Araunah (Hebrew: אֲרַוְנָה ’Ǎrawnāh) was a Jebusite who was mentioned in the Second Book of Samuel who owned the threshing floor on Mount Moriah that David purchased and used as the site for assembling an altar to God. The First Book of Chronicles, a later text, renders his name as Ornan (Hebrew: אָרְנָן ’Ārənān).
The narrative concerning Araunah appears at both 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. The Samuel version is the final member of a group of narratives, which together constitute the "appendix" (2 Samuel 21-24) of the Books of Samuel, and which do not fit into the chronological ordering of the rest of Samuel. In the Samuel narrative, God was angry at Israel again then 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, who 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 a choice between three punishments:
- 7 years of famine,
- 3 months of fleeing from an invader,
- 3 days of plague from the Angel of the Lord,
David indicated that, rather than choose one of the 3 options, he would rather fall into the hands of the Lord's mercy and discretion. So an angel was sent to spread the plague through the land. However, when the angel reached Jerusalem, God 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.
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. Some scholars believe the motive for the census 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. 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.
Identity of Araunah
The Bible clearly identified Araunah as a Jebusite, an ethnic group that most scholars believe refers to the Hittites. In the Hittite language araunah means the lord, and is not a personal name but a title. In 2 Samuel 24:23, Araunah is referred to as a king: ... Araunah the king gave to the king [i.e., David] .., 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 the time.