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)KJV. 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 David's Palace. 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 are as follows.

(1Ch 21:1)KJV 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 of the earth in multitude" (2Ch 1:9) and like "the sand which is by the sea in multitude" (1Ki 4:20). 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 that just as these are not counted, so also Israel was not supposed to be counted (1Ch 27:23). Thus, a census was not to be taken, unless the Lord required it. An additional remark that could be made here is that a census of Israel served also as a reminder of God's judgment, as could be seen by examining closely Ex 30:12.

(Ex 30:12) When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.

For a close analysis of Ex 30:12, it is necessary to examine first the meaning of the Hebrew verb פקד, which is translated above with the verb "to number". This common Hebrew verb has been translated with meanings such as "to number", "to visit", "to appoint", and others. It is essentially about considering and giving special attention to someone or something. A number of passages associate this verb with God's judgment on sin, for when the Lord considers people and considers their sin, so as to respond to it, he responds with judgment. Numerous passages illustrate this point, including Is 26:14, Jer 6:15, Hos 1:4, and Ex 20:5. Returning to Ex 30:12, the fact that the people were considered in order to be recorded in the census served also as a reminder that they would be considered by God. Just as for the census each had to give "a ransom for his soul unto the LORD" so that "there be no plague among them", so also when considered by God, unless there was a ransom, they would have faced judgment. The ransom in Ex 30:12 was to avert a plague, not to save one's soul from God's full judgment on sin. Nonetheless, it testified about the fact that there is a ransom for the soul of man. The Scripture testifies about this ransom with the words, "the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Is 53:6) and "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him" (Is 53:5).

As stated in 1Ch 21:1, "Satan ... provoked David to number Israel." Since this came from Satan, it is plain that it was not God's will that David should number Israel, as could be seen also in 2Sa 24:10. Once David desired to number the people, being a godly man, he probably hesitated, knowing that he was not supposed to do it. Then, the Lord incited David, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah" (2Sa 24:1). Since God did not want the census, and David knew it, he was testing David. At this point, David was tested whether he would follow his own preference or God's preference. He failed the test and decided to count the people. This instance is similar to that in which Balaam was invited to go to Moab. Though God had told him not to go (Nu 22:12), he still wanted to go. So when God told him to go, testing him, he went, provoking in this way the Lord's anger (Nu 22:20, 22).

(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 also, 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. Scripture passages in which the Lord spoke about refraining punishment for the sake of David include 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 on them after David failed to resist 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 phrase "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 response to the words of the Lord, David and those with him must have sought God's mercy and forgiveness. The Lord took note, for he diminished the plagues of 2Sa 24:13 when he sent again 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 early in the morning, and then again, sometime later, about a diminished version of the plagues (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 one of his angels. 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. 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. The time of 1Ch 21:9-13 must have been as follows. 2Sa 24:15 indicates that the plague began on the morning of 2Sa 24:11 (note that the word בקר "morning" appears in 2Sa 24:11, and then the article in מהבקר "from the morning" in 2Sa 24:15; see for example מהבקר in 1Ki 18:26 and מן הבקר in Ex 18:13.) Since 2Sa 24:11-12 took place shortly after the king got up that morning, it follows that 1Ch 21:9-13 happened sometime after 2Sa 24:13, on the same morning.
In 2Sa 24:14, David did not choose any of the three plagues, and he was not supposed to. He only asked that he would not be given into the hands of men. None of the three plagues implied that he would fall into the hands of men. When David decided to have a census, he did not follow the Lord's preference, but his own preference. So now the Lord was asking David to choose, and tell him what he preferred! The words of the Lord were a reminder of sin and a call to repentance, not an invitation to make a choice. Moreover, the Lord did not need to be informed by the prophet Gad about David's choice. The words "see what answer I shall return to him that sent me" (2Sa 24:13) were telling David that God would speak with Gad, but not with him. Sin was affecting David's relationship with the Lord. The reminder of sin was even stronger in the second version of the plagues, in 1Ch 21:12. David had already experienced the first plague (2Sa 21:1), while the second plague resembled what he had endured from Absalom. The third plague was the only one he did not experience before, so he might have guessed that this was coming to him.

As we read in 2Sa 24:1, even before David desired to have a census, "the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel" (2Sa 24:1). While the passage does not say how Israel provoked the Lord to anger, 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 was the most common reason (De 29:27 (29:26), Nu 25:3, Jdg 2:14, 2:20, 3:8, 10:7, 2Ki 13:3, Ps 106:40). The anger of the Lord was also kindled after a major manifestation of disbelief (Nu 11:10, 32:10, 13), and also in Jos 7:1, after the commandment concerning the things devoted to the Lord was trespassed (and greed is idolatry, Col 3:5). We could note that 2Sa 21:9-11 provides an indication that the spiritual climate in Israel at the time of 2Sa 24 was not too good. Since the commandment of De 21:22-23 was disregarded in the sight of the people, the passage seems to imply 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.

Considering 2Sa 24, it could be concluded that David encountered first 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)KJV. Ornan was probably supervising the work. His sons were there also (1Ch 21:20), so they were probably helping. 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. So it could be conjectured 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". Note that the last three letters of the name "Orniah" can be seen as an abbreviation of the name of the LORD. It was common for a name to have a prefix or a suffix abbreviating the LORD's name. Moreover, when a name was abbreviated, the suffix or the prefix could be dropped. Therefore, it seems quite likely that the names ארנן "Ornan" and ארניה "Orniah" refer to the same person. For example, as written, Jer 26:18 speaks of the prophet מיכיה "Micaiah," who is commonly identified as the prophet מיכה "Micah" of Mi 1:1. Another example is Joshua son of Nun, whose name had two versions: יהושע "Joshua" (Ex 24:13), with the prefix, and הושע "Hoshea" (Nu 13:8), without the prefix. Now an alternative explanation of the name Orniah would be that a person having this name had owned the threshing floor, 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 threshing floor of Hornah the Jebusite," or "the threshing floor of the Jebusite Ornah", with "the Ornah" denoting a Jebusite title. The former possibility is unlikely, since it would imply that the text denotes the threshing floor by one name in 2Sa 24:16 and by another in 2Sa 24:18. Thus, "the threshing floor of the Jebusite Ornah" must 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 existed. For other similar examples, see the comments on רפא and רפה in the Giants article.

(1Ch 21:26)KJV 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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