31. (While this was said partly in earnest), partly it was to provoke the people to anger (Alusi).
Mawdudi comments: “The enemies of the truth have always been wont to charge that the activity of reformers is actuated by their hunger for power. This very charge was leveled by Pharaoh against Moses and Aaron and was phrased in the form of the following question ‘Have you come to turn us away from the way of our forefathers that the two of you might become supreme in the land?’ (Yunus 10: 78). The Prophet Jesus (peace be on him) was also subjected to a similar accusation: that he was striving to become the king of the Jews.
“It is inconceivable for those who ceaselessly hanker after worldly benefits, after pomp and glory, to appreciate that anyone can strive simply for the good of mankind, and that all such striving be absolutely sincere and selfless. Such people are wont to come up, every now and then, with catchy slogans and lay false claims to be working for the common welfare of all. They do so even though the true purpose of their effort is nothing else but to achieve power and influence. Furthermore, they regard craftiness and deception as absolutely natural. No wonder then that they tend to believe that no one can call for reform sincerely and altruistically. If someone does call for reform, he must inevitably be prompted, like them, by some ulterior motive. For example, as a subterfuge for the realization of his own selfish designs.
“It is also interesting that accusation of hungering after power are always hurled at reformers by those who have been able to entrench themselves in power or by their sycophantic cronies. They seem to believe that the power they enjoy is their birth-right. Hence, if they strive to wrest power from others and to perpetuate their hold on it, all is viewed as perfectly legitimate. But it becomes altogether objectionable if anyone else, someone who has no birth-right to enjoy power, shows the least sign of hungering for it.”
32. Zamakhshari remarks: “Consider the wonders of error and ignorance. They were prepared to accept stones as gods, but were not prepared to grant messengership to a human!”
33. “This” of the text refers to the call that Nuh was making, viz., worship Allah alone (Ibn Jarir). And, either no Messenger had appeared among them for a long time, or, alternatively, the unbelievers were so engrossed in the life of the world that they never had time to learn about messengers and messages of the past (Kashshaf).