And remember We took your Covenant and We raised above you (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai) (saying): "Hold firmly to what We have given you and hearken (to the Law)"; they said: "We hear and we disobey"; and they had to drink into their hearts (of the taint) of the calf because of their faithlessness. Say: "Vile indeed are the behests of your faith if ye have any faith!" 97 98 99
Cf. the introductory words of ii. 63 which are the same as the introductory words here but the argument is developed in a different direction in the two places. In ii. 63, after they are reminded of the solemn Covenant under the towering height of Mount Sinai they are told how they broke the Covenant in after ages. Here, after they are reminded of the same solemn Covenant, they are told that even then they never meant to observe it. Their thought is expressed in biting words of sarcasm. They said in words: "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do" But they said in their hearts: "We shall disobey".
What they should have said was: "We hear and we obey" this is the attitude of the true men of Faith (ii. 285).
After the Commandments and the Law had been given at Mount Sinai, and the people had solemnly given their Covenant, Moses went up to the Mount, and in his absence, the people made the golden calf. When Moses returned, his anger waxed hot. "He took the Calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it." (Exod. xxxii. 20). This incident is interpreted in the Qur-an allegorically. The Calf is the symbol of disobedience, rebellion, want of faith. It was like a taint of poison. Their punishment was to swallow the taint of poison which they had themselves produced. They swallowed it not into their stomachs, but into their hearts, their very being. They had to mortify and humble themselves in the sight of God, as was shown in another allegory based on the Jewish narrative (see ii. 54 and note, above).