Allah decides who lives and who dies and is brought back to life. Encouraging words for the Israelites, at the time of Saul, when the Jews were still His chosen people fighting to spread, what was then His Message, in a precursor to the Koran, the Torah.
2:243 Have you not considered those (the Israelites) who fled their homes in thousands for fear of death? Allah said to them: “Die.” Then He brought them back to life. Surely Allah is gracious to mankind, but most people do not give thanks.
Moududi’s explanation about Israelites dying and being brought back to life, you may consider a bit of a stretch, even by the most elastic of standards.
This refers to the exodus of the Israelites. The Israelites had left Egypt in large numbers and were wandering in the desert, eager to find a home. But when at God's command Moses ordered them to drive the Canaanites out of Palestine and conquer that land, they showed cowardice and refused to proceed. Eventually God let them wander about for forty years till one full generation of Israelites had died and been replaced by a new one reared in the tough conditions of desert life. It was only then that God enabled the Israelites to overcome the Canaanites. Their former condition is described as death, whereas the later development is seen as their restoration to life.
The story of Saul is in a Medinan surah, surahs revealed during the Prophet’s time in Medina when the Meccans, whose caravans the believers had been intercepting and plundering, decided to attack the Muslims in their stronghold of Medina. To defend the city, and later to take the fight to the unbelievers, God’s Messenger needed both money and men, which is why these surahs often contain pleas for both, such as in revelations 2:244 and 2:245.
2:244 Fight for the Cause of Allah and know that Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
2:245 Who is it that will lend Allah a generous loan (spends money in His way), so that He might multiply it for him manifold? Allah provides sparingly and generously, and to Him you shall be returned.
Saul was made king by Allah after He received a request from “the leaders of the Children of Israel” via a prophet (Samuel in the Hebrew Bible). Stories such as Saul’s, and other stories from the Torah about the Israelites overcoming often insurmountable odds because they had God on their side, with some tweaking (consider the next revelation) served as useful examples and were a source of encouragement for the Prophet’s often reluctant fighters, that is, until he gained the upper hand.
2:246 Have you not considered the leaders of the Children of Israel who after Moses said to one of their Prophets: “Set up a king for us and we will fight in the Way of Allah.” He replied: “What if you refuse to fight when you are ordered to fight?” They said: “How could we refuse to fight when we have been driven, along with our children, from our homes?” But when they were ordered to fight, they turned away except for a few of them. And Allah knows the wrongdoers.
2:247 Then their Prophet said to them: “Allah has set up Saul to be your King.” They replied: “How can he be given the kingship over us when we have a better right to it, and when he is not rich enough?” He said to them: “Allah has chosen him [to rule] over you and caused him to have greater knowledge and better stature. Allah bestows His Sovereignty on whom He wills. He is Munificent and All-Knowing.”
In bestowing the kinship on Saul, Allah revealed some of what was in the Ark of the Covenant.
2:248 Their Prophet also said to them: “The proof of his kingship is that there shall come to you the Ark in which there is tranquility from your Lord and the relics of Moses and the family of Aaron borne by the angels. In this there is a proof for you if you are real believers.”
Allah’s revelations about the encounter between David and Goliath is brief and short on specifics e.g. the weapon used by David to slay the giant. We begin with the verse where Saul is leading his army against Goliath and his forces. In the Bible, Goliath is the champion of the Philistine army; in the Koran he is the leader of an army of unbelievers.
Before Saul will get to engage the unbelievers, Allah further reduces the number of his fighting men by submitting them to a loyalty test that has to do with quenching their thirst.
2:249 And when Saul set out with [his] troops he said: “Allah will test you with a river. He who drinks from it is no part of me (is not one of my followers), but he who does not drink from it is part of me, except for him who scoops up with his hand a handful from it.” They drank from it except for a few of them; but when he, along with those who believed, crossed it, they said: “Today we are unable to face Goliath and his troops.” But those of them who believed that they would meet Allah said: “How many a small band has defeated a large one by Allah’s Leave.” Allah is with the steadfast.
2:250 And when they confronted Goliath and his troops, they said: “Lord, fill us with forbearance, enable us to stand fast, and help us against the unbelievers.”
2:251 And so they defeated them by Allah’s Leave. David killed Goliath and Allah bestowed on him the kinship and the wisdom, and taught him what he pleased. Had Allah not caused some people to repel others, the earth would have been corrupted. But Allah bestows his Favours on all mankind.
2:252 These are Allah’s Revelations. We recite them to you in all truth, and surely you are one of the Messengers.