Courage! various takeaways from the Look to Creation lessons on the four aspects of courage God wants His children to develop...

Lesson 10.... Jonathan and the Battle of Michmash

Michmash, Israel--Crucial Place in Ancient History

     The town of Michmash is known by its connection with the Philistine war of Saul and Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 13 ʻAnd Saul, and Jonathan his son, and the people that were present with them, abode in Gibeah of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash.ʼ 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.  Near the town of Michmash (MIK-mas, or, MIK-mash) is a pass about 8 miles outside Jerusalem, in the region of the ancient tribe of Benjamin.

    It was on one of the cliffs in the distance that Jonathan (son of King Saul) and his armor bearer climbed up and defeated a Philistine garrison, beginning an eventual greater victory over their forces (1 Samuel 14). One of the rocks is named Bozes (possibly, "slippery") and the other is Seneh ("Thorny A divinely sent earthquake, the effects of which were noted by Saulʼs 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 flight.

    In Isaiah 10:28 the prophet pictures the advance of Assyrian forces attacking

Jerusalem, and said that they left their baggage at Michmash, expecting to retrieve it later. Their campaign, however, met with disaster (Isaiah 37:36).  When the Israelites returned from captivity under Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:27; Nehemiah 7:31) 122 men of the town of Michmash are mentioned. Later, Jonathan Maccabaeus had his headquarters in Michmash.


Jonathan and Allenby: A Tale of Two Tricksters July 2011

     During World War I, British forces under the command of General Allenby were to face the Turks at the same location. One night, Major Vivian Gilbert of the British army was contemplating the situation against the Ottoman forces. He remembered a town by the name of Michmash written somewhere in the Bible.     

     He found the verses, and  discovered that there was supposedly a secret path around the town. Incredibly, he managed to find that secret path, and with the British forces using this path to outmaneuver the Ottomans, the British took the town.  1 The Romance of the Last Crusade, 1923, Major Vivian Gilbert, pages 183-6

A Strange Occurrence at Michmash 1918

We owe to Major Vivian Gilbert, a British army officer, this description of a truly

remarkable occurrence. Writing in his reminiscences [Chichikov: The Romance of the Last Crusade] he says : 'In the First World War a brigade major in Allenby's army in Palestine was on one occasion searching his Bible with the light of a candle, looking for a certain name. His brigade had received orders to take a village that stood on a rocky prominence on the other side of a deep valley. It was called Michmash and the name seemed somehow familiar. Eventually he found it in 1 Sam. 13 and read there: '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.' It then went on to tell how Jonathan and his armour-bearer crossed over during the night 'to the Philistine's 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 other Seneh.' (1 Sam 14). They clambered up the cliff and overpowered the garrison, 'within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow'. The main body of the enemy awakened by the melee thought they were surrounded by Saul's troops and 'melted away and they went on beating down one another.'  Thereupon Saul attacked with his whole force and beat the enemy. 'So the Lord saved Israel that day.'

     The brigade major reflected that there must still be this narrow passage through the rocks, between the two spurs, and at the end of it the 'half acre of land.'  He woke the commander and they read the passage through together once more. Patrols were sent out. They found the pass, which was thinly held by the Turks, and which led past two jagged rocks--obviously Bozez and Seneh. Up on top, beside Michmash, they could see by the light of the moon a small flat field.

     The brigadier altered his plan of attack. Instead of deploying the whole brigade he sent one company through the pass under cover of darkness. On Feb 18th 1918, The few Turks whom they met were overpowered without a sound, the cliffs were scaled, and shortly before daybreak the company had taken up a position on the 'half acre of land.'

     The Turks woke up and took to their heels in disorder since they thought they were being surrounded by Allenby's army. They were all killed or taken prisoner.

'And so,' concludes Major Gilbert, 'after thousands of years British troops successfully copied the tactics of Saul and Jonathan.' "

2 The Bible As History Second Revised Edition. Werner Keller, translated from the German by William Neil. Original edition Copyright 1965, Hodder and Stoughton. New revised edition, 1980, Stoddard and Stoughton. Published 1981, William Morrow and Company, Inc., New York. Pp. 182-183.


     The trick used by both Jonathan and Allenby allowed for major turing points in the repelling of the Philistines as well as the movement towards Jericho some 2000 thousand years later. On the morning of February 21, 1918, combined Allied forces of British troops and the Australian mounted cavalry capture the city of Jericho in Palestine after a three-day battle with Turkish troops.

