Scripture: So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.”…But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 2 Samuel 24:2, 24 ESV
Observation: At first glance, this closing chapter of the two books of Samuel reads like an epilogue. As a reminder to future generations, it portrays three critical aspects of an ideal king of Israel:
- A repentant heart (verse 10).
- Earnestness to bear consequences to spare the lives of his people (verse 17).
- Humble submission to those who proclaim the Lord’s instruction (verses 18-19).
These godly attributes stand in contrast to David’s predecessor, Saul, who lacked humility, failed to repent, and did not submit to the Lord’s instruction under Samuel’s direction. But as history records, David was far from perfect. Now in his old age, he succumbs to the temptation of finding security in numbers (employing a census) rather than trusting in the Lord’s protection. There is one perplexing element in this story, though. In the first verse, the author indicates that Yahweh incited David to commit this sinful act. But the writer of the first book of Chronicles presents a nuanced perspective: Satan rose against Israel and incited David to take a census (1 Chronicles 21:1). The two verses reconcile with the understanding that God permitted Satan to test David and Israel just as he did with Job.
Takeaway: As resolution draws near, David refuses Araunah’s offer to take and use his threshing floor and animals for a sacrifice to God without praying a price (verses 24). Why must there be compensation? According to Mosaic law regarding a census, each counted Israelite must pay a ransom for his life to avert a plague (Exodus 30:12).
Also of interest, the name Araunah is merely a common title used in ancient near eastern languages meaning “the lord.” However, this same story recorded in 1 Chronicles 21 identifies Araunah as Ornan (verses 20-22). In Hebrew, Oran means “that rejoices.” Indeed, David joyfully submitted payment to one who had authority (the “lord” of this particular consecrated site) to follow the Lord’s instructions and bring about the restoration of his people. In the same manner, when we submit to those God sends our way, whether a “Gad” who instruct us in how to repent or an “Ornan” who aids us with the necessary resources, we should rejoice in paying the price of our repentance to make things right with God and others we have wronged.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who joyfully paid it all to reconcile us to you. With thankful hearts, please help us exercise humility and rejoice when we offer our sacrifices of repentance—knowing whatever small price we pay pales in comparison to the extravagant gift of your Son. Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling