Prison In The Bible

Prison in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t mention prisons. In older times, many countries had no prisons and people were punished by whipping, beating or stoning to death. People accused of crimes were often taken from their homes and imprisoned for months or years before facing trial. By the time they were freed and allowed to return home, it was too late for them to reclaim their property.

It is clear that there was a recognized institution of imprisonment in the first century in the Roman Empire. It was also quite manifest that this institution was in every way as formidable and cruel as it has just been described. This common prison was for felons only, and there were no accommodations for debtors except those made within the civil power itself. A practice uniformly retained among heathen nations to the present time; but from the constitution of things, no such prison could be erected for public use until after there was a public store of weapons, such as swords and spears, to arm sentinels who might be placed over it by the government.

The Bible has a lot to say about prisons. It even has sections dedicated to the topic — such as Ephesians 4:25-32 and Philippians 1:20-24. There are a lot of people who go to prison (Joseph, for example) and a lot of people who end up in prison because of the laws set by those in power (the apostles for example).

God warned Israel that crossing the Jordan River would put them in the Promised Land. Israel needed to understand what was on the other side. God told Moses, “Cross to the other side.” Moses led three million people there, and at first glance, it seemed like a beautiful place (Deut.1:25-26). It took years for Israel to reach Canaan; they had many problems on their journey which also included some time in Egypt. Moses knew that God had given them this land, not only because Abraham wanted it (Genesis 15:7), but no one owned it yet (Numbers 21:21-35). The territory they were entering was wild and uninhabited before they arrived. However, Israel did not fully understand what was before them — until after crossing the Jordan River.

Prison In The Bible

Jesus’ “mission statement” when he begins his public ministry in Galilee includes a promise of liberation and release for those who are incarcerated. While the New Testament context of “captivity” wasn’t entirely the same as modern imprisonment, Jesus’ promise aligns liberation of prisoners with healing and good news for the poor and oppressed. Taking Jesus’ words in this text seriously forces us to ask: If God’s reign is characterized by freedom for prisoners, why are we supporting incarceration now?

Prison In The Bible

Isaiah 61:1 ESV / 136 helpful votes Helpful Not Helpful

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Matthew 25:36 ESV / 132 helpful votes 

I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Hebrews 13:3 ESV / 123 helpful votes 

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

Ezra 7:26 ESV / 98 helpful votes 

Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

Psalm 69:33 ESV / 71 helpful votes 

For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

2 Timothy 2:9 ESV / 58 helpful votes 

For which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!

Leviticus 24:12 ESV / 58 helpful votes 

And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them.

2 Corinthians 6:5 ESV / 31 helpful votes 

Beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;

Numbers 15:34 ESV / 31 helpful votes 

They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him.

Revelation 2:10 ESV / 28 helpful votes 

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Philippians 1:27 ESV / 28 helpful votes 

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV / 25 helpful votes 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 34:18 ESV / 21 helpful votes 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 31:1-24 ESV / 21 helpful votes 

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God. …

Jeremiah 52:11 ESV / 18 helpful votes 

He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains, and the king of Babylon took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV / 16 helpful votes 

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Acts 21:13-17 ESV / 16 helpful votes 

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge. When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.

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