     Commanded by British General Edmund Allenby, the Allied troops began the offensive on Tuesday, February 19, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Despite battling adverse weather conditions and a determined enemy in the Turks, the Allies were able to move nearly 20 miles toward Jericho in just three days.

     On the morning of February 21, it was apparent that the Turkish line had been broken, and the Allied forces entered the holy city of Jericho without much resistance at just after 8 a.m. Upon realizing they had lost control of the city, Turkish troops chose to retreat rather than fight.

     During the three-day battle, Allied troops captured 46 Turkish prisoners.  The capture of Jericho proved to be an important strategic victory for the Allies, who

now controlled some of the most important roads in the region, including the main road to the coast and the mountain highway leading to Jerusalem, and had reached the northern end of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth at 1,290 feet below sea level.

                                                                       A Timeline to put into perspective SAUL’S FIRST PHILISTINE WAR

                                                                                                                              I Sam. 13:l-14:36

                                                  1. Saul gathers 2000 men at Michmash, and Jonathan 1000 at Gibeah. (13:1-2)

                                                  2. Jonathan smites Geba. (13 :3)

                                                  3, Saul goes to Gilgal and makes a foolish sacrifice. (13:4-14)

                                                  4. Saul goes to Geba with 600. (13:15-16)

                                                  5. Philistines camp at Michmash, and send out raiders toward Beth-horon, Ophrah, and Valley of Beboim. (I 3 : 17-23)

                                                  6. Jonathan and armorbearer climb the pass between Geba and Michmash, and smite Philistines. (13:24-14:15)

                                                  7. Saul’s troops join in and smite Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon. (14:16-23-31)

                                                  8. Jonathan is saved from Saul’s curse about eating, (14:24-30, 32-46)



Lesson 11  Reflections on David's situation from two commentaries... 

Reflections on David’s situation, 1 Sam 21, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary…

And now we must follow him to Gath, the city of Goliath. Down the slope of Mount Olivet, across the brook Kedron, and past the stronghold of Zion, and probably through the very valley of Elah where he had fought with the giant, David makes his way to Gath. It was surely a strange place to fly to, a sign of the despair in which David found himself! What reception could the conqueror of Goliath expect in his city? What retribution was due to him for the hundred foreskins, and for the deeds of victory which had inspired the Hebrew singers when they sang of the tens of thousands whom David had slain?

It will hardly do to say that he reckoned on not being recognized. It is more likely that he relied on a spirit not unknown among barbarous princes towards warriors dishonoured at home, as when Themistocles took refuge among the Persians, or Coriolanus among the Volscians. That he took this step without much reflection on its ulterior bearings is well nigh certain. For, granting that he should be favourably received, this would be on the understanding that his services would be at the command of his protector, or at the very least it would place him under an obligation of gratitude that would prove highly embarrassing at some future time.

Happily, the scheme did not succeed. The jealousy of the Philistine nobles was excited. "The servants of Achish said unto him. Is not this David, the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?" David began to feel himself in a false position. He laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish. The misery of his situation and the poverty of his resources may both be inferred from the unworthy device to which he resorted to extricate himself from his difficulty. He feigned himself mad, and conducted himself as madmen commonly do. "He scrabbled on the door of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard" But the device failed. "Have I need of madmen," asked the king, ’’that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house?" A Jewish tradition alleges that both the wife and daughter of Achish were mad; he had plenty of that sort of people already: no need of more! The title of the thirty-fourth Psalm tells us, ’’he drove him away, and he departed."

Have any of you ever been tempted to resort to a series of devices and deceits either to avoid a danger or to attain an object? Have you been tempted to forsake the path of straightforward honesty and truth, and to pretend that things were different with you from what they really were? I do not accuse you of that wickedness which they commit who deliberately imprison conscience, and fearlessly set up their own will and their own interests as their king. What you have done under the peculiar circumstances in which you found yourselves is not what you would ordinarily have done. In this one connection, you felt pressed to get along in one way or another, and the only available way was that of deceit and device. You were very unhappy at the beginning, and your misery increased as you went on. Everything about you was in a con strained, unnatural condition, - conscience, temper feelings, all out of order. At one time it seemed as if you were going to succeed; you were on the crest of a wave that promised to bear you to land, but the wave broke, and you were sent floundering in the broken water. You were obliged to go from device to device, with a growing sense of misery. At last the chain snapped, and both you and your friends were confronted with the miserable reality. But know this: that it would have been infinitely worse for you if your device had succeeded than that it failed. If it had succeeded; you would have been permanently entangled in evil principles and evil ways, that would have ruined your soul. Because you failed, God showed that He had not forsaken you. David prospering at Gath would have been a miserable spectacle; David driven away by Achish is on the way to brighter and better days.

