MICMASH, MICHMASH (mĭk'măsh, Heb. mĭk'hmash, a hidden place). A place in the ancient tribe of Benjamin about eight miles (thirteen km.) NE of Jerusalem. A notable battle occurred here between Israel and the Philistines in the reign of Saul (
MICHMASH mĭk’ măsh (מִכְמָ֣שׂ or מִכְמָ֔ס in
Michmash apparently was not a large enough town to warrant mention in the list of Benjamite cities. Its only real claim to fame is in the battle that was fought there by Saul and Jonathan against the Philistines (
Biblical Michmash is the modern Arab town of Mukhmas. It is reached by the road that goes E from the main highway at Ramah. South of the town less than a m. is the narrow canyon of the Wadi Suwenet which joins the Wadi Qelt and empties into the Jordan near Jericho. To the SW of Michmash is Geba, situated on another hill. A knowledge of this geography is necessary in order to understand the Battle of Michmash as recorded in
The weak character of Saul continues to show as he remains under the pomegranate tree (
In a vivid account of an Assyrian or Syro-Ephraimitic attack on Jerusalem, Isaiah mentions Michmash.
At Michmash he stores his baggage; they have crossed over the pass,
at Geba they lodge for the night; Ramah trembles,
Perhaps to facilitate mobility, the heavy non-combat equipment was stored some distance from the Assyrians’ objective.
No excavation of Michmash has been made, but there is no question about the location of the site. All the geographical details of the battle fit, and the modern but insignificant town bears such a similar name (Mukhmas) that there can be no doubt. The land is rough and hilly and the pass or canyon leading SE fits the description in the Bible, as well as that in Jos. Antiq. VI. vi. 2.
E. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 180-182.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
A town in the territory of Benjamin, apparently not of sufficient importance to secure mention in the list of cities given in
Michmash is represented by the modern Mukhmas, about 7 miles North of Jerusalem. From the main road which runs close to the watershed, a valley sloping eastward sinks swiftly into the great gorge of Wady es-Suweinit. The village of Mukhmas stands to the North of the gorge, about 4 miles East of the carriage road. The ancient path from Ai southward passes to the West of the village, goes down into the valley by a steep and difficult track, and crosses the gorge by the pass, a narrow defile, with lofty, precipitous crags on either side--the only place where a crossing is practicable. To the South of the gorge is Geba, which had been occupied by the Philistines, doubtless to command the pass. Their camp was probably pitched in a position East of Mukhmas, where the ground slopes gradually northward from the edge of the gorge. The place is described by Josephus as "upon a precipice with three peaks, ending in a small, but sharp and long extremity, while there was a rock that surrounded them like bulwarks to prevent the attack of the enemy" (Ant., VI, vi, 2). Conder confirms this description, speaking of it as "a high hill bounded by the precipices of Wady es-Suweinit on the South, rising in three flat but narrow mounds, and communicating with the hill of Mukhmas, which is much lower, by a long and narrow ridge." The Philistines purposed to guard the pass against approach from the South. On the other hand they were not eager to risk an encounter with the badly armed Israelites in a position where superior numbers would be of little advantage. It was while the armies lay thus facing each other across the gorge that Jonathan and his armor-bearer performed their intrepid feat (
It will be noted that the Philistines brought their chariots to Michmash (
The modern village is stone-built. There are rock-cut tombs to the North. Cisterns supply the water. There are foundations of old buildings, large stones, and a vaulted cistern.