The Threshing Floor of Zion

The Threshing Floor of Zion

Just north of David’s city, which stood on the Ophel hill, there was a yet higher summit named Zion where a Jebusite called Araunah had his estate (2 Samuel 24:15–25; 1 Chronicles 21:15–28). When a plagues truck David’s kingdom, killing seventy thousand people in three days, an angel appeared to him; it was standing on the threshing floor of Araunah at the summit of the mount. There, decided David, he must build an altar and sacrifice to God to avert the plague. Araunah, who may have been Jerusalem’s last Jebusite king, offered to give up the threshing floor for nothing, but David insisted on making payment. And when Araunah wanted to give the oxen for the first burnt sacrifice, David paid for them as well. It is likely that David recognised the sacredness of the site, for as well as separating the chaff from the wheat, the Jebusites used their threshing floors for prophetic divination and for the fertility cult of their storm god Baal. But by paying Araunah for his land and oxen, David was ensuring that the sacrifice would be made without obligation to anyone but Yahweh, his god.

From the moment of David’s sacrifice the future site of the Temple was marked out. Scholars debate the exact plan and position of the Temple, but Orthodox Jews place the holy of holies, the innermost sanctum of the Temple, on that great rock which can still be seen to day behind the grille in the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the spot where Muslims say Mohammed ascended on his Night Journey to Paradise, and where once the Jebusites had likely made sacrifices to their own gods. As if to bind the place more closely to Jewish tradition, it was also identified in something of a biblical after thought as the Mount Moriah where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac (2 Chronicles 3:1). But for the time being the Ark of the Covenant remained where David had left it when he brought it to the city, just outside the walls, down by the Gihon Spring.

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