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Araunah (some translations use the name Ornan in 1 Chronicles) was a Jebusite, one of the early inhabitants of Jerusalem before David took the city and made it his capital. Araunah owned a threshing floor on top of Mount Moriah.
A threshing floor was simply a flat piece of compacted earth or stone where grain was separated from the inedible chaff that surrounds each kernel. Threshing was an essential step before the wheat harvest could be made into flour. Such floors were often located atop hills or high plains, where the winds could blow away the chaff, leaving behind the heavier kernels of grain.
David purchased Araunah’s threshing floor after a devastating plague killed about seventy thousand Israelites. The plague was God’s punishment for David’s census, which had been conducted to determine how many fighting men he had at his disposal. A census was not wrong in itself—after all, God Himself had ordered the census recorded in the book of Numbers. But David’s census seemed to be more about his own pride and self-assuredness than anything else.
Toward the end of the plague, David came face-to-face with the angel of the Lord as he stood at Araunah’s threshing floor. David begged for mercy, saying that he alone deserved the punishment—and the Lord relented. A prophet named Gad then instructed David to build an altar on the site. Araunah was happy to give David the land, along with the oxen, wood, and grain needed for the offerings. David, however, rebuffed Araunah’s generosity and insisted on paying the full price, not wanting to offer sacrifices that cost him nothing.
Some years later, David’s successor, Solomon, built the temple on the site of the old threshing floor. Araunah’s former threshing floor was actually the perfect site for God’s temple. Being situated on top of a hill gave the temple visual and strategic prominence amid the Jerusalem landscape. Perhaps more significantly, threshing was a symbol of the Lord’s generous provision.
Every time God’s people worshipped in His temple, they would be reminded that it was He who sustained them.