What are Strongholds in the Bible, and How do you Break them?

There are many examples of strongholds in the Bible, and Scripture is clear on how we can break strongholds in our lives and walk in true freedom and victory in Christ.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a negative cycle–a seemingly endless tailspin that leaves you hopeless and discouraged? Do you find yourself constantly trying to find freedom from an area of your life that continually plagues you? Many people would define this type of struggle as a stronghold, but there are actually different kinds of strongholds mentioned in Scripture that have specific meanings. 

In this post, we will explore three different types of strongholds in the Bible, and how to break free of negative strongholds and walk in more freedom in Christ.

Strongholds in the Bible 1

What are Strongholds in the Bible?

There are at least three different types of strongholds mentioned in the Bible. These are wilderness strongholds, God as our stronghold, and spiritual strongholds. Let’s examine each of these strongholds more closely.

Strongholds in the Bible: Wilderness Strongholds

The first type of stronghold we will identify is from the Hebrew word mᵊṣāḏ, which is defined as a fort, fortress, a castle, or secure place in a mountain where one could hide or hunt prey (source).

This type of stronghold was mentioned when the Israelites were trying to escape the oppression of the Midianites in Judges 6:2.

Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds.

Judges 6:2

David also sought refuge in these types of wilderness strongholds when he was fleeing from Saul. 

David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.

1 Samuel 23:14

The Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah and said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon?

1 Samuel 23:19

Strongholds in the Bible were also defined as castles or fortresses used as safe places during war. When David became king, he captured the fortress of Zion, which became known as the city of David. He lived in the fortress and built the city of David around it, strengthening the city with walls and terraces.

David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David. He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. And David became more and more powerful, because the Lord Almighty was with him. 1 Chronicles 11:7-9

strongholds in the Bible 2

Strongholds in the Bible: God as our Stronghold

The second way strongholds are mentioned in Scripture is when God himself is referred to as our stronghold. Since wilderness strongholds are places as refuge and safety from danger, God is certainly our stronghold, since he is the One who keeps us safe and rescues us from our enemies. There are many Scriptures that refer to God as our refuge, fortress, and stronghold.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:9

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 18:2

What a comfort it is to know that God is our stronghold, and our deliverer in times of trouble!

Strongholds in the Bible: Spiritual Strongholds

The third way strongholds are mentioned in the Bible is in the New Testament. Like in the Old Testament, the term stronghold in the Greek language is defined as a fortified castle or fortress.

The word stronghold also has a spiritual component, when the apostle Paul talks about tearing down strongholds. In 2 Corinthians he speaks boldly to the church in Corinth regarding their negative thought patterns:

The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

2 Cor 10:4-5

This type of stronghold in the Bible refers to negative patterns of thinking, prideful thoughts, or worldly messages that have written negative messages on the minds and hearts of believers. These types of thoughts over time can build powerful spiritual strongholds that need to be torn down with the truth of God’s Word.

Strongholds in the Bible–A Look at King Josiah

Now let’s take a look at seven powerful ways we can break spiritual strongholds in our lives by studying the life of King Josiah.

By the time he became king at the age of eight, the nation of Israel was a divided kingdom that strayed from the commands of the Lord.

He was raised in a family that blatantly dishonored God. The beautiful temple that Solomon took such great care to build was no longer used to burn sacrifices to the Lord, but Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh built altars to false gods in the temple courts and inside the temple.

Josiah’s grandfather did great evil in the eyes of the Lord, even more evil than the surrounding nations who did not fear God (2 Kings 21:9). 

Josiah’s father Amon also did great evil in the sight of the Lord. He was eventually assassinated by his own officials, which was how Josiah became king of Judah.

strongholds in the Bible 3

1. How to Break Strongholds by Identifying Generational Sin in your Family

Like King Josiah, you may have come from a family that did not honor the Lord. You may have been raised in a home where sinful acts of rebellion against God were the norm.

But that does not have to be your story.

Take a look at the contrast in Josiah’s reign:

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. 2 Kings 22:2

Josiah decided not to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, and walked in the ways of God.

In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, he summoned the priest Hilkiah and other workers to begin repairing the temple, which had been left neglected for far too long. In the process of the repairing of the temple, the Book of the Law was found (2 Kings 22:8). 

Moses had instructed the people of Israel to place the Book of the Law in the Ark of the Covenant (Deut 31:26). Unfortunately, the people of Israel did not heed Moses’ instructions or follow God’s law. With each new generation, the words of the Lord were passed down less and less.

Josiah recognized the sins of his family and took action to make things right.

