Allah mentions the words that the ignorant ones among the Children of Israel uttered to Musa after they crossed the sea and witnessed Allah's Ayat and great power.
﴿فَأَتَوْاْ عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَى أَصْنَامٍ لَّهُمْ﴾
(And they came upon a people devoted to some of their idols (in worship).) Some scholars of Tafsir said that the people mentioned here were from Canaan, or from the tribe of Lakhm. Ibn Jarir commented, "They were worshipping idols that they made in the shape of cows, and this influenced the Children of Israel later when they worshipped the calf. They said here,
﴿يَمُوسَى اجْعَلْ لَّنَآ إِلَـهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ ءَالِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ﴾
("O Musa! Make for us a god as they have gods.'' He said: "Verily, you are an ignorant people.'') Musa replied, you are ignorant of Allah's greatness and majesty and His purity from any partners or anything resembling Him.
﴿إِنَّ هَـؤُلاءِ مُتَبَّرٌ مَّا هُمْ فِيهِ﴾
("Verily, these people will be destroyed for that which they are engaged in) they will perish,
﴿وَبَطَلَ مَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ﴾
("and all that they are doing is in vain.'') Commenting on this Ayah, Imam Abu Ja`far bin Jarir reported from Abu Waqid Al-Laythi that they (the Companions) went out from Makkah with the Messenger of Allah for (the battle of) Hunayn. Abu Waqid said, "Some of the disbelievers had a lote tree whose vicinity they used to remain in, and upon which they would hang their weapons on. That tree was called `Dhat Al-Anwat'. So when we passed by a huge, green lote tree, we said, `O Messenger of Allah! Appoint for us a Dhat Al-Anwat as they have.' He said,
«قُلْتُمْ وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ كَمَا قَالَ قَوْمُ مُوسَى لِمُوسَى:
(by He in Whose Hand is my soul! You said just as what the people of Musa said to him:
﴿اجْعَلْ لَّنَآ إِلَـهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ ءَالِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ﴾
إِنَّ هَـؤُلآء مُتَبَّرٌ مَّا هُمْ فِيهِ وَبَـطِلٌ مَّا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ-﴾
( ("Make for us a god as they have gods.'' He said: "Verily, you are an ignorant people. Verily, these people will be destroyed for that which they are engaged in, and all that they are doing is in vain.''))''
﴿قَالَ أَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ أَبْغِيكُمْ إِلَـهًا وَهُوَ فَضَّلَكُمْ عَلَى الْعَـلَمِينَ - وَإِذْ أَنْجَيْنَـكُمْ مِّنْ ءَالِ فِرْعَونَ يَسُومُونَكُمْ سُوءَ الْعَذَابِ يُقَتِّلُونَ أَبْنَآءَكُمْ وَيَسْتَحْيُونَ نِسَآءَكُمْ وَفِي ذَلِكُمْ بَلاءٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ عَظِيمٌ ﴾
(140. He said: "Shall I seek for you an ilah (a god) other than Allah, while He has given you superiority over the nations.'') (141. And (remember) when We rescued you from Fir`awn's people, who were afflicting you with the worst torment, killing your sons and letting your women live. And in that was a great trial from your Lord.)