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Talut (Arabic: طالوت‎, Ṭālūt) is considered to be the Qur’anic name for Saul,[1] as he was the Malik (Arabic: مَـلِـك‎, King) of Israel, or Gideon,[2] with the reasoning that the Quran references the same incident of the drinking from the river as that found in the Book of Judges (7:5-7),[3] and other factors associated with the latter.


The name 'Tālūt' has uncertain etymology. Unlike some other Quranic figures, the Arabic name is not similar to the Hebrew name (Sha'ul). According to Muslim exegetes, the name 'Tālūt' means 'Tall' (from the Arabic "tūl") and refers to the extraordinary stature of Saul, which would be consistent with the Biblical account.[4] In explanation of the name, exegetes such as Tha'labi hold that at this time, the future King of Israel was to be recognised by his height; Samuel set up a measure, but no one in Israel reached its height except Tālūt (Saul).

Narrative in the Quran[edit]

Israelites demanded a King after the time of Musa (Moses), to lead them into war against their foes. Talut was chosen by the Prophet Samuel (not mentioned by name explicitly, but rather as "a Prophet" of the Israelites) announced that Allah chose Talut as their King. The Israelites questioned Samuel about this, lacking respect for Talut as he was not wealthy. Samuel then told them that Talut was more favored than they were. He was distinguished by the greatness of his knowledge and of his physique. A sign of his role as King was that God brought back the Ark of the Covenant for Israel. Talut tested his people at a river; whoever drank from it would not follow him in battle excepting one who took from it in "the hollow of the hand." Many drank, and only the faithful ventured on. Talut led the Israelites to victory over the army of Goliath, who was killed by Dawud (David). Talut is not considered as a Nabi (Arabic: نَـبِي‎, Prophet), but a Divinely appointed King.[5] The Quranic account[5] differs from the Biblical account (if Saul is assumed to be Talut) in that in the Bible, the Sacred Ark was returned to Israel before Saul's accession, and the test by drinking water is made in the Hebrew Bible not by Saul, but by Gideon.[3]


Talut is also mentioned in a hadith (Arabic: حَـديـث‎, 'narration'): "Narrated Al-Bara: The companions of Muhammad, who took part in Badr, told me that their number was that of Talut's companions who crossed the river (of Jordan) with him, and they were over three-hundred-and-ten men. By Allah, none crossed the river with him, but a believer."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ M. A. S. Abdel Haleem: The Qur'an, a new translation, note to 2:247.
  2. ^ "The Holy Quran".
  3. ^ a b Judges vii. 5-7
  4. ^ Leaman, Oliver, The Quran, An Encyclopedia, 2006, p.638.
  5. ^ a b Quran 2:246–252
  6. ^ Bukhari: Book 5: Volume 59: Hadith 293: Military Expeditions led by the Prophet (Al-Maghaazi).