The Threshing Floor of Ornan—Part 1

(Ac 7:44)MKJV The tabernacle of witness was among our fathers in the wilderness, as commanded by God, speaking to Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen.
(Ac 7:45) Which also having received it by inheritance with Joshua, our fathers, with Joshua, in taking possession of the nations whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David,
(Ac 7:46) who found favor with God and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob;
(Ac 7:47) but Solomon built Him a house.

David was not allowed to build the temple. The Lord told him, " ... thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever" (1Ch 22:8-10). We can understand that the promise was meant both for Solomon and for the Messiah. However, the promise to Solomon was not unconditional (1Ch 22:13, 28:7, 9). The one building the house of God was a type of the Messiah. As a man of war, David was not illustrating well the reign of the Messiah, about whom we read that "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" (Is 9:7 (9:6)). However, Solomon had abundant peace during his reign, so in this respect he was a type of the Son, the Messiah. For a more detailed discussion of the promises to Solomon and to the Messiah, see the article titled David's Palace. Now, since David was not allowed to build the temple, all he could do was to contribute by making preparations for its construction. The circumstances in which he determined where the temple should be built were as follows.

(1Ch 21:1) And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
There was an issue with taking a census of Israel. The Lord had promised that he would increase the nation like the stars of heaven (Ge 15:5, 22:17, 26:4, Ex 32:13), like the dust of the earth (Ge 13:16, 28:14), and like the sand on the seashore (Ge 22:17, 32:12). The stars of heaven, the dust of the earth, and the sand of the seashore have been used figuratively in other passages to illustrate very large numbers (Na 3:6, Ps 78:27, Jos 11:4). We can understand then that they were also used figuratively in the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The promises indicate that the nation would be large, not that it would have the same order of magnitude as the number of stars, or grains of sand, or dust particles. The Lord fulfilled his word (Heb 11:12). By the time of the exodus, the Lord had made the nation like the stars of heaven (De 1:10, 22). We also read that at the time of Solomon the nation was like the dust (2Ch 1:9) and like the sand (1Ki 4:20) in number. The promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob indicated that the nation would be large, and spoke about the inability of a man to count it (as in Rev 7:9). The promises did not say that it would be impossible to count the nation by any means, such as by a census. However, the similarity of the nation to the stars, the grains of sand, and the dust of the earth implied also that just as these are not counted, so also the nation was not supposed to be counted (1Ch 27:23). Thus, a census was not to be taken, unless the Lord required it.

As we read in 1Ch 21:1, "Satan ... provoked David to number Israel". Once David acquired the desire to number the people, being a godly man, he probably hesitated, knowing that he was not supposed to do it. Then, he probably asked the Lord if he may do it. In this he was like Balaam, who knowing that God did not want him to go to Moab, he asked nonetheless for permission to go there. The Lord let him go there, though he did not really want him to go. This resembles what happened to David. We read that the Lord incited David against Israel, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah" (2Sa 24:1)ESV. In the context, however, it is clear that this is not really what the Lord desired that David should do (see 2Sa 24:10), and David knew it. Just as Balaam was allowed to do what he wanted, so also here David was granted to carry out his desire.

(1Ch 21:2) And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.

(1Ch 21:3) But Joab said, "May the LORD add to his people a hundred times as many as they are! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord's servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?"
(1Ch 21:4) But the king's word prevailed against Joab ...
The decision to count the people belonged to David. However, it affected the people, since David was one of them and since he was their leader. By doing this, he was adding one more thing to the multitude of sins of the people. Joab seemed to understand this when he asked "Why should it be a cause of guilt for Israel?" (1Ch 21:3). Moreover, since the people belonged to the king, they had some special protection for the sake of David, because he loved the Lord. There are passages in which the Lord spoke about refraining punishment for the sake of David (1Ki 11:12-13, 15:4, 2Ki 8:19, 19:34). However, when David did not follow the Lord, the protection that the people had for David's sake was diminished. So also here, though the Lord was angry with the people before David was tempted (2Sa 24:1), judgment came to the people after David failed to resist the temptation. David's sin opened the way for judgment on the people. Thus, we read that David was provoked to number the people because "Satan stood up against Israel" (1Ch 21:1). By numbering them, he was acting against them (2Sa 24:1) because he was opening the way to judgment.
(1Ch 21:4) ... So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel and came back to Jerusalem.
(2Sa 24:8) So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
The numbers were as follows. Israel had 1,100,000 "men that drew sword" (1Ch 21:5) out of which 800,000 were valiant (2Sa 24:9). Moreover, Judah had 500,000 men (2Sa 24:9) out of which 470,000 were "men that drew sword" (1Ch 21:5). These numbers do not include the men who were very young, for "David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under" (1Ch 27:23). The young men were not considered also when the Lord commanded Moses to number the people. Moses was told "Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel ... From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel ... " (Nu 1:2-3). The rule "twenty years old and upward" appears also in the subsequent census taken at the end of the forty years in the desert (Nu 26:2).

(2Sa 24:10) And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

(2Sa 24:11) For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,
(2Sa 24:12) Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
(2Sa 24:13) So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
(2Sa 24:14) And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.

(2Sa 24:15) So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

In 2Sa 24:14 David did not choose any of the three plagues. Neither of them necessarily implied that he had to fall into the hands of men. It is obvious, however, that David sought God's mercy and forgiveness. The Lord took note, for we find that the Lord diminished the three plagues of 2Sa 24:13 at the time when he sent the prophet Gad to David in 1Ch 21:9-13. Here, 1Ch 21:9-13 is understood to take place in between 2Sa 24:13 and 2Sa 24:15. In this interpretation, David was asked about the plagues of 2Sa 24:13 sometime in the morning, while later that same day the Lord asked him again about a dimished version of the plagues in 1Ch 21:12. The plagues were diminished as follows. Instead of seven years of famine, only three were mentioned. Moreover, 1Ch 21:12 does not mention David fleeing from his enemies, but only him being defeated and the sword of his enemies drawing near. Thus, a three month siege would fit 1Ch 21:12, but not 2Sa 24:13. Finally, 1Ch 21:12 mentions a plague carried out by the angel of the Lord, while 2Sa 24:13 does not mention the angel of the Lord. This plague was diminished in that the Lord promised to be involved in it. Instead of setting some bounds and limits and then sending Satan to carry out the punishment, the Lord was to do it through his angel. This makes a big difference, for the mercies of the Lord are great (2Sa 24:14, 16).
Evidence for placing 1Ch 21:9-13 in between 2Sa 24:13 and 2Sa 24:15 is as follows. Based on 2Sa 24:15 we can understand that the plague came on the following day, as we read "from the morning even to the time appointed". Note that the plague description in 2Sa 24:15-17 indicates that the angel of the Lord was the one carrying out the destruction, as mentioned in 1Ch 21:12. Since the third plague of 1Ch 21:12 was carried out, we infer that 1Ch 21:9-13 took place before 2Sa 24:15. The fact that the third plague of 1Ch 21:12 was carried out, instead of the third plague of 2Sa 24:13, also implies that 1Ch 21:12 was spoken after 2Sa 24:13. Thus, the plagues of 1Ch 21:12 are a diminished version of those of 2Sa 24:13, as the Lord responded to prayer. The order of the events given in this interpretation of the text is consistent with the fact that 2Sa 24:11 mentions the morning of that day, while 1Ch 21:9-11 does not mention the morning. This is what we would expect if 1Ch 21:9-11 took place after 2Sa 24:11-13 on the same day.
At the time when David began the census "the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel" (2Sa 24:1). While the reason is unstated in this verse, if we consider other passages stating with the same Hebrew words that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, we can see that pagan worship has been most often the reason (De 29:27 (29:26), Nu 25:3, Jdg 2:14, 2:20, 3:8, 10:7, 2Ki 13:3, Ps 106:40). However, the anger of the Lord was also kindled in the context of a major manifestation of disbelief (Nu 11:10, 32:10, 13), and in the context of Israel trespassing the commandment concerning the things devoted to the Lord in Jos 7:1 (and greed is idolatry, Col 3:5). The passage in 2Sa 21:9-11 provides an indication that at the time of 2Sa 24 the spiritual climate in Israel was not too good. Since the commandment of De 21:22-23 was disregarded in the sight of the people, the passage seems to indicate both ignorance of the law and an attitude of indifference among those who knew it.

