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

We continue in the Zabur by looking at the prophecy of the coming son of the virgin.

Taurat's Sign of the Prophet

The Prophet Musa (PBUH) and his brother Harun (PBUH) have led the Israelites for 40 years. They have written the Commands and instituted the sacrifices.  They have written these many Signs in the Taurat.  Soon it is time for these two men to die.   Let us review the patterns that have emerged from the Taurat before we consider the close of Taurat.

Reviewing patterns in Taurat

So what is the pattern of the Signs that emerge from the Taurat?

Sacrifice in Taurat

We should notice the importance and how frequent sacrifices are.  Think about the following we looked at:

These sacrifices were all done with clean animals – either sheep, goat or bull.  They were all male except the heifer.

These sacrifices atoned for the people who offered the sacrifice.  This means that they were a covering so that the guilt and shame of the person giving the sacrifice was covered.  This started with Adam who received the Mercy of Allah in the form of skins.  These skins required the death of an animal (another sacrifice!) while covering his nakedness.  An important question to ask is:  Why are sacrifices no longer given or offered?  We will see the answer later.

Righteousness in Taurat

The word ‘righteousness’ constantly re-appeared.  We saw it first with Adam when Allah told him that the ‘raiment of righteousness was the best’.  We saw that Ibrahim was ‘credited’ righteousness when he chose to believe the promise of a coming son.  The Israelites could get righteousness if they could keep the Commandments – but they had to keep them fully – all the time.

Judgment in Taurat

We also saw the pattern that failing to keep the commands resulted in Judgment from Allah.  This started with Adam, who only had to disobey once to receive judgment.  Judgment always resulted in death.  Death was either on the person being judged or on the animal sacrificed.  Think about the following we learned:

  • With Adam, the animal sacrificed for skins died.
  • With Abel – the animal of his accepted sacrifice died.
  • With Noah people died in the flood and even Noah, after the flood, by offering a sacrifice, had an animal die.
  • With Lut, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah died in Judgment – as well as his wife.
  • With the sacrifice of Ibrahim’s son the son would have died but the ram died instead.
  • With Passover either the firstborn son (for Pharoah and the other unbelievers) died or the lamb whose blood was painted on the doors died.
  • With the Commandments of the Law, either the guilty person died or the one goat died on the Day of Atonement.

What do all these patterns mean?  We will see as we continue.  But now Musa and Harun (PBUT) are going to conclude the Taurat.  But they do so with two important messages directly from Allah, both of which looked to the future and are important for us today – the coming Prophet and the coming Curses & Blessings.  We look at the Prophet here.

The Coming Prophet

When Allah gave the Tablets at Mount Sinai He did so with a terrible display of power and majesty. The Taurat describes the scene just before the Tablets were given

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. … Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. (Exodus 19:16-18)

The people were filled with fear. The Taurat describes them this way

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)

This had happened at the beginning of Musa’s (PBUH) 40 years of leading the community. At the end, Allah spoke to the prophet Musa (PBUH) about that past situation, reminding the people of their past fear, and making a promise for the future. Musa (PBUH) records in the Taurat:

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb (i.e. Sinai) on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”

The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”

You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. (Deuteronomy 18:15-22)

Allah had wanted the people to have a healthy respect so when he spoke the Commands on Tablets He did so in a way that caused great fear among the people. But now He looks to the future and promises that a time will come when a prophet like Musa (PBUH) from among the Israelites will be raised up. Then two guidelines are given:

  1. Allah himself will hold people responsible if they do not pay attention to the coming Prophet
  2. The way to decide whether Allah has spoken through a prophet is that the message should be able to predict the future and it must come true.

The first guideline did not mean that there will be only one more prophet after Musa (PBUH), but that there will be one coming who in particular we must listen to because he was to have a unique role with his message – they would be ‘My Words’. Since only Allah Himself knows the future – certainly no man does – the second guideline was a way to assist the people to decide correctly if a message actually came from Allah or not. This guidance and the promise of the Coming Prophet were kept in expectation by the Israelites – not always held well, but never entirely forgotten.  We see in the next Post how Musa (PBUH) used this second guidance to foresee the future of the Israelites in the Blessings and Curses of the Israelites – which is what the Taurat closes with.

But now for some thoughts on this ‘coming Prophet’.  Who was he?  Some scholars have suggested that this is referring to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  But notice that the prophecy states that this prophet would be “from among their fellow Israelites” – thus a Jew.  So it cannot be referring to him.  Other scholars have wondered if this could be referring to the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH).  He was a Jew and he also taught with great authority – as if Allah’s words were ‘in his mouth’.  We continue exploring the Holy Books to seek further understanding.