A thing that confines or restrains from liberty, such as a fetter or chain, a shackle, a manacle; also confinement (when plural); a binding force or influence; a cause of union; a uniting tie. In Bible times various means were employed for restraint of prisoners, including fetters, stocks, shackles, and handcuffs, as well as prison houses.
In the Scriptures the Hebrew word nechoʹsheth, usually meaning “copper,” is frequently translated “fetters of copper” or “copper fetters,” because fetters were often made of copper or bronze, although wood and iron were also employed. (2Sa 3:34; 2Ki 25:7) At Tocra, Libya, iron fetters were found closely resembling those pictured on Assyrian palace reliefs. Metal loops or bands 13 cm (5 in.) in diameter, large enough to encase the ankles, are linked by a flat bar. The bar, measured from end to end, is 18 cm (7 in.), which would force very small steps, making it difficult to walk. The Greek word for a “fetter” is peʹde, related to pous (foot).—Lu 8:29.
The Hebrew verb ʼa·sarʹ, meaning “tie; bind; put in bonds” (Jg 16:5; Eze 3:25; 2Ki 23:33), is the root of three other words having to do with bondage. ʼE·surʹ refers to “fetters” (Jer 37:15), moh·se·rohthʹ to “bands” (Ps 2:3), and ma·soʹreth to a “bond” (Eze 20:37). The Greek word for a bond is de·smosʹ (Lu 8:29), while synʹde·smos refers to a “uniting bond,” or “joint-bond.”—Eph 4:3, Int.
Chains were also used to bind prisoners. Two Hebrew words to denote a chain (rethu·qahʹ and rat·tohqʹ) come from the root ra·thaqʹ, meaning “bind.” (Na 3:10) Haʹly·sis is the Greek word for a chain.—Mr 5:3, 4.
Many of the faithful pre-Christian witnesses suffered bonds and imprisonment. (Heb 11:36) Of Jacob’s son Joseph in Egypt it is said, “with fetters they afflicted his feet, into irons his soul came.” (Ps 105:18) Delilah used seven still-moist sinews and, later, new ropes as bonds in an attempt to bring Samson into captivity to the Philistines, but these he broke easily. Finally, after he lost his strength and was captured, he was bound with two fetters of copper. (Jg 16:6-12, 21) Jeremiah was put in stocks by Pashhur, the temple commissioner, and was imprisoned by the princes of Judah in “the house of fetters.”—Jer 20:2, 3; 37:15.
Because of unfaithfulness, Jehovah allowed King Manasseh of Judah to be put in fetters of copper by the king of Assyria. King Nebuchadnezzar led King Zedekiah captive to Babylon, confined by fetters of copper. (2Ki 25:7; 2Ch 33:11; Jer 39:7; 52:11) Jeremiah was released, and his handcuffs were removed by Nebuchadnezzar’s chief bodyguard Nebuzaradan.—Jer 40:1, 4.
Jesus was bound by the men who seized him in the garden of Gethsemane and was led to Annas and sent away in the same condition to Caiaphas. After his trial before the Sanhedrin, he was bound at their order and taken to Pilate. (Joh 18:12, 13, 24, 28; Mr 15:1) Saul, before he was converted to Christianity to become the apostle Paul, was hunting out Christians to bring them bound to the Jewish high court. (Ac 9:2, 21) Peter was bound in chains between two soldiers by Herod, according to Roman custom.—Ac 12:6, 7.
During his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul, in several of his letters written from there, mentions being in prison bonds, and he refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains.” (Eph 6:20; Php 1:7, 13-17; Col 4:18; Phm 10, 13) However, as the description of his situation in Acts 28:16-31 indicates, he was granted considerable freedom of movement, which allowed for writing, as well as receiving guests and visitors and preaching to them. Paul was set free but later rearrested. During his second imprisonment in Rome, which ended with his execution, Paul was again confined in chains.—Phm 22; 2Ti 1:16; 2:9; 4:6-8.
Metaphoric and Symbolic Uses. The expressions “bonds” and “chains” are often used metaphorically in the Scriptures for imprisonment or some form of confinement. With reference to the Babylonian exile, Zion is prophetically spoken of as being in bonds or as having bands on her neck. (Isa 52:2) Although many exiles did come to have their own houses and considerable freedom, they were not at liberty to return to Zion, or Jerusalem.—Jer 29:4, 5.
God has restricted the disobedient angels in “eternal bonds under dense darkness.” (Jude 6) They are also said to be delivered into “pits of dense darkness.” (2Pe 2:4) Scriptural evidence shows that they are not denied all freedom of movement, inasmuch as they have been able to get possession of humans and even had access to the heavens until they were cast out by Michael and his angels and hurled down to the earth. (Mr 1:32; Re 12:7-9) Satan the Devil is to be bound with a great chain by the angel having the key of the abyss and hurled into the abyss for a thousand years, after which he is to be loosed for a little while. (Re 20:1-3) Since angels are not creatures of flesh and blood, this chain undoubtedly has reference to some binding force of which we have no knowledge.
The woman whom Jesus healed, who had been bent double through a spirit of weakness for 18 years, Jesus spoke of as bound by Satan. (Lu 13:11, 16) Peter called Simon, who was attempting to buy the gift of holy spirit, “a bond of unrighteousness.”—Ac 8:23.
In a favorable sense, Ezekiel speaks of “the bond of the covenant” because of a covenant’s binding force. (Eze 20:37) Those in the marriage covenant are viewed as “bound” by it. (Ro 7:2; 1Co 7:27, 39) Love is spoken of as “a perfect bond of union.”—Col 3:14.
[Picture on page 351]
Fettered prisoners painted on the soles of the feet of mummy wrappings. Figuratively, enemies were ‘put under foot’