priz’-n, priz’-’-n-er, priz’-ner (there are various Hebrew words which are rendered "prison" in the
1. Hebrew Words:
(1) cohar, "round house," "fortress" (8 times in Genesis), (2) kele’ "restraint," "confinement" (12 times: in historic books, Isaiah, Jeremiah, with "house"), (3) maTTarah, "guard," "sentry" (13 times in Jeremiah and Nehemiah), (4) mahaphekheth, "distorting," i.e. stocks or pillory (4 times), (5) ’ecur, "bond," "fetters" (Ec 4:14; Jer 37:15); "ward" in the King James Version is usually the rendering for mishmar):
2. In Early Times:
The earliest occurrence of the word "prison" in the King James Version is found in the narrative of Joseph’s life in Egypt (the Jahwist). The term used, namely, cohar, means perhaps "round house" or "tower." It seems probable that among the Hebrews there were no special buildings erected as "jails" in the premonarchical period, and perhaps not before the post-exilic period, when the adoption of the civic institutions and customs of surrounding nations prevailed. In Egypt and Assyria, on the contrary, there were probably public buildings corresponding to our modern jails. Among the Hebrews, rooms in connection with the royal palace or the residence of prominent court officials would be used for the purpose.
3. Joseph in Egypt:
According to one narrative (Jahwist) in Genesis the prison in which Joseph was confined had a "keeper," while according to another narrative (the Elohist) the offending members of the royal household, namely, the royal butler and the royal baker, were placed "in ward" with the "captain of the guard" in charge, i.e. in some part of the royal palace. This is still more probable if, instead of "captain of the guard," we should translate "chief of the cooks" i.e. superintendent of the royal kitchen.
4. Causes of Imprisonment:
It was often necessary to restrict the liberty of individuals who for various causes were a menace to those in authority, without inflicting any corporal punishment, e.g. Joseph’s brethren were kept "in ward" three days (Ge 42:19); Shimei was forbidden to pass beyond the boundary of Jerusalem (1Ki 2:36); the person who was caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath was put "in ward" pending his trial (Nu 15:34). In the monarchical period, prophets who criticized the throne were put in prison, e.g. Micaiah by Ahab (1Ki 22:27), Hanani by Asa (2Ch 16:10). Hoshea, after his abortive effort to institute an alliance with So or Seve, king of Egypt, was shut up in prison by Shalmaneser (2Ki 17:4); compare also 2Ki 25:27 (Jehoiachin in Babylon); Jer 52:11 (Zedekiah in Babylon).
5. Under the Monarchy:
6. The Treatment of Prisoners:
The data are not sufficient to enable us to give any detailed description of the treatment of prisoners. This treatment varied according to the character of the offense which led to incarceration. Samson during the period of his imprisonment was compelled to do hard labor (Jud 16:21). Grinding was the occupation of women, and marked the depth of Samson’s humiliation. Dangerous persons were subjected to various kinds of physical mutilation, e.g. Samson was deprived of his sight. This was a common practice in Assyria (2Ki 25:7). The thumbs and great toes of Adonibezek were cut off to render him incapable of further resistance (Jud 1:6).
Various forms of torture were in vogue. Hanani the seer was put into the pillory by Asa (for "in a prison house" we should render "in the stocks"; see the Jer 29:26 for "prison," we should render "stocks" (so the Revised Version (British and American)) or "pillory," and for "stocks," "collar" (as in the Revised Version margin). the King James Version renders a different Hebrew word by "stocks" in Job (13:27; 33:11). There was a special prison diet (1Ki 22:27), as well as a prison garb (2Ki 25:29).margin). In
7. Other Hebrew Words:
There are other Hebrew words rendered "prison" (sometimes incorrectly) in the King James Version. In Ps 142:7, the word which is translated "prison" means a "place of execution," and is derived from a root which denotes, for instance, the isolation of the leper (Le 13:5; compare $Isa 24:22; 42:7). In Isa 53:8 "oppression" not "prison" is the correct translation while in Isa 61:1 the Hebrew denotes "opening of the eyes," rather than "opening of the prison." Prisoners are promised "light after darkness, gleam after gloom."
8. In the:
See also PUNISHMENTS.