If your family has not made a conscious effort to uphold the Word of the Lord, you can tear down spiritual strongholds in your life by choosing to follow the Word of God.

“…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:15
how to break strongholds

2. Breaking Strongholds with a Heart of Repentance

When the Book of the Law was read to King Josiah, he tore his robes in grief and wept in the Lord’s presence (2 Kings 22:11,19). He realized how far his people had strayed from the precious words of God’s holy law.

God in his grace and mercy saw the repentant heart of Josiah.

He did not pour out judgment on the nation because of this young king’s change of heart (2 Kings 22:17,19).

Josiah then gathered together all of the people of Judah and he himself read the words of the Book of the Law to the nation. 

The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord—to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

2 Kings 23:3

a prayer of repentance-strongholds in the Bible 4

3. Breaking Strongholds by Demolishing Idols

After Josiah and the people of Judah pledged their commitment to the Lord, he had one last matter of unfinished business to take care of. He totally demolished all of the idols that had been erected in the temple of the Lord by his grandfather Manasseh.

He removed Baal and the entire starry host. He burned the Asherah pole and ground it to a powdery dust. He tore down shrines, pulled down altars, and smashed to pieces anything that was offered as worship other than God. 

Josiah even went so far as to wipe out all the priests of these detestable gods. He got rid of the mediums and spiritists Manasseh consulted, the household gods, and all the other abominable idols in Judah and Jerusalem.

Everything had to go.

After such a radical cleansing of everything that opposed the holiness of God, here is what was said of Josiah:

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

2 King 23:25

Here is a young man who did a complete 180 degree turn in his life. He heard the Word of the Lord, and realized that he and his people had fallen drastically short of God’s standards of holy living. He turned away from the things that dishonored God and turned to God with all of his heart, soul, and strength.

This is the nature of true repentance.

Throughout the Old Testament God continued to call his people back to himself, urging them to love him with their whole hearts:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Turning our hearts away from sin and towards the heart of God is a powerful way to break the strongholds in our lives.

a prayer against idols-strongholds in the bible 5

4. How to Break Strongholds with the Power of God’s Word

Have you truly loved the Lord with every ounce of who you are? Have you committed to love God with your entire being, your whole heart, soul and strength? Have you given him control of every aspect of your life?

What prompted Josiah’s drastic change of heart?

The Word of God.

God’s Word has the immense power to transform our hearts.

The living Word of God is found not only in a written book, but on the pages of our hearts and minds. What messages are written on your heart? Josiah went through drastic measures to tear down and demolish the idols that took up residence in the temple of God.

If we are not careful, we can allow the worldly influences of our culture to write messages in our hearts that directly oppose the truth of God’s Word. These messages can slowly influence our thinking and begin to build up strong fortresses, or strongholds in the temple of our hearts.

None of us ever intend to invite these thoughts into our hearts, but before we know it, we start to believe the messages.

Messages like…

  • “You’re not worthy of love.”
  • “God could never forgive you for what you’ve done.”
  • “You’ll never be good enough.”
  • “Do what you want—God doesn’t really care about you.”
  • “God isn’t good.”

We must break the power of these negative thoughts with the strength and power of God’s Word.

5. Tearing Down Strongholds in our Minds

What patterns of thinking, prideful thoughts, or worldly messages have written negative messages on your heart? Have some of these thoughts built up strongholds within your mind?

Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 again:

The weapons we fight with are not weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Some of the negative messages in our hearts can be so strong within us that they hold us mentally captive through a spiritual stronghold. We can become prisoners of our own torturous thoughts, preventing us from living in the freedom Jesus died to give us. Listen to this same verse in the King James Version: 

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

The King James Version explains the word “pretension” (used in the NIV) as “every high thing” that elevates or exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

Think of an idol or false god described in the Old Testament.

What was it?

It was a wooden or metal object that was set up to be exalted, worshiped, and accepted as truth. Josiah’s grandfather built “high places” and erected altars to Baal, set up an Asherah pole, and bowed down and worshiped the starry host (2 Kings 21:3-4).

Do you see the same language used in 2 Corinthians 10:5? These “high things” and false gods were set up in order to be worshiped and exalted.

Exalted against who? Against the One True God. 

The definition of exalt means to praise, acclaim, and pay tribute to. Worshiping these false gods was such an offense to God Almighty because he is the only true God worthy of worship, praise, and exaltation.

Spiritual strongholds can become negative messages written on our hearts and minds that are set up and exalted against the knowledge and truth of God’s word. 

Josiah later demolished these idols that were set up against the truth of who God is.

