The concept of a stronghold is foreign to our modern minds, except for what we may have read about it in history books. It is not part of our frame of reference and because of this, we may not understand the significance of this. When you hear the word stronghold, you may think about the Romans besieging a fortified city or a knight on a beautiful stallion galloping towards a walled medieval city. In Biblical times, strongholds were commonplace, and essential for survival.
We need to understand the physical structure in order to understand what was meant when it was employed as a metaphor.
This is also a term that is often employed in spiritual warfare to depict a spiritual force. In this article we will explore if this is in line with scripture.
We have written a few articles on the spiritual realm and how it influences us. We have also looked at The spiritual impact of Babel and have done some research on defiled land and how it can be cleansed. In this article, we will focus on strongholds, more specifically spiritual strongholds.
We shall first define a stronghold, then look at how this word was used in Scripture. The concept of a stronghold in Scripture varies in meaning. It could be a fortress, a citadel, a palace, an inaccessible or a secure place. Let’s find a definition of the word.
What is a stronghold? According to the Merriam Webster’s Dictionary it is a fortified place, a place of protection or a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.
strongâ€¢hold \ËˆstrÈ¯Å‹-ËŒhÅld\ noun
1: a fortified place
2 a: a place of security or survival ã€ˆone of the last strongholds of the ancient Gaelic languageâ€”George Holmesã€‰
b: a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic ã€ˆa Republican strongholdã€‰ ã€ˆstrongholds of snobberyâ€”Lionel Trillingã€‰2
The Dictionary of Biblical Languages defines it as follows:
5057 ×žÖ¸×¢×•Ö¹×– (mÄÂ·Ê¿Ã´z): n.masc.; â‰¡ Str 4581; TWOT 1578aâ€”1. LN 21.9â€“21.13 protection, formally, place of refuge, i.e., the means of being safe in a situation of danger as a figurative extension of a fortress (Ne 8:10; Ps 27:1; 28:8; 31:3[EB 2],5[EB 4]; 37:39; 43:2; 52:9[EB 7]); 2. LN 7.2â€“7.25 refuge, stronghold, fortress, place of protection (Isa 17:9); 3. LN 1.46â€“1.50 height, i.e., an elevated area of ground (Jdg 6:26); 4. LN 6.29â€“6.40 unit: ×žÖ¸×¢×•Ö¹×– ×¨Ö¹××©× (mÄÂ·Ê¿Ã´z rÅ(Ê¾)Å¡)1 helmet, formally, head of protection, i.e., an armor piece to protect the head (Ps 60:9[EB 7]; 108:9[EB 8]+), note: for NIV text in 2Sa 22:33, see 2733
In ancient times cities were walled,and a fortified city was known as a stronghold. So, this word stronghold could refer to a physical fortified city. It is also used as a metaphor for YHVH’s protection. We will now look at what we can learn from Scripture.
A stronghold is a fortified city
A stronghold is a physical walled or fortified city. The strength of the city lies in the height and thickness of its walls.
15 â€œI will pour out My wrath on Sin, The stronghold of Egypt; I will also cut off the hordes of Thebes.
1 Samuel 22:4
4 Then he left them with the king of Moab; and they stayed with him all the time that David was in the stronghold.
These verses confirm that a stronghold is a physical fortified city. The word “stronghold” is also employed as metaphor and analogy.
YHVH, a wall of fire
In a prophecy in Zechariah, YHVH declared that He will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem.
4 and said to him, â€œRun, speak to that young man, saying, â€˜Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. 5 â€˜For I,â€™ declares YHVH, â€˜will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.â€™ â€
YHVH becomes Jerusalem’s stronghold by being a wall of fire around them. We find many other Scriptures describing YHVH as a stronghold or refuge.
YHVH, our Stronghold
When we refer to YHVH as a stronghold, we are not referring to a physical structure anymore, this is a metaphor and it refers to a spiritual concept.
2 Samuel 22:3
3 My Elohim, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.
9 YHVH also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, A stronghold in times of trouble;
2 YHVH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My Elohim, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
2 Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me.
7 YHVH of hosts is with us; The Elohim of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.
Also Psalm 46:11; Ps 48:3; Ps 59:9,16,17; Ps 62:2,6; Ps 94:22; Ps 144:2; Nah 1:7; Joel 3:16. From all these verses, we learn that YHVH is a stronghold or security to those who believe in Him. This confirms what we have learned in the article about defiled land, about how we are influenced by the spiritual realm. In this article, we have learned that YHVH makes a protective hedge around those who believe in Him and how that hedge can be broken.
We also found another interesting verse. Not only is YHVH a stronghold, but His way is a stronghold to the upright, meaning that there is security in keeping His way, His commandments.
The way of YHVH is a stronghold
29 The way of YHVH is a stronghold to the upright, But ruin to the workers of iniquity.
In Proverbs, a man without control over his spirit is described as a city without walls. We have control over our spirit if we do YHVH’s ways, His commandments. So, this wall of protection is YHVH’s commandments.
28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit.
