- (1) shoq, Aramaic shoq; (2) kara`, dual kera`ayim; (3) reghel; skelos; the King James Version translates also shobhel, and tse`adhah, with "leg," but mistakenly): (1) The first Hebrew word (shoq) denotes the upper leg, and is therefore synonymous with THIGH (which see). It expresses metaphorically the muscular strength, and the pride of the runner. "He taketh no pleasure in the legs of a man" (Ps 147:10
). "His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold" (Song 5:15
). If the legs have lost their strength as in the lame or the Beri-beri patient, they become a metaphor for anything useless, inefficient or disappointing: "The legs of the lame hang loose; so is a parable in the mouth of fools" (Prov 26:7
). The Aramaic form is found in the description of the image of Nebuchadnezzar, "its legs of iron" (Dan 2:33
). (2) Kara`, dual kera`ayim, the "leg," "respecting the legs," mentioned as a portion of the paschal lamb (Ex 12:9
), or, usually, in connection with the head and the inwards, as a sacrificial portion (Ex 29:17
; Lev 1:9,13
; Am 3:12
). The word designates also the legs of leaping insects of the orthopterous family, locusts, etc., which were permitted as food to the Israelites (Lev 11:21
). (3) Reghel, literally, "foot" (which see), found in this sense only once: "He (Goliath) had greaves of brass upon his legs" (1 Sam 17:6
Two passages of wrong translation in the King James Version have been corrected by the Revised Version (British and American). The virgin daughter of Babylon is addressed: "Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh" (Isa 47:2), the Revised Version (British and American) renders: "Strip off the train (shobhel), uncover the leg," the idea being that the gentle maid, who has been brought up in affluence and luxury, will have to don the attire of a slave girl and do menial work, for which her former garments are unsuited. The other passage is in Isa 3:20, where the King James Version reads: "the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs," the Revised Version (British and American) corrects: "the headtires (ts`adhah), and the ankle chains."
In the New Testament the word "leg" is found only in connection with the breaking of the legs of the persons crucified with the Saviour (Jn 19:31,32,33). We know from Roman and Greek authors that this was done as a coup de grace to shorten the miseries of criminals condemned to die on the cross. The practice bore the technical name of skelokopia, Latin crurifragium. The verb skelokopein ("to break the legs"), is found in the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (1 Pet 4:14), where it is distinctly stated that the legs of Jesus were not broken, that His sufferings on the cross might be extended, while the two malefactors crucified with Him were mercifully dispatched in this way. The crurifragium consisted of some strokes with a heavy club or mallet, which always materially hastened the death of the sufferer, and often caused it almost immediately.
Edersheim, in LTJM, II, 613, suggests that the breaking of legs was an additional punishment, and that it was always followed by a coup de grace, the perforatio or percussio sub alas, a stroke with sword or lance into the side. This, however, is not borne out by any classical information which is known to me, and is contradicted by the statement of the evangelist that Jesus received the percussio, while the malefactors endured the crurifragium. Compare on this subject, especially for parallels from classical authors, Sepp, Das Leben Jesu, VII, 441, and Keim, Jesus von Nazara (English translation), VI, 253, note 3.
H. L. E. Luering