Why did the execution of criminals include the breaking of their legs?
Regarding the execution of Jesus and two criminals on torture stakes, the Gospel account reads: “The Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away.”—John 19:31.
Jewish law stated that the body of a criminal hung on a stake after execution “should not remain all night on the stake.” (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23) The Jews apparently applied the same rule to those executed on a stake by the Romans. In this instance, breaking the men’s legs would hasten their death and permit their burial before the Sabbath began at sundown.
During many executions like these, a condemned man was affixed to a stake with nails that pierced his hands and his feet. When the stake was lifted upright, he would be left hanging in excruciating pain, with all his weight on those nails. In order to breathe, the individual would have to push up against the nail, or nails, in his feet. If the bones of his legs were broken, however, it would be impossible for him to do this. Death by asphyxiation—if not from shock—would quickly ensue.
How were slings used in ancient warfare?
The sling was the weapon that David used to slay the giant Goliath. David apparently learned to use this weapon during his years as a shepherd boy.—1 Samuel 17:40-50.
The sling is depicted in both the Egyptian and the Assyrian art from Bible times. The weapon consisted of an open pocket of leather or cloth attached to two straps or cords. The slinger would place in this pouch a smooth or rounded stone measuring two to three inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in diameter and weighing perhaps nine ounces (250 g). He would then whirl the sling above his head and release one of the cords, causing the stone to fly out with great force and accuracy.
Excavations in the Middle East have yielded great numbers of slingstones from wars in ancient times. Skilled warriors may have slung stones at speeds of 100 to 150 miles an hour (160 to 240 km/h). Scholars disagree on whether the sling had the range of a bow, but a sling could certainly prove just as lethal.—Judges 20:16.