He alone is holy.

He alone is worthy.

He alone is God.

Exalt the living God of the universe in the temple of your heart, and tear down any message, thought, or attitude that is in direct opposition to him. How do we tear them down?

With the Word of God.

Through Jesus we have been given the mighty weapon of the sword of the Spirit. This is the Book of the Law; God’s holy Word. Use your weapon to tear down and demolish any “high thing” that seeks to exalt itself above your Savior.

Instead of living as a captive to the lies of the enemy, capture every wayward thought and make each one bow the knee to the power and authority of Christ.

Let the demolition begin!

how to break strongholds

6. Tearing Down Negative Messages

In order to demolish the negative messages that have built up strongholds in our hearts, remember these three steps:

1. Capture the thought by identifying the lie. 

2. Attack the thought with the truth of God’s Word 

3. Believe the truth of God and praise him for who he is.

What negative messages from your family, our society, or from yourself have been written on your heart? What lies have you believed about God and about yourself? It’s time to tear down those negative thoughts and replace them with the powerful truth of God’s Word!

7. A Prayer to Break Spiritual Strongholds

One of the best ways to demolish strongholds in our lives is through the power of praying God’s Word. When we call upon the Lord in prayer, we have the victory through Christ!

Let’s pray!

Lord, I come to you with faith and confidence that you hear me. Thank you for forgiving my sins, and that I can now approach your throne of grace with boldness (Hebrews 4:16)

I come before you in the name of Jesus, and ask that you reveal to me any strongholds that are holding me back and keeping me from walking and living in the victory that I already have in you.

I thank you that where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom! (2 Corinthians 3:17) Through the power of your name I demolish, cast down, and completely shatter any stronghold that is keeping me from living in complete freedom and victory in you.

I destroy every stronghold of fear, anger, bitterness, and shame–they are obliterated in Jesus’ name!

Thank you that this is possible through the power of your Holy Spirit living in me. I abolish any other thoughts or negative patterns of thinking that are hostile to the Gospel and against your Word of truth.

I pull out every root of bitterness and lingering seed of despair.

how to break strongholds

A Prayer to Take Every Thought Captive

Help me to actively and forcefully take captive every thought that does not line up with the truth of your Word.

I will no longer dwell, consider, or ponder these things. Instead I will meditate on whatever is true, noble, good, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8)

I choose to seek your face and renew my mind according to your Word.

Thank you that because of the finished work of the cross, these strongholds have no power over me, and I can walk in the fruit of the Spirit each day!

Praise be to your name!

Amen.

Free Printable Prayer: Tearing Down Strongholds

Feel free to download this printable prayer and hang it somewhere in your home to remind you that you can tear down strongholds with the power of God’s Word!

In Conclusion

I hope that examining the different types of strongholds in the Bible will help you identify spiritual strongholds in your life, and help you call out to God to break those strongholds. He is your refuge and fortress, he can help you walk in freedom and victory in Christ!

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22 thoughts on “What are Strongholds in the Bible, and How do you Break them?”

  1. Thank you Christin for the powerful word of God to break strongholds. We need this especially so we can help other people. May God bless you always in Jesus name.

  2. I realize that I did not come across this blog when it was first published; however, I needed it today! Thank you so much for sharing your gift! God knew that I would need your prayer against negative thoughts and the lesson on taking my thoughts captive at this time of my life (a lesson I had forgotten!). I am so blessed to have such a loving God and one who gives His gifts to those who share! Thank you again!

  3. I thank God for the powerful prayer that I was praying I believe I am in a right place. I am asking for the prayers I dreamed bad dream I am asking for total deliverance for me and my family

  4. This was incredibly awesome.. I prayed every prayer and made powerful declarations against strongholds in my life. God bless you for thus beautiful piece.

  5. Thank you Christin for this powerful article on “strongholds,” it has blessed me immensely. My family an I are in intercessive prayer for my granddaughter, for the God that we know can do all things will break those spiritural strongholds in her mind, for we know as His children He does not want any of us to be lost. For us as we have entered the battle as Jesus has said , intercede for each other, God has laid out in Ephesians 6:11-13 exactly what the rules of engagement (ROE) for this battle for us is to daily :

    ” Put On The Whole Armor of God ,” So, that we will be able to stand in prayer for her. We know the enemy will come for God’s beloved’s , but we also know the war has war has already been won, yet there are still some battles we have to show up for, for each other, friend, family, stranger, we are all His Created children .

    I pray peace, joy, to all of my sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus. Amen
    Thank You Christin

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