: “Praise be to God, Who has favoured us above many of his servants who believe!” (Surah 27:15 – The Ants)

So Suleiman (PBUH), continued adding inspired books of wisdom to the Zabur. His books are called Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

Zabur continues with further prophets

But with the passing of Suleiman (PBUH), the succeeding Kings did not follow the Taurat and none of these later kings were given inspired messages. Only Dawood and Suleiman (PBUT), out of all the Kings of Israel, had writings inspired by Allah – they were prophets as well as kings.  But to the kings that followed Suleiman, Allah sent prophets with messages of warnings. Yunus (or Jonah) the  prophet swallowed by a large fish was one of these prophets (Surah 37:139-144). This continued for about 300 years – with many prophets being sent. Their warnings, writings and prophecies were also added to the inspired Books of Zaboor. As explained here, the Israelites were finally conquered and deported by the Babylonians to Babylon, and then returned to Jerusalem under Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. Through this time prophets continued to be sent and give messages – and these messages were written in the last books of Zabur.

Zabur – anticipating the coming of the Masih

All these prophets are important to us because, in the midst of their warnings, they also lay the foundation for the Injil. In fact, the title ‘Masih’ is introduced by Dawood (PBUH) early in the Psalms (the part of Zabur that he wrote) and the later prophets prophesied in more detail about the coming Masih. This was especially important given the failure of the later Kings to follow the Taurat, and the failure of the Israelites to obey the Commands.  The promise, hope and longing of the coming Masih was prophesied in the context of the failures of the people of that day. As prophets they were looking to the future, just as Musa (PBUH) had required in the Taurat. And these prophecies speak to us in our modern-day for those of us who have also failed to live the right way we know we should. The Masih was to be a beacon of hope in the midst of failure.

How Isa al Masih (PBUH) viewed and used the Zabur

In fact, the prophet Isa al Masih himself used the Zabur to help his companions and followers understand the Injil and the role of the Masih. It is states about Isa that

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.  Luke 24:27

The phrase ‘and all the Prophets’ refers to these prophets of Zabur that followed the Taurat of Musa (PBUH). Isa al Masih (PBUH) wanted his companions to understand how the Zabur taught and prophesied about him. Isa al Masih (PBUH) then continued teaching them by:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  Luke 24:44-45

When it refers here to the ‘the Prophets and the Psalms’ it means the first book of Zabur that Dawood wrote (the Psalms) and then the later books that were included (‘the Prophets’). Isa al Masih (PBUH) needed to ‘open their minds’ and only then would they be able to ‘understand the scriptures’ (ie the Inspired Books of Taurat and Zabur). Our goal in the next series of articles is to follow what Isa al Masih (PBUH) showed from these books so we too can open our minds and then understand the Injil.

Dawood (PBUH) and the Prophets of Zabur in a Historical Timeline

The image below summarizes most (but not all as there is not room for all) of these prophets.  The width of the bars shows the lifespan of each particular prophet.  The color code of the Timeline follows the status of the Israelites in the same manner as when we followed their history from the Blessings and Curses of Musa.

When Dawood and other prophets of Zabur lived

Historical Timeline of Prophet Dawood (PBUH) and some other prophets of Zabur

The Close: Blessings & Curses

In our last post we looked at the guidelines Allah gave so we could recognize true prophets – that they would foretell the future as part of their message.  Then the Prophet Musa (PBUH) himself applied this guideline – he made predictions about the future of the Israelites – ones that had to come true if his message was from Allah. These predictions were coming Curses and Blessings on the Israelites. You can read the complete Blessings and Curses here. I highlight the main ideas below.

The Blessings of Musa

The Prophet Musa (PBUH) starts out by describing the wonderful blessings that the Israelites would receive if they obeyed The Commands. These blessings would be in the sight of the other nations so that they would recognize His blessing. As it is written

Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)

However, if they failed to obey the Commands then they would receive Curses that were the opposite of the Blessings. The Curses would match and mirror the Blessings. Again these curses would be seen by the surrounding nations

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you. (Deuteronomy 28:37)

And the Curses would be for the Israelites themselves

They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. (Deuteronomy 28:46)

And Allah warned that the worst part of the Curses would come from others.

The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed … until you are ruined. They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

And it would go from bad to worse

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. … Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:63-65)

These Blessings and Curses were established by a covenant (an agreement)

…to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I am making this covenant, with its oath … also with those who are not here today. (Deuteronomy 29:12-15)

In other words this covenant would be binding on the children, or future generations. In fact this covenant was directed at future generations – both Israelites and foreigners

Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the LORD has afflicted it. … nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. … All the nations will ask: “Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt….Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. … the LORD uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.” (Deuteronomy 29:21-27)

Did The Blessings and Curses of Musa come to pass?

The Blessings promised were wonderful, but the Curses threatened were severe. However, the most important question we can ask is: ‘So did these things happen?’ In answering this we will see whether Musa (PBUH) was a true prophet and we will gain guidance for our lives today. And the answer is within our grasp. Much of the Old Testament of al Kitab is the record of the history of the Israelites and from that we can see what happens. Also we have records outside the Old Testament, from Jewish historians like Josephus, Graeco-Roman historians like Tacitus and we have found many archeological monuments. All of these sources agree and paint a consistent picture of the history of the Israelites. And this is another Sign for us. Here is an overview of the history of the Israelites pictured with Timelines to help us see better what happened in their history.

What do we see from this history? Yes indeed the Curses of Musa, terrible as they were DID come to pass – and exactly like he wrote down those thousands of years ago – before it all happened (Remember these predictions were not written down after they happened but before).

But the Curse of Musa did not end there. It continued. Here is how Musa (PBUH) concluded these curses.

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)

An obvious question to ask (again) is: Did that happen? Click here to see the continuation of their history.

The Close of Taurat – The Zabur anticipated

With these Blessings and Curses, the Taurat is concluded. The Prophet Musa (PBUH) dies shortly after it is completed. Then the Israelites, under the successor to Musa – Joshua – enter the Land and live in it. As explained in the History of the Israelites, they lived there without a King and with no capital city until the great King Dawood or Dawud (or David) rose to power. He started a new section of the Old Testament which the Qur’an affirms as the Zabur. We need to understand the Zabur because it continues the Signs started in the Taurat – that will help us understand the Injil. In our next article we see how the Qur’an and Isa al Masih speak of Dawood (PBUH) and the Zabur.