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Easton's Bible Dictionary


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The first occasion on which we read of a prison is in the history of Joseph in Egypt. Then Potiphar, "Joseph's master, took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound" (Genesis 39:20-23 ). The Heb. word here used (sohar) means properly a round tower or fortress. It seems to have been a part of Potiphar's house, a place in which state prisoners were kept.

The Mosaic law made no provision for imprisonment as a punishment. In the wilderness two persons were "put in ward" (Leviticus 24:12 ; Numbers 15:34 ), but it was only till the mind of God concerning them should be ascertained. Prisons and prisoners are mentioned in the book of (Psalm 69:33 ; 79:11 ; 142:7 ). Samson was confined in a Philistine prison (Judges 16:21,25 ). In the subsequent history of Israel frequent references are made to prisons (1 Kings 22:27 ; 2 Kings 17:4 ; 25:27,29 ; 2 Chronicles 16:10 ; Isaiah 42:7 ; Jeremiah 32:2 ). Prisons seem to have been common in New Testament times (Matthew 11:2 ; 25:36,43 ). The apostles were put into the "common prison" at the instance of the Jewish council (Acts 5:18,23 ; 8:3 ); and at Philippi Paul and Silas were thrust into the "inner prison" (16:24; comp 4:3; 12:4,5).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Prison'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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