40:21 Have they, then, never journeyed about the earth and beheld what happened in the end to those [deniers of the truth] who lived before their time? Greater were they in power than they are, and in the impact which they left on earth, but God took them to task for their sins, and they had none to defend them against God.
Thus alluding to the reasons underlying his intention to kill Moses, expressed in verse 26.
40:22 This, because their apostles had come to them with all evidence of the truth, and yet they rejected it, and so God took them to task – For, Verily, He is powerful, severe in retribution!
i.e., those sinners were not wronged by what befell them in this world: they had deserved it. The next two verses refer to the Day of Judgment.
40:23 Thus, Indeed, did We send Moses with Our messages and a manifest authority [from Us].
See note 152 on 7:186 and note 4 on 14:4.
40:24 Unto Pharaoh, and Haman, and Qarun, but they [only] said, “A spellbinder is he, a liar!
Thus not only refusing to acknowledge Joseph’s prophethood but also denying the possibility of any prophet being sent by God (Zamakhshari). It would seem that Joseph had been accepted in Egypt as a prophet only by the ruling class, the Hyksos, who were of Arab origin; spoke a language closely related to Hebrew (cf. surah 12, note 44), and were, therefore, emotionally and culturally predisposed towards the spirit of Joseph’s mission, while the rest of the population was and remained hostile to the faith preached by him.
40:25 Now [as for Pharaoh and his followers] when he came to them, setting forth the truth from Us, they said, “Slay the sons of those who share his beliefs, and spare [only] their women!” – but the guile of those deniers of the truth could not lead to aught but failure.
Lit., “without any authority [or “evidence”] having come to them”: i.e., without having any cogent evidence that would support their “denial” of the fact of revelation. – The verb jadala primarily denotes “he argued”; followed by the particle fi (“with regard to” or “about”) it has the meaning of contesting the truth of something, or “calling it in question”.
40:26 And Pharaoh said “Leave it to me to slay Moses – and let him invoke his [alleged] sustainer! Behold, I fear lest he causes you to change your religion, or lest he causes corruption to prevail in the land!”
Lit., “on the heart of every arrogant, self-exalting [person]”. For an explanation of God’s “sealing” an inveterate sinner’s heart, see note 7 on 2:7.
40:27 But Moses said “With [Him who is] my Sustainer, as well as your Sustainer, have I indeed found refuge from everyone who, immersed in false pride, will not believe in [the coming of] the Day of Reckoning!”
See surah 28, notes 6 and 37,
40:28 At that, a believing man of Pharaoh’s family, who [until then] had concealed his faith, exclaimed, “Would you slay a man because he says, ‘God is my Sustainer’ – seeing, withal, that he has brought you all evidence of this truth from your Sustainer? Now if he be a liar, his lie will fall back on him; but if he is a man of truth, something [of the punishment] whereof he warns you is bound to befall you, For, Verily, God would not grace with His guidance one who has wasted his own self by lying [about Him].
I.e., beyond any earthly imagination. The concept of rizq (expressed in the verb yurzaqun) has here its full significance of all that is good and of benefit to a living being, comprising things material as well as intellectual and spiritual; hence my rendering of yurzaqun (lit., “they will be given sustenance”) as “they shall be blest with good”.
40:29 “O my people! Yours is the dominion today, [and] most eminent are you on earth: but who will rescue us from God’s punishment, once it befalls us?” Said Pharaoh “I but want to make you see what I see myself, and I would never make you follow any path but that of rectitude!”
Lit., “what is the matter with me”: an expression of astonishment at the incongruity of the two attitudes referred to in the sequence.
40:30 Thereupon exclaimed he who had attained to faith “O my people! Verily, I fear for you the like of what one day befell those others who were leagued together [against God’s truth].
i.e., because there is no reality whatsoever in those supposedly “divine” beings or forces (Zamakhshari).