Araunah is the name given by the Books of Samuel to a Jebusite who owned the threshing floor on the summit of Mount Moriah that David purchased and used as the site for assembling an altar to God. The Book of Chronicles, a later text, renders his name as Ornan.

Biblical narrative

The narrative concerning Araunah appears at both 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. The Samuel version is the final member of a non-chronologically ordered group of narratives, which together constitute the "appendix" of the Books of Samuel. In the Samuel narrative, God incites David to punish the Israelites by imposing a census upon them, an order which Joab reluctantly carries out. (In the version of the narrative presented by the Book of Chronicles, it is Satan, not God, that incites David to make the census). Yahweh regarded David's action as a sin, and so punished him, sending Gad the prophet to offer David the choice of punishment. Gad gave David three options:

  • seven years of famine (the Book of Chronicles states that it was only three years of famine)
  • three months of fleeing from an invader
  • three days of plague

David, according to both versions, chose the three days of plague, and so an angel was sent to spread the plague through the land. However, when the angel reached Jerusalem, God changed his mind and ordered the angel to stop; at this point the angel was at Araunah's threshing floor, which David noticed. Gad instructed David to build an altar at Araunah's threshing floor, so David purchased the location from Araunah, even though Araunah offered it to him freely. According to the Books of Samuel, David paid 50 silver shekels for the location; Chronicles states that David paid 600 gold shekels. However, some[who?] explain this by saying that the book of Samuel only talks about the price of the floor and oxen; Chronicles adds in all of the materials for the sacrifice. Several Rabbinical sources, including Sifrei or The Talmud on Zevahim (116b), reconcile the differences by suggesting that King David gathered fifty shekels of silver from each and every tribe, which totals six hundred silver shekels and that he presented Araunah with silver equal to the amount of fifty shekels of gold.

The census

In the Books of Samuel, the census is said to indicate that there were 1,300,000 men fit for military service. The Book of Chronicles states that the figure was 1,570,000 men fit for military service.

Joab's reluctance to complete the census is thought by some scholars to have been due to a religious belief that the people belonged to God, and hence that only God should know how many there were.[1] Some scholars believe the motive was pride, that David's numbering of the people was to show his strength as a king; his sin in this was relying on human numbers instead of God.[2] Other scholars believe that a more mundane motive is the reason - that the knowledge gained from a census would enable David to impose more accurate taxes and levies, and thus the census would be unpopular with the people who were at risk of higher taxes or levies.[3]

Identity of Araunah

Though as a Hebrew name Araunah would mean agile. However, as Araunah is clearly indicated to be a Jebusite, an ethnic group that most scholars believe refers to the Hittites, since the discovery of the Hittite language it has been known that, as a Hittite word, Araunah means the lord, and is not a personal name but a title.[4] At one point in the narrative, Araunah is explicitely referred to as a king : ... Araunah the king gave to the king [i.e., David] ..,[5] although in modern English translations the king is referring to David both times and not to Araunah; several biblical scholars believe that he may have simply been the (Jebusite) king of Jerusalem at that time.[6] Some scholars believe that Adonijah (whom the Bible portrays as a son of David and rival of Solomon) is actually a disguised reference to Araunah, the ר (r) having been corrupted to ד (d); this position stems from the reverse conjecture originally proposed by Cheyne, before the Hittite language was fully known.

The threshing floor

Threshing floors would usually be in places likely to catch the wind so that the wind would assist the separation of wheat from chaff. Hence, it is quite plausible for the threshing floor to have been located on a high hill. The narrative of the Book of Chronicles claims that the altar built by David on the site became the Temple of Solomon, and that the site had formerly been Mount Moriah; the equation of the Temple of Solomon with mount Moriah is viewed as dubious by many scholars, though David's altar being the same site as Solomon's temple is seen as plausible.[7]

The entire narrative is considered by most scholars to be more aetiological than historic - that it exists to explain why the site was regarded as a place of holiness by the Israelites.[8] In an earlier narrative — the Genesis narrative concerning Melchizedek — it is clear that Jerusalem (which is what most scholars think is meant by Salem) had a priesthood in pre-David times, and hence that it must have had some sort of sanctuary, probably at a high location.[9] Some scholars have proposed that this pre-existing sanctuary, probably dedicated to Zedek rather than Yahweh, is what became Solomon's Temple, and that the Araunah narrative is an attempt to provide a Yahweh-related origin for it; connected with this proposal is the theory that Zadok is actually a priest from this earlier sanctuary, his Aaronid genealogy being a later fiction,[10] with Zadok possibly being identical to Araunah himself.[11]

Notes and citations

  1. New American Bible, footnote
  2. Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible
  3. Peake's commentary on the Bible
  4. Biblical Archaeology Review, Reading David in Genesis, Gary A. Rendsburg
  5. 2 Samuel 24:23
  6. Biblical Archaeology Review, as above
  7. Peake's commentary on the Bible
  8. ibid
  9. ibid
  10. Peake's commentary on the Bible
  11. Biblical Archaeology Review, as above

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the publicúna

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