8 He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall.
A serpent may bite him who breaks a wall. If YHVH and His ways are our stronghold, our protective hedge, then whenever we are disobedient to YHVH, we break through that wall and may be bitten by a serpent. Understand what this means spiritually. When YHVH’s protective hedge around us is broken, by sin or any unrighteousness, it gives the enemy an opportunity to penetrate our wall of truth with lies and deception. These lies and deception, if left, will multiply and lead us away from truth and into sin. Keep this in mind as we continue.
Did you know the enemy also has strongholds? He does, and you will be surprised to know where they are built. We find a reference to the stronghold of the enemy in Proverbs.
22 A wise man scales the city of the mighty And brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
What would be the stronghold in which they trust? It could be their walled city, but I believe that we can interpret it on a spiritual level as well. If the physical enemy has a stronghold, the spiritual enemy will have as well. Let’s see what we have learned.
We have learned that a fortified city is a stronghold that gives protection to those in it. We have proven that YHVH is a stronghold for those who believe in Him. We have also learned that there are other elohims with their hosts who have been assigned territories and nations. These nations trust in their deities. This trust in their deities is therefor their stronghold. For this reason, we must conclude that other spiritual strongholds do exist. You may wonder where and what it looks like?
As we said in the title, each of us has a stronghold, we may not even be aware of it.
YHVH being our stronghold proves the existence of spiritual strongholds. A spiritual stronghold is that in which you put your trust, a very strong belief. If YHVH is our stronghold, we trust in Him, if His ways are a stronghold for us, we will believe it to be truth and adhere to it. A spiritual stronghold is like a spiritual wall, that hedge we talked about. This wall, in the case of YHVH, is truth and righteousness. This wall protects us and keeps out lies and deception and protects us against spiritual affliction. The strongholds of the enemy are lies and deception. Ha satan is the father of lies and he can put up walls in us, walls of lies and deception and these walls will keep YHVH’s truth out.
These strongholds can be different for each of us. Let me give you a few examples.
Being led by our desires
We were not born as believers in YHVH, for most of us our life journey included some form of unrighteousness. This unrighteousness can remain as a stronghold in our lives. A few examples are addiction, sexual sin or Lashon hara (evil speech which includes gossip, negativity or crude language). If this stronghold remains, we will be easily tempted in these areas and suffer defeat often.
There are a few possibilities for this remaining a stronghold even for believers.
- One, you may not really have repented of this sin. Sometimes we repent of a sin, but then do the same thing again. Was that true repentance? True repentance is to turn away from sin.
- Two, you may not believe that YHVH has forgiven you. If you don’t accept YHVH’s forgiveness, ha satan will use this to accuse you continuously. You will feel defeated and will be to weak to resist temptation.
- Three, you may not have forgiven yourself. As in the case of not accepting YHVH’s forgiveness, if you have not forgiven yourself, you will also be accused by ha satan. You will feel defeated and weak to temptation. He is using this to rule over your life.
- Another reason is that you think you are strong enough to resist temptation and allow yourself to be where you could be tempted. We are taught to flee from sin.
1 Peter 2:11
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
1 Corinthians 6:18
18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
2 Timothy 2:22
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on YHVH from a pure heart.
The next three strongholds are related to self
Trust in self and pride
These can also be strongholds in our life. When we trust in ourselves, we cannot trust YHVH. Pride causes us, among other things to be unteachable and not willing to admit error. This is a hindrance to us and to YHVH.
How we see YHVH or ourselves may also be a stronghold in our lives. If you see YHVH as an angry god who is looking for ways to punish you, you will not be able to receive the truth that He is love and loves you. If you see yourself as not worthy of love, you will not be able to receive love from others.
This too, can keep us in bondage and prevent us from receiving YHVH’s truth. Ask YHVH to reveal His truth to you in everything. We must always test everything we hear against YHVH’s truth.
Sitting in the council of the ungodly
1 John 2:15
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
The things of the world can be a stronghold too. Material things, a career or status. All these things can become strongholds if we put our trust in it.
Another way to develop a stronghold in your life is to spend too much time with ungodly people.
1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
1 Corinthians 15:33
33 Do not be deceived: â€œBad company corrupts good morals.â€
This is not an exhaustive list, rebellion is also a stronghold and lots of other things could be. The question we must ask to identify strongholds is: who or what is ruling my life? Is it YHVH, ha satan, myself or the world? If the answer is not YHVH, we have a stronghold in our lives. As we have seen from these examples, a stronghold is usually some form of deception. The stronghold which is bondage, must be broken before we can have freedom. Ask YHVH to reveal the stronghold in your life to you so you can have complete freedom in Him.
There is another reference to a stronghold in the Apostolic Scriptures which confirms what we have learned so far.
