David Builds an Altar

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The Lord’s angel told the prophet Gad to tell David that he must build an altar in honor of the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (v. 18). David followed the Lord’s instructions (v. 19). Ornan and his four sons were threshing wheat at the time, and when the sons saw the angel they ran to hide (v. 20). When David arrived Ornan stopped his work and bowed (v. 21). David asked Ornan if he would sell his threshing floor to him so he could build an altar to the Lord and offer sacrifices for the plague that was killing the people so it could be stopped (v. 22).

David said that he was willing to pay whatever price it was worth but Ornan said, “Take it your Majesty, and do with it whatever you want to” (v. 23). He further stated, “I’ll even give you the oxen for the sacrifice, the wheat for the grain sacrifice and the threshing-boards for the fire.” David replied, “No! I want to pay you what they are worth. I can’t take all of this from you and then offer the Lord a sacrifice that cost me nothing” (v. 24). So David gave Ornan 600 shekels of gold (v. 25). David built an altar and offered sacrifices to please the Lord (v. 26). He prayed, and the Lord answered him by sending down fire on the altar. Then the Lord commanded the angel to put the sword away (v. 27). When David saw that the Lord had answered his prayer he offered more sacrifices (vv. 28-30). He did this because he was afraid of the angel’s sword and did not want to go all the way to Gibeon where Moses sacred tent was. The very location that David built this altar is where Abraham offered up his son, Isaac, and Solomon later built the temple.


Giving to God that which cost me nothing, does not demonstrate commitment. To give sacrificially requires more than a token effort or gift.

I Chronicles 21:18-30 (English Standard Version)

Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. So David went up at Gad's word, which he had spoken in the name of the LORD. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel, and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. And David said to Ornan, "Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD--give it to me at its full price--that the plague may be averted from the people." Then Ornan said to David, "Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all." But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site. And David built there an altar to the LORD and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the LORD, and the LORD answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. At that time, when David saw that the LORD had answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time in the high place at Gibeon, but David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

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