It is exciting to read of the many victories that God’s people won in the Bible. However, sadly, they did not emerge victorious in every battle they fought. Sometimes Israel won. Sometimes it was the Philistines. Occasionally, when Israel won the immediate battle, there was sin in the camp that caused future defeats.
Here are 7 battles in the Bible that you should know. Some are very famous (Jericho, David and Goliath) while others are lesser known (Philistines capturing the Ark). I trust you will enjoy this list and share with us in the comments what your favorite Bible battle is.
Jericho – Joshua 6
Joshua led the children of Israel back to the Jordan River to cross into the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. They first obstacle was the city of Jericho . This large walled city was formidable, but through the work of spies they learned that the people of Jericho were scared of Israel (Joshua 1-2).
Joshua received his marching orders from an appearance of the “Captain of the Lord’s Host.” This may have been an appearance of God personally to bring the message to Joshua. The message was that the Hebrew military would march around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day they would march around seven times (Joshua 5:13-6:5).
Following God’s plan the children of Israel defeated the city of Jericho. After they marched around the city according to their instructions, the walls fell down flat. Israel entered the city and took the city as their first victory in the new territory God had promised to them several hundred years before (Joshua 6:6-27).
Ai – Joshua 7-8
Immediately following the battle of Jericho the Israelites went up to the city of Ai. The whole army did not go because it was a much smaller city than Jericho. However, they were turned away by the might of this small town. Thirty-six Hebrews died in the battle that should have been an easy win for them (Joshua 7:3-5).
God revealed to Joshua that there was sin in the camp. A man named Achan had taken gold, silver and garments from Jericho (Joshua 7:20-21). According to God’s plan, all the spoils from Jericho were to be dedicated to God. After that, God planned to allow the children of Israel to keep all future spoils. However, when Achan stole that which should have been dedicated to God he brought judgment on the people.
After Achan and all that he owned were stoned and burned (Joshua 7:25), Israel once again marched against the city of Ai. Again a partial army presented themselves to Ai. When the men of Ai came out against Israel, the Israelites fled in retreat. But this time their retreat was a tactical move to pull the men out of the city so that the rest of the army could enter Ai unabated and take the city (Joshua 8:3-8).
Gideon – Judges 7-8:21
God sent an angel to speak to Gideon who was gathering wheat. Israel had been surrounded by the army of the Midianites and cut off from supplies. Gideon was working diligently when he got the message that God wanted him to lead an army against the enemy. Gideon was humbled by the personal request from God, but agreed to let God use him (Judges 6:12-16).
Gideon gathered all the men he could to go against Midian. His army numbered 32,000 men. But God said that was too many. Gideon  invited all those who were afraid to go back home without any repercussions. He was probably quite disappointed when 22,000 of them turned and walked away. God said that the 10,000 were too many (Judges 7:3).
God instructed Gideon to take the remaining men to a place to get a drink. Most fell on their stomachs to drink deeply from the water. A few scooped the water to their mouths so that they could keep their eyes open for any enemies. God told Gideon that those men who were vigilant were the men who were to go against Midian (Judges 7:5-7). While it was good that Gideon was given the best of the soldiers, they only numbered 300 men. If he was disappointed before, he was even more so now. But God assured Gideon that the battle would be won by the Lord and not by the men. God did not want any one thinking that Gideon and his men won the battle. They were merely tools in God’s hand.
Standing in the hills over the camp of the 135,000 man army of the Midianites must have been frightening. However, God told Gideon to go down into the camp and listen to a couple men tell about a dream.
One man said that he dreamed that a large loaf of barley rolled down the hill and crushed the encampment. The other man said that it was a vision that Gideon would trample them. They did not know that Gideon and a servant were sitting outside their tent listening to the conversation. Gideon returned to the camp encouraged for the upcoming battle (Judges 7:9-15).
Gideon equipped the men with trumpets, clay pots and lanterns. At Gideon’s signal they broke their pots and blew their horns. The men of Midian were startled awake with all the noise. Confused, they began fighting one another. Of those who escaped (only 15,000), Gideon was able to capture them in the chase that followed (Judges 8:10-12).
There was no question that God gave the 300-man army of Israel victory over the 135,000-man army of Midian.