Break down every stronghold
2 Corinthians 10:3â€“5
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Elohim, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah,
Three things stand out:
1. Our weapons of warfare against strongholds are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful. We can’t break down strongholds by our own power, but in the name of YHVH, we can. Like David when he came against Goliath
1 Samuel 17:45
45 Then David said to the Philistine, â€œYou come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
2. We are to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Elohim, these are strongholds.
“Speculations” are false reasoning or deception
3361 Î»Î¿Î³Î¹ÏƒÎ¼ÏŒÏ‚ (logismos), Î¿á¿¦ (ou), á½ (ho): n.masc.; â‰¡ DBLHebr 4742; Str 3053; TDNT 4.284â€”1. LN 30.9 reasoning (Ro 2:15+); 2. LN 30.11 false reasoning (2Co 10:4+)3
And “lofty things” are arrogance or supernatural powers
5739 á½•ÏˆÏ‰Î¼Î± (hypsÅma), Î±Ï„Î¿Ï‚ (atos), Ï„ÏŒ (to): n.neu.; â‰¡ Str 5313; TDNT 8.613â€”1. LN 1.13 world above, heaven (Ro 8:39+), for another interp, see next; 2. LN 12.46 supernatural power (Ro 8:39+); 3. LN 88.207 arrogance, pretension (2Co 10:5+)3
3. We are to take every thought captive to the obediece of Messiah.
This is our strategy against strongholds. What are our weapons of warfare seeing that they are not of the flesh?
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of Elohim, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of Elohim. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,
From this passage, we learn that we are to resist and stand firm. It also tells us what we have available to us to do this. David Stern explains it well:
This description of the armor and weaponry that God provides confounds people who are used to fighting people by worldly methods and have no sensitivity to Godâ€™s methods, which are: truth, righteousness, readiness grounded in the Good News of shalom, trust, deliverance (or: â€œsalvationâ€), the Word of God given by the Spirit, and prayers. 4
We have now learned how we are to war against and what we have available to us. How do we put this in practice?
How do we do this?
The first step would be to determine if you have a stronghold in your life. That should be easy. Any persistent issue in your life may be a stronghold. Seek YHVH in prayer and fasting, He will show you. There may be a demonic influence and this should be dealt with. We have authority over demons under Yâ€™shua. We then need to prepare ourselves for future harassment.
Y’shua gave good advice:
31 So Y’shua was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, â€œIf you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.â€
We are to continue in YHVH’s word, be obedient to it and in this way we will learn the truth and the truth will set us free. The truth is YHVH’s word. The best way to fight any deception is with YHVH’s word, just like Y’shua did when He was tempted in the wilderness. This is why we need to memorize YHVH’s word. This is our weapon against strongholds. We are to take the thoughts captive and replace it with YHVH’s truth.
If you know there is a stronghold in your life, you are to ask YHVH to break it down or to help you to break it down. Then, find truth in YHVH’s word that will counter the lie or deception. Then you are to take that thought captive, in Y’shua, we have the authority to do this. This means we stop it, you can tell yourself audibly that that is not the truth and then replace it with YHVH’s truth. We have done a previous study which might be of some help here:Â Speak truth to yourself.
Let me give you an example. Say your stronghold is how you see YHVH and yourself. The first step is to identify this in your life. Then you must search the scriptures to learn who YHVH really is. Here are a few:
6 Then YHVH passed by in front of him and proclaimed, â€œYHVH, YHVH Elohim, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.â€
15 But You, O YHVH, are an Elohim merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of Elohim leads you to repentance?
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of Elohim, which is in Messiah Y’shua our Master.
These are just four examples from Scripture. Now memorize this and when you read the word, make notes of all the other verses you find about YHVH’s character. The word is full of examples of YHVH’s mercy, love and kindness towards us.
The next step is to find scripture to change how you see yourself.
13 â€œGreater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14 â€œYou are My friends if you do what I command you. 15 â€œNo longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
2 Corinthians 5:17
17 Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Y’shua.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of Elohim, even to those who believe in His name,
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So YHVH has compassion on those who fear Him.
13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my motherâ€™s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O Elohim! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.
This is just a few examples, you can find many more scriptures. If you meditate on this and memorize these scriptures, it will change how you see YHVH and yourself. If you can see yourself as special in YHVH’s eyes, what does it matter what others think of you? Your Father is the King of the Universe!
This is how strongholds are broken. YHVH’s word brings freedom.
We all may have a stronghold or strongholds in our lives. We may be held captive by it. However, we are not to despair; YHVH has given us the authority and power through Y’shua to overcome and be free from strongholds in our lives. YHVH’s truth, which is Y’shua, the Living word and his written word is all we need.
It was prophesied that Y’shua would set the captives free.
1 The Spirit of YHVH Elohim is upon me, Because YHVH has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;
Y’shua affirmed this when He read this passage in the Synagogue that day.
18 â€œThe Spirit of YHVH is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed,
Y’shua, through His sacrifice made it possible for us to be free. He has power over whatever may hold us in bondage or whatever oppression we face. We don’t have to make it complicated. All we need, we have in Him, the Living word and the written word. He has authority over all and he we have this authority in Him.
1 John 4:4
4 You are from Elohim, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
May YHVH bless you as you pursue complete freedom in Him by persisting in prayer, fasting and obedience.
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD, and Yâ€™shua for Jesus
- Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Websterâ€™s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Eph 6:10). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.
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