mik'-mash (mikhmash; Machmas): A town in the territory of Benjamin, apparently not of sufficient importance to secure mention in the list of cities given in Jos 18:21 ff. It first appears as occupied by Saul with 2,000 men, when Jonathan, advancing from Gibeah, smote the Philistine garrison in Geba (1Sa 13:2). To avenge this injury, the Philistines came up in force and pitched in Michmash (1Sa 13:5). Saul and Jonathan with 600 men held Geba, which had been taken from the Philistine garrison (1Sa 13:16). It will assist in making clear the narrative if, at this point, the natural features of the place are described.
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 (1Sa 14:1 ff).
It will be noted that the Philistines brought their chariots to Michmash (1Sa 13:5). In his ideal picture of the Assyrian advance on Jerusalem, Isaiah makes the invader lay up his baggage at Michmash so that he might go lightly through the pass (1Sa 10:27). A company of the men of Michmash (see MICHMAS) returned with Zerubbabel from exile (Ezr 2:27; Ne 7:31). Michmash produced excellent barley. According to the Mishna, "to bring barley to Michmash" was equivalent to our English "to carry coal to Newcastle." Michmash was the seat of government under Jonathan Maccabeus (1 Macc 9:73).
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.