Dungeon (בּוֹר, bor, Ge 40:15; Ge 41:14, etc., a pit, as often rendered; fully בֵּית הִבּוֹר, house of the pit, Ex 12:29; Jer 37:16), is properly distinguished from the ordinary prison (כֶּלֶא or בֵּית כֶּלֶא, also מִטָּרָה or מַשׁמָר) as being more severe, and usually consisting of a deep cell or cistern (Jer 38:6; hence the propriety of the Hebrews word which indicates a hole), like the Roman inner prison (ἡ ἐσωτέρα φυλακή, Ac 16:24). Incarceration, a punishment so common in Egypt (Ge 39:20 sq.; 40:3 sq.; 41:10; 42:19), was also in use among the later Israelites (comp. Ezr 7:26). But it is nowhere mentioned in the law, perhaps because among a people, every man of whom was a landed proprietor, it was easily dispensed with, a fine being always easy to inflict; partly, too, because it seemed improper to take cultivators of the earth from their land for any length of time. (Other reasons are suggested by Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 5:45 so.) Arrest is mentioned, indeed (Le 24:12), but not as a punishment. The guilty was simply kept in ward to await sentence (comp. 2Ch 18:26; Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. II, 1:186). So it was a legal principle in Rome that a prison was to be used only to keep men, not to punish them. Under the later kings imprisonment was used as a penalty, yet, as it seems, not by judicial sentence, but at the will of the sovereign, especially in the case of too plain spoken prophets (2Ch 16:10; Jer 20:2; Jer 32:2 sq.; 33:1 sq.; 37:15). After the exile it became very customary (Mt 11:2; Lu 3:20; Joh 3:24), and was sometimes used to punish religious offenses (Ac 4:18,21; Ac 8:3; Ac 12:4; Ac 22:4; Ac 26:10), and in cases of debt (Mt 18:30; comp. Arvieux, 1:411). The most ancient prisons were simply water cisterns, out of which, since the sides came together above, one could not easily escape without aid (Ge 37:20,22). Imprisonment in these was often made the more unpleasant by deep mud (Jer 38:6). There were at the gates, or in the watch houses at the palaces of kings, or the houses of the commanders of the body guard, who were the executors of criminal sentences, especial state prisons (Jer 20:2; Jer 32:2; Ge 39:20 sq.; 40:4; comp. Jer 37:15,20; Harmer, Obs. 3:250 sq.). A prison of the kind last named is called prison house (בֵּית הִמִּהפֶּכֶת, 2Ch 16:10). The prisoners were kept in chains (Jg 16:21; 2Sa 3:34; Jer 40:1). Under the Roman empire they were chained, by one or both hands, to the soldiers who watched them (Ac 12:4; Ac 21:33; Pliny, Ep. 10:65; Seneca, Ep. 5, and De tranquil. An. 10; Athen. 5. 213; Joseph. Ant. 18:6, 7), as is still the custom in Abyssinia (Rippell, Abys. 1:218). Sometimes the Israelites chained them by the feet to a wooden block (Job 13:27; Job 33:11; Ac 16:24; comp. Wetstein in loc.; Jacob, ad Lucian. Toxar. page 104), or by the neck (comp. Aristophanes, Clouds, 592), or by the hands and feet at once. Such severe imprisonment is to be understood in Jer 20:2; Jer 29:26, where our version has "in the stocks" (comp. Symmach. βασανιστήριον, στρεβλωτήριον; and the Greek κύφων, Schol. in Aristoph. Plut. page 476). Poor and meagre fare seems to have added to the severity of the penalty (2Ch 18:26). An example of lax state imprisonment appears in 1Ki 2:37. Visits to prisoners are allowed with comparative freedom in the East (Mt 25:36; Jer 32:8; see Rosenmuller, Morgenland, 5:101). Roman prison discipline appears especially in the Acts of the Apostles. The keeper of the prison is called in Greek δεσμοφύλαξ (Ac 16:23; Ac 27:36), but once πράκτωρ (Lu 12:58), and was armed (Ac 16:27). SEE PRAETORIUM. See in general A. Bombardini. De carcere et antiquo ejus usu (Padua, 1713). SEE PRISON.

Bible concordance for DUNGEON.

Definition of dungeon

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