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Michmash lay on the line of march of an invading army from the north, on the north side of the steep and precipitous Wady es-Suweinit ("valley of the little thorn-tree" or "the acacia"), and now bears the name of Mukhmas.
The town is known by its connection with the Philistine war of Saul and Jonathan, and a battle was fought there which was later recounted in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 13 ‘And Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.’ According to the Bible, King Saul's son Jonathan was able to beat the Philistines by finding a secret path around the town and flanking them, which caused panic throughout and a Philistine rout.
It tells how Jonathan and his armor-bearer crossed over during the night ‘to the Philistines’ garrison’ on the other side, and how they passed two sharp rocks: ‘there was a sharp rock on the one side, and a sharp rock on the other side: and the name of the one was Bozez and the name of the other Seneh.’ They clambered up the cliff and overpowered the garrison ‘within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plough.’ The main body of the enemy awakened by the mêlée thought they were surrounded by Saul’s troops and ‘melted away and they went on beating down one another.’
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.
In the invasion of Sennacherib in the reign of Hezekiah, it is mentioned by Isaiah. After the captivity the men of the place returned. At a later date it became the residence of Jonathan Maccabaeus and the seat of his government.
World War I
During World War I, British forces under the command of General Allenby were to face the Turks at the same location. Major Vivian Gilbert of the British army relates the story of an unnamed brigade major who was reading his Bible while contemplating the situation against the Ottoman forces. The brigade major remembered a town by the name of Michmash mentioned somewhere in the Bible. He found the verses, and discovered that there was a secret path around the town. He woke the brigadier general, and they found that the path still existed and was very lightly guarded. The British forces used this path to outmanoeuver the Ottomans, and so took the town.
- Against All Odds - Israel survives / Miraculous True Stories, DVD, 95 min., ISBN 1-59464-265-6, a dramatized documentary, produced by American Trademark Pictures. Distributed by Questar Inc., Chicago, Illinois.