PRISON

God has given governments the right to send law-breakers to prison (Rom 13:4), but he forbids brutal or excessive punishments. The punishment must be in proportion to the crime (Exod 21:23-25). In Bible times all sorts of places were used as prisons. In some cases there were official state prisons (Gen 39:20; 2 Kings 17:4; Mark 6:17; Acts 12:4; 16:24), though in other cases a prisoner may have been locked in the soldiers’ barracks at the palace (Jer 32:2), dropped into an old disused well (Jer 38:6), or kept under guard in a private house (Acts 28:16,30). Often the prison conditions were bad (Jer 37:18-20), the food poor (2 Chron 18:26) and the treatment cruel (Judg 16:21,25; Jer 52:11; Ezek 19:9). Such conditions were not as common in Israel as in neighbouring countries, because the law of Moses encouraged respect for justice and human life. The guilty were to be punished, but they were not to be degraded (Deut 25:3; cf. Num 15:34). (For further details see PUNISHMENT.)

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