1 Samuel 13:23
And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The garrison of the Philistines went out.—These words form an introduction to the recital of the heroic deed of Jonathan related in the following chapter. The Philistines are represented as sending forward an armed detachment, or out-post detachment, beyond the camp of Michmash, as a protection against a surprise on the part of the Israelitic force under the king and his son.

1 Samuel 13:23. And the garrison of the Philistines went out — This probably refers to the garrison mentioned in the beginning of the next chapter. And Michmash seems to have been the name of the garrison, not of the passage: as if it had been said, The garrison of the Philistines in Michmash went out to the passage. For Michmash, it appears, was upon a high hill, as Gibeah was, between which places was a valley, called here a passage, into which the garrison descended to invite the Israelites to battle. 13:15-23 See how politic the Philistines were when they had power; they not only prevented the people of Israel from making weapons of war, but obliged them to depend upon their enemies, even for instruments of husbandry. How impolitic Saul was, who did not, in the beginning of his reign, set himself to redress this. Want of true sense always accompanies want of grace. Sins which appear to us very little, have dangerous consequences. Miserable is a guilty, defenceless nation; much more those who are destitute of the whole armour of God.The passage of Michmash - The steep and precipitous path from Michmash to Geba, over the valley of Suweinit. The same term is used in Isaiah 10:28-29, where the march of the Assyrian army is described. 21. Yet they had a file—as a kind of privilege, for the purpose of sharpening sundry smaller utensils of husbandry. A place so called, because it was near to Michmash, and led towards Gibeah, which, it seems, they designed to besiege, and in the mean time to waste the adjoining country. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash. According to Jarchi, these two places, Michmash where the Philistines were, and Gibeah where Saul and Jonathan were, lay on two hills over against each other, and there was a valley between them; and the garrison of the Philistines drew nigh to the passage of Michmash, which led to the side of Gibeah, to the valley between them, either with an intention to besiege Gibeah, or to dare Israel to come out and fight them: but rather it seems to be some strong pass between the rocks near Michmash, where the garrison placed themselves to guard and keep against any sudden surprise; see 1 Samuel 14:4. The Targum is,"the governor of the Philistines went out to the ford or passage of Michmash;''and Kimchi interprets it of the princes or generals of the army; these might go to mark out a camp, and pitch upon a proper place to draw up in a line of battle. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the passage of Michmash.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. the passage of Michmash] By “the passage of Michmash,” mentioned also In the description of Sennacherib’s march upon Jerusalem in Isaiah 10:29, is meant the deep ravine now known as the Wady es-Suweinit (1 Samuel 13:2, note). The Philistines threw out an advanced post from their main camp to one of the bluffs on the very edge of the valley, with the view of watching the Israelites in Geba opposite, and preventing a surprise attack on their camp. It was this post which Jonathan attacked.Verse 23. - And the garrison, etc. When the Philistines heard that Saul with his six hundred men had joined the small force already at Geba with Jonathan, they sent a body of men to occupy an eminence higher up in the defile which lay between Geba and Michmash (see on 1 Samuel 13:2). The purpose of this was to keep the route open, that so, when they pleased, they might send a larger body of troops up the defile in order to attack Saul. It would also keep a watch upon his movements, though they could have had no expectation that he would venture to attack them. It was this garrison which Jonathan so bravely attacked, and by his success prepared the way for the utter defeat of the enemy.



Then the spoiler went out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. ראשׁים שׁלשׁה is made subject to the verb to define the mode of action (see Ewald, 279, c.); and rashim is used here, as in 1 Samuel 11:11. המּשׁחית, according to the context, is a hostile band that went out to devastate the land. The definite article points it out as well known. One company took the road to Ophrah into the land of Shual, i.e., went in a north-easterly direction, as, according to the Onom., Ophrah of Benjamin was five Roman miles to the east of Bethel (see at Joshua 18:23). Robinson supposes it to have been on the site of Tayibeh. The land of Shual (fox-land) is unknown; it may possibly have been identical with the land of Saalim (1 Samuel 9:5). The other company turned on the road to Beth-horon (Beit-ur: see at Joshua 10:11), that is to say, towards the west; the third, "the way to the territory that rises above the valley of Zeboim towards the desert." These descriptions are obscure; and the valley of Zeboim altogether unknown. There is a town of this name (צבעים, different from צביים, Deuteronomy 29:22; Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:8; or צבאים, Hosea 11:8, in the vale of Siddim) mentioned in Nehemiah 11:34, which was inhabited by Benjaminites, and was apparently situated in the south-eastern portion of the land of Benjamin, to the north-east of Jerusalem, from which it follows that the third company pursued its devastating course in a south-easterly direction from Michmash towards Jericho. "The wilderness" is probably the desert of Judah. The intention of the Philistines in carrying out these devastating expeditions, was no doubt to entice the men who were gathered round Saul and Jonathan out of their secure positions at Gibeah and Geba, and force them to fight.
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