Immediately following this, they have been identified as being fairly large in numbers وَهُمْ أُلُوفٌ (being in thousands). As to what the exact number was, there are various reports, but in accordance with the rules of Arabic language, this word ulufun is jam' al-kathrah (plural of multitude), which is not used for something less than ten. This tells us that their number was not less than ten thousand.
After that, it is said" فَقَالَ لَهُمُ اللَّهُ مُوتُوا that is, Allah Almighty said to them: 'Be dead'. This command of Allah Almighty could both be direct, or indirect through an angel, as it is in another verse (36 : 82) إذا أراد شيئا أن يقول له كن فيكون which means : When He wishes to do something, He bids it to be, so it comes to be.
After that, it is said: إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى النَّاسِ that is, surely Allah Almighty is immensely graceful to human beings. This includes the grace He showed to that particular group of people from the Bani Israel by bringing them back to life, as well as the grace He has shown to the community of Muhammad (SM) by telling them about this incident and by making it a model lesson for them.
In the end, to awaken the negligence-prone man, it was said: وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ :'But most of the people are ungrateful.' It means that human beings do behold thousands of demonstrations of Divine grace and mercy, yet most of them show no gratitude.
Related Injunctions and Rulings
This verse helps us identify some facts and injunctions. These are as follows:
Divine decree overcomes human planning: No effort can be effective against that which has been determined by Allah (Taqdir) and running away from jihad or plague or its likes cannot help one save his life (Tadbir), nor being in it can become a cause of death. The fact is that death comes at a n appointed time; it can neither be earlier nor later.
Rules pertaining to the place of epidemic: It is not permissible to escape out from a n area affected by plague and its likes for safety elsewhere. In addition to this, as said by the noble Prophet (SM), it is not correct for other people to go there. It appears in Hadith:
Allah Almighty has, through this disease (plague) punished peoples who were before you. So when you hear about its spreading in a certain area, do not go there; and if it spreads in a area where you already are; do not go out escaping from it (Bukhari and Muslims and ibn Kathir)
It appears in Tafsir al-Qurtubi that Sayyidna Umar رضي الله عنه once embarked on a journey heading for Syria When he reached Saragh a place near Tabuk bordering Syria, he came to know that the whole of Syria was affected by a severe plague. This was regarded as a great calamity in the history of Syria. This plague is known as Amawas because it started from a town called Amawas (located near) Baytul - Maqdis and spread throughout the country. Thousands died Tabi'in (Companions and their Successors).
When Sayyidna 'Umar رضي الله عنه heard about the severity of the plague, he decided to stay where he was and sought the advice of the noble Companions رضي الله عنهم اجمعين whether they should go into Syria at such a time, or they should return back. There was not one blessed person present during the consultations who was aware of any guidance from the Holy Prophet (SM) about this matter. Later, Sayyidna 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Awf رضي الله عنه narrated the following hadith :
The Holy Prophet (SM) referring to the disease (plague) said: This is a punishment that was inflicted on some peoples; later on some of it remained. This remainder goes away for sometime, then returns. So, one who hears that a certain area is affected by it, he should not go there; and one who is already there, he should not go out running from it (the plague). (al-Bukhari and others).