(1Ch 21:15) And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1Ch 21:16) And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.

(1Ch 21:17) And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

(1Ch 21:18) Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Based on 2Sa 24 we can understand that David first met Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah saw David while he was coming, and went out to him (2Sa 24:20). Araunah and Ornan were likely related. It may be that Araunah was the father of Ornan. Then "David came to Ornan, and Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing-floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground" (1Ch 21:21)Darby. "Now Ornan was threshing wheat" (1Ch 21:20). Ornan was probably supervising the work. His sons were there also (1Ch 21:20), so they were probably helping. In order to build the altar, David bought the threshing floor from Araunah (2Sa 24:24), and he bought also the site of the threshing floor (1Ch 21:22, 25). Both Araunah and Ornan offered the king their oxen and the wood of their threshing implements for the sacrifice. It follows that threshing was done for both of them. "David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver" (2Sa 24:24). However, he paid much more for the place of the threshing floor. "So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight" (1Ch 21:25). Now, the sons of Ornan were with him, so they probably were relatively young. We do not read that Araunah was involved in threshing the wheat, but only that Ornan was threshing it. Thus, it may be that Ornan was supervising also the threshing done for Araunah. Thus, it could be conjectured here that Ornan was younger than Araunah and Ornan was the son of Araunah. The threshing floor and its place were probably jointly owned by Araunah and Ornan. The reason the threshing floor was known by the name of Ornan (1Ch 21:18) could be that Ornan was the one using it. The fact that it was bought from Araunah would fit well the conjecture that Araunah was the father of Ornan. While 2Sa 24:24 states explicitly that the threshing floor was bought from Araunah, 1Ch 21 does not state that the place of the threshing floor was bought from Ornan. We only read that David asked Ornan for it (1Ch 21:22) and that he gave to Ornan the money for it (1Ch 21:25). A possible explanation would be that when David met Araunah, since the threshing floor was not too expensive, Araunah felt that he could sell it without talking to Ornan about it. However, when it came to selling the site, he wanted Ornan to agree about it, so David went to Ornan and asked from him the site of the threshing floor.

The threshing floor is called גרן ארנן "the threshing floor of Ornan" in 1Ch 21:15, 18, 28 and 2Ch 3:1. As written, the Hebrew text of 2Sa 24:18 describes the threshing floor of Ornan with the words גרן ארניה "the threshing floor of Orniah". Noting that it was very common to have names with a prefix "Jeh" or a suffix "iah", which are abbreviations of the name of the Lord, it would seem likely that ארנן "Ornan" and ארניה "Orniah" represent the same name. Jer 26:18 could be mentioned in support of this possibility. As written, Jer 26:18 speaks of the prophet מיכיה "Micaiah", who is commonly identified as the prophet מיכה "Micah" of Mi 1:1. An alternative explanation of the name Orniah would be that a person named Orniah had owned the threshing floor in the past and the threshing floor was still known by his name. The threshing floor is also described in 2Sa 24:16 with the words גרן האורנה היבסי, which could be translated either "the threshold of Hornah the Jebusite", or "the threshold of the Jebusite ornah", with "ornah" denoting a Jebusite title. The former possibility is unlikely, since it would imply that the text uses one name for the threshing floor in 2Sa 24:16, and then another name in 2Sa 24:18, without providing an explanation. Thus, "the threshing floor of the Jebusite ornah" appears to be the correct translation. Evidence for this can also be found in 2Sa 24:22 in הכל נתן ארונה המלך למלך, which is literally translated "King Araunah gives all of it to the king". Since there was no Jebusite kingdom at that time, the title "ornah" would seem to denote the fact that Araunah was the one who would have reigned if the Jebusite kingdom was restored.

(1Ch 21:26) And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.

(1Ch 21:27) And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

(1Ch 21:28) At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

After David died, "Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite" (2Ch 3:1).

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