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The English word fetter originated from an old Anglo-Saxon word relating to feet. It came to be used for a locking chain or bar that was used to shackle the feet or ankles of people or animals. The device has been long known; "fetter" is sometimes used to translate the Old Testament Hebrew words (pronounced) nek-oh-sheth, zee-kaw, and keh-bel, and the New Testament Greek word (pronounced) ped-ay - all of which are used in the Scriptures to refer to shackles.


Fetters After Samson was captured by the Philistines, they gouged out his eyes (the ancient version of prisoners of war having an empty military sand-bag placed over their heads) and bound with fetters:

"But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house." (Judges 16:21 KJV)

After Abner surrendered to King David, and was murdered by Joab without David's knowledge or consent, David lamented his death by proclaiming that Abner, as a surrendered combatant, should have been treated with the same respect that David expected to be given to any of his troops who were captured (abusing prisoners of war is a fool's game - it virtually guarantees attrocities committed in retaliation):

"And the king lamented over Abner ... Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him." (2 Samuel 3:33-34 KJV)

After The Lord not only allowed but brought about the Babylonians to conquer Judah (see Why Babylon?), King Zedekiah of Judah (see Kings of Israel and Judah, also Israelite Dynasties) was blinded by the Babylonian troops and put in fetters (as with the Philistines, the heathen Babylonians often blinded prisoners of war - God's people didn't):

"And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes [the royal line survived however, through the king's daughters - see Baruch], and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon." (2 Kings 25:7 KJV)

Fetters were sometimes used as a medical restraint, as in the case of a demon-possessed man that Jesus Christ later healed:

"And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him." (Mark 5:1-4 KJV)

Fact Finder: (a) Was Peter ever held in chains for preaching the Gospel? (b) Was Paul ever placed in chains for preaching the Gospel?
(a) Acts 12:6 (b) Acts 21:33
See also Prisoners Of Righteousness

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