Philistines Take the Ark – 1 Samuel 4:1-11
Israel battled the Philistines often in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 4 the Philistines overcame Israel and killed about 4,000 men (1 Samuel 4:2). Israel went to seek out the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh where it was located because they were convinced that the presence of the Ark would protect them in battle (1 Samuel 4:3-5). They trusted in the Ark more than in the God of the Ark.
When the Ark arrived in the camp, the Israelites cheered so loudly that the Philistines wondered what was taking place. They learned that the Ark had come into the camp. Though the Philistines had never experienced God’s presence directly, they had heard stories. And the stories frightened them. They recounted to one another how that God had done mighty works for Israel when He led them from Egypt. Not wanting to become servants of Israel, the Philistines fought even harder. They killed 30,000 of Israel’s infantry (1 Samuel 4:10). Besides losing the Ark, the son’s of Eli, the high priest, were killed in the battle (1 Samuel 4:11).
And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. (1 Samuel 4:2-11)
Again, Israel trusted in the mere presence of the Ark. What they needed was the presence of God.
Saul Against the Amalekites – 1 Samuel 15
Samuel gave the battle plan to King Saul for the fight against Amalek. The armies of Israel were to battle the Amelekites and King Agag to the death. There were not to be any men or animals left standing (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul led an army of 210,000 men. But Saul and the people did not obey the command of God. They spared King Agag and the best of the animals (1 Samuel 15:9, 14-15). These animals were supposedly for a sacrifice to God.
When the prophet Samuel found out that God’s orders were not obeyed, he became angry with Saul. Saul offered his excuses that it was the people who had made the decision and that the animals were saved for a good cause (1 Samuel 15:15). However, Samuel told Saul that God would rather have obedience than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel called for King Agag to be brought before him. The Bible says that Agag came into the presence of Samuel cautiously, but hopeful that his life might be spared (1 Samuel 15:32). Within moments Samuel declared that as Agag had caused many women to be childless, his mother was about to lose her own child. At that point Samuel cut Agag into pieces (1 Samuel 15:33).
David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17
Probably the best known battle in the Bible is when the shepherd boy David fought against the well trained soldier named Goliath. They met when David came to bring supplies to his brothers who were engaged in battle as soldiers with Israel against the Philistines. Goliath came to the front lines and declared that he would go one-on-one with anyone who dared to face him. Goliath challenged the veracity of the faith of Israel in their God. Goliath did not believe in Israel’s God and therefore mocked God because of the fear that the people had for Goliath (1 Samuel 17:8-11).
David took the challenge and prepared to fight Goliath . King Saul offered his royal armor to David for the battle. David said that he did not need those things to fight the giant. He would trust in the God of Israel who had saved him from attacks by a lion and a bear. This same God would save David from Goliath (1 Samuel 17:32-39).
David carefully chose five stones from a stream and charged towards Goliath. Goliath was amazed that such a young boy would come so bravely towards him. David fitted a stone in his sling and sent it towards Goliath. God guided the rock which struck Goliath between the eyes. David took the giant sword of the fallen warrior and cut of Goliath’s head (1 Samuel 17:40-51). The Philistines fled and Israel pursued. God won a great victory in Israel that day through the hand of a young man who trusted in his God.
Battle of Armageddon – Revelation 19:11-21
After the rapture of the church and the great tribulation, Jesus Himself will lead an army at the battle of Armageddon. Christ and His army will descend on white horses to do battle against the beast, the false prophet and the kings of the earth (Revelation 19:11-14). Christ and His armies fight with swords and emerge victorious. The beast and false prophet are taken and cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). Those who remain are slain. The birds of the field will feast on their flesh.
Not all the battles that Israel and God’s people fought ended in victory. It was only when they obeyed the Lord and trusted in God did they emerge victorious. In our own lives today we face battles. Not on a field with swords and spears, but in our hearts and minds .
We can only be victorious if we are obedient to what God has revealed to us. So many times people complain that they aren’t seeing victories in their lives, yet they ignore the fact that they are not being obedient. Or maybe they are trusting in the Lord today, but are suffering the consequences of past disobedience. We may have forgiveness of sins, but that does not mean that all the consequences will be taken away from us.
God wants us to live victorious Christian lives. But for us to win our daily battles we need to follow the One who leads us.
Read more about the Battle of Armageddon here:
Resource – The Holy Bible, King James Version