(Michʹmas[h]) [Laid Up [that is, concealed] Place].
A site identified with modern Mukhmas on a hill about 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level and some 11 km (7 mi) NNE of Jerusalem. It lies N of the Wadi Suweinit (Nahal Mikhmas), considered to be “the ravine pass of Michmash.” (1Sa 13:23) Joined by other wadis from the SW and NW, Wadi Suweinit extends from the mountainous region of Ephraim to the Jordan Valley.
Doubtless preparing to free Israel from Philistine control, King Saul selected a force of 3,000 men. Of these, 2,000 encamped with him at Michmash and in the mountainous region of Bethel, and the others took their position with his son Jonathan at Gibeah. Later, at nearby Geba (“Gibeah,” Vg), Jonathan struck down the Philistine “garrison.” In retaliation the Philistines rallied a great army, including chariots and horsemen, and apparently forced Saul to retreat from Michmash to Gilgal. Hard pressed by the Philistines, many Israelites hid themselves in caves and hollows; others sought refuge E of the Jordan. This dispersal of the Israelite warriors in the face of the Philistine threat was later presented by Saul as his reason for failing to wait obediently for Samuel to offer sacrifice. Reproved by Samuel for his presumptuous act, Saul, with a reduced force of about 600 men, thereafter came to Jonathan at Geba. (1Sa 13:1-16) According to 1 Samuel 14:2, Saul evidently transferred his camp to Migron near Gibeah.
Jonathan Initiates Rout of Philistines. Because three bands of Philistine pillagers would go out from their camp at Michmash and an outpost of the Philistines would sally forth to “the ravine pass of Michmash,” Jonathan decided to end this menace. (1Sa 13:16-23) To do this, he crossed the ravine pass, which (if Wadi Suweinit) forms a deep gorge with nearly vertical cliffs to the E of Geba (Jabaʽ). Two prominent hills with steep rocky sides rise at a point where the Wadi Suweinit makes a sharp bend. These may be the ‘toothlike crags’ Bozez and Seneh, their toothlike edges having perhaps been rounded by the erosive forces of some 30 centuries. (1Sa 14:1-7) For a stranger to have made his way through the maze of mounds, knolls, and sharp rocks in the wadi would have been next to impossible. But Jonathan, reared in Benjamite territory, apparently knew it well. While his father’s camp was at Michmash and his own at Geba, Jonathan doubtless had repeated opportunities for getting better acquainted with the terrain.
Jonathan and his armor-bearer made their way toward Michmash and then exposed themselves to the view of the Philistine outpost. Catching sight of them, the Philistines called out: “Come on up to us, and we will let you know a thing!” Thereafter, on his hands and feet, Jonathan, followed by his armor-bearer, ascended the steep passage to the Philistine outpost. As a team they struck down some 20 Philistines within a distance of about half the measure of land that a span of bulls can plow in a day.—1Sa 14:8, 11-14, ftn.
A divinely sent earthquake, the effects of which were noted by Saul’s watchmen, threw the Philistine camp into turmoil. By the time Saul and his men came on the scene, many of the Philistines had slaughtered one another in confusion and the rest had taken to flight. Saul’s army, probably now equipped with Philistine weapons found at the site, pursued the fleeing enemy forces. Joined by Israelites who had gone into hiding and those who had sided with the Philistines, “they kept striking down the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon.”—1Sa 14:15-23, 31.
According to 1 Samuel 13:5, the Philistine forces at Michmash included 30,000 war chariots. This number is far greater than that involved in several other military expeditions (compare Jg 4:13; 2Ch 12:2, 3; 14:9), and it is hard to imagine how so many war chariots could have been used in mountainous terrain. For this reason 30,000 is generally viewed as a scribal error. The Syriac Peshitta and the Lagardian edition of the Greek Septuagint read 3,000, and numerous Bible translations follow this rendering. (AT, JB, Mo) However, even lower figures have been suggested.
Centuries later, the prophecy of Isaiah mentions Michmash as the place where the conquering Assyrian would ‘deposit his articles.’ (Isa 10:24, 28) After the Israelite return from Babylonian exile in 537 B.C.E., Michmas(h) was apparently reoccupied by Benjamites.—Ezr 2:1, 2, 27; Ne 7:31; 11:31.