For, if we can accept the titles of some of the Psalms, it would seem that the carnal spell, under which David had been for some time, burst when Achish drove him away, and that he returned to his early faith and trust. It was to the cave of Adullam that he fled, and the hundred and forty-second Psalm claims to have been written there. So also the thirty-fourth Psalm, as we have seen, bears to have been written "when he changed his behaviour" (feigned madness) "before Abimelech" (Achish?), ’’who drove him away, and he departed….

 With reference to the thirty-fourth, we miss something in the shape of confession of sin, such as we should have expected of one whose lips had not been kept from speaking guile. In other respects the psalm fits the situation. The image of the young lions roaring for their prey might very naturally be suggested by the wilderness. But the chief feature of the psalm is the delightful evidence it affords of the blessing that comes from trustful fellowship with God. And there is an expression that seems to imply that that blessing had not been always enjoyed by the Psalmist; he had lost it once; but there came a time when (1Sa_21:4) "I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears." And the experience of that new time was so delightful that the Psalmist had resolved that he would always be on that tack: ’’I will bless the Lord at all tunes; His praise shall continually be in my mouth."

How changed the state of his spirit from the time when he feigned madness at Gath! When he asks, ’’What man is he that desire the life and loveth many days that he may see good?" (1Sa_21:12) - what man would fain preserve his life from harassing anxiety and bewildering dangers? - the prompt reply is, ’’Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile." Have nothing to do with shifts and pretences and false devices; be candid and open, and commit all to God. ’’O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him O fear the Lord, ye His saints" (for you too are liable to forsake the true confidence), "for there is no want to them that fear Him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. . . . Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth them out of them all."

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple; I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee" (Psa_116:3-7).


From Pulpit Commentary….

Verse 10. - David arose and fled that day. The presence of Doeg at Nob was a most untoward circumstance; and though David could never have anticipated that Saul would visit upon the priests the unwitting assistance they had given him with such barbarous ferocity, yet he must have felt sure that an active pursuit would be at once instituted against himself. He therefore took a most unwise and precipitate step, but one which clearly shows the greatness of the danger to which he was exposed. For he flees to Achish, king of Gath, the first town upon the Philistine border, at the mouth of the valley of Elah (see on 1 Samuel 17:3). Achish is called Abimelech in the title of Psalm 34, written by David in grateful commemoration of his escape, that being the official title of the kings of Gath handed down through many successive centuries (see Genesis 26:1). It has been objected that nothing could be more improbable than that David, the conqueror of Goliath, should seek refuge with a Philistine lord, and that this is nothing more than a popular tale, which has grown out of the real fact recorded in ch. 27. But when men are in desperate straits they take wild resolutions, and this meeting with Doeg, just after he had broken down with grief (1 Samuel 20:41), evidently put David to his wits' end. As, moreover, Saul was degenerating into a cruel tyrant, desertions may have become not uncommon, and though only three or four years can have elapsed since the battle of Elah, as David was only about twenty-four years of age at Saul's death, yet the change from a boyish stripling to a bearded man was enough to make it possible that David might not be recognised. As for Goliath's sword, we have seen that it was not remarkable for its size, and was probably of the ordinary pattern imported from Greece. Even if recognised, Achish might welcome him as a deserter from Saul, the great enemy of the Philistines; for as a deserter never received pardon or mercy, he must now use his prowess to the very utmost against Saul. Finally, the historical truth of the narrative is vouched for by Psalm 34, and the details are all different from those in ch. 27. David there is a powerful chieftain with a large following of trained soldiers, and feels so secure that he takes his wives with him; he asks for some place in which to reside, and occupies himself in continual forays. Here he is in the utmost distress, has no trained band of soldiers, and goes well nigh mad with mental anguish. And this is in exact keeping with that extreme excitement to which David was a prey in his last interview with Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:41); and only in his first grief at Saul's cruel bitterness would his mind have been so affected, and his conduct so rash.

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