1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Michmash

MICHMASH, a place in Benjamin, about 9 Roman miles north of Jerusalem (Onom, ed. Lag., p. 280), the scene of one of the most striking episodes in Old Testament history (1 Sam. xiv.). Though it did not rank as a city (not being mentioned in Joshua xviii. 21 seq.), Michmash was recolonized after the exile (Neh. xi. 31), and, favoured by the possession of excellent wheat-land (Mishna, Men. viii. 1), was still a very large village (Μαχμάς) in the time of Eusebius. The modern Mukhmas is quite a small place.

The historical interest of Michmash is connected with the strategical importance of the position, commanding the north side of the Pass of Michmash, which made it the headquarters of the Philistines and the centre of their forays in their attempt to quell the first rising under Saul, as it was also at a later date the headquarters of Jonathan the Hasmonaean (1 Macc. ix. 73). From Jerusalem to Mount Ephraim there are two main routes. The present caravan road keeps the high ground to the west near the watershed, and avoids the Pass of Michmash altogether. But another route, the importance of which in antiquity may be judged of from Isa. x. 28 sqq., led southwards from Ai over an undulating plateau to Michmash. Thus far the road is easy, but at Michmash it descends into a very steep and rough valley, which has to be crossed before reascending to Geba.[1] At the bottom of the valley is the Pass of Michmash, a noble gorge with precipitous craggy sides. On the north the crag is crowned by a sort of plateau sloping backwards into a round-topped hill. This little plateau, about a mile east of the present village of Mukhmas, seems to have been the post of the Philistines, lying close to the centre of the insurrection, yet possessing unusually good communication with their establishments on Mount Ephraim by way of Ai and Bethel, and at the same time commanding the routes leading down to the jordan from Ai and from Michmash itself.

See further C. R. Conder, Tentwork ii. 112 seq.; and T. K. Cheyne in Encyc. Bib., s.v. (R. A. S. M.)

  1. So Isa. x. 28 describes the invader as leaving his heavy baggage at Michmash before pushing on through the pass.