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 ( Psalms 69:33 ; 79:11 ; 142:7 ). Samson was confined in a Philistine prison ( Judges 16:21 Judges 16:25 ). In the subsequent history of Israel frequent references are made to prisons ( 1 Kings 22:27 ; 2 Kings 17:4 ; 1 Kings 25:27 1 Kings 25:29 ; 2 Chr 16:10 ; Isaiah 42:7 ; Jeremiah 32:2 ). Prisons seem to have been common in New Testament times ( Matthew 11:2 ; Matthew 25:36 Matthew 25:43 ). The apostles were put into the "common prison" at the instance of the Jewish council ( Acts 5:18 Acts 5:23 ; 8:3 ); and at Philippi Paul and Silas were thrust into the "inner prison" ( 16:24 ; comp 4:3 ; Acts 12:4 Acts 12:5 ).
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.
[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationEaston, Matthew George. "Entry for Prison". "Easton's Bible Dictionary".