Not One Bone Broken

One of the most extraordinary prophecies of the Messiah is found in the detailed description of His crucifixion. During this horrific process, often the legs of those who were placed upon the cross, were broken in order to hasten their death. As we examine the specific events that took place at the time Jesus died, we are awestruck by the fact that this event was predicted and described, almost 1,400 years before Jesus was crucified.

This is Part One of this chapter; detailing three prophecies from the Hebrew scriptures that describe a Messiah who will have “not one bone broken.”

Part One: Exodus 12:43,46
Part Two: Numbers 9:12
Part Three: Psalm 34:20

No bone of the Messiah shall be broken during His sacrifice as the Passover Lamb.

Exodus 12:43, 46 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover…, nor shall you break one of its bones.”

To see the components in the Feast of Passover, see the chapter: Passover Lamb.

New Testament Fulfillment:

John 19:31-35 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.

John 19:36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.”

Unattainable Requirements

There is a goal in the lives of those who endeavor to be great men of faith; to attempt something so impossible, that without God causing it happen, it is certain to fail.

Imagine a prophecy that has a component which is so difficult to fulfill, that should it actually happen, it would be unmistakable evidence that the one who satisfied the requirements of that prophecy, must be the Messiah.

Despite the normal procedure for a crucifixion in which the legs of a man would be broken to hasten his death, Jesus’ legs are not broken during His crucifixion. How could someone engineer his own death by crucifixion, yet none of his bones would be broken, as was common during crucifixions of that day?

Of course, it would be impossible to set up—in advance, the events that would happen during the final hours of a person’s life. No sane person would purposely engineer a grotesque and vicious death by crucifixion for himself. If Jesus wanted to deceive the world into believing that He was the Messiah, would He go so far as to ensure that He would be killed by such a horrific event? Under normal circumstances, only a deranged person would do such a thing.

The question then arises: Do insane people say and do the kinds of things that Jesus said and did during the three and one-half years of His public ministry? Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and forgave the sins of those who came to Him in repentance. He told everyone in advance that the purpose of His life was to die for the sins of the world. He had no home, possessions, or desire for wealth or power. All of His life was dedicated to loving people and bringing them into a relationship with God.

Since it is apparent that Jesus is not insane and He is no liar; the only option that remains is that He knew what He was doing. Jesus allowed Himself to be put to death because He was following a pre-determined plan—to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah.

Ten times, Matthew records the words: that it might be fulfilled.

Matthew 1:22-23 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Predicted in Isaiah 7:14

Matthew 2:15 …and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Predicted in Hosea 11:1

Matthew 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Predicted in Isaiah 11:1

Matthew 4:14-16 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” Predicted in Isaiah 9:1

Matthew 8:17 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.” Predicted in Isaiah 53:4

Matthew 12:17-21 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; And in His name Gentiles will trust.” Predicted in Isaiah 42:1

Matthew 13:35 …that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Predicted in Psalm 78:2

Matthew 21:4-5 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” Predicted in Zechariah 9:9

Matthew 26:56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled. Predicted in Zechariah 13:7

Matthew 27:35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Predicted in Psalm 22:18

Matthew understood that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament; which predicted the coming of the Messiah. Jesus placed Himself right in the middle of all these prophecies and acknowledged that He was the one appointed to fulfill all these promises of God.

Jesus had advanced knowledge of every event that would happen to Him, because He is the eternal God. Before the heavens or the earth were created, Jesus offered His life for the sins of the world. His love for all people was so great that He was willing to die for us, even though a vast majority of people would never accept His love or offer of forgiveness.

In these prophecies, we find the Lord’s assurance that everything He said is trustworthy. He gave us these many and various prophecies to make it absolutely clear that Jesus is the Messiah and to demonstrate that no other person could fulfill these many predictions.

God wanted to ensure that when He sent His Son into the world to die for us, that we would easily be able to identify Him as the Messiah.

In this prophecy that Jesus fulfilled, from Exodus 12:43, 46; the Passover Lamb could not have a single bone broken during the sacrifice of His life.

If a man were going to set himself up, so that He could be identified as the promised Messiah; a man who would fulfill the prophecies of the Passover Lamb, how could he make sure that during his crucifixion, not one of His bones would be broken?

When Jesus was brought to the Cross to be put to death, it was on the evening of Passover. According to Jewish tradition, the body of someone who was crucified could not be left on the cross past the start of the Sabbath, which began at 6 pm. Since Jesus was placed on the Cross at the 3rd hour, which is 9 am, the Jews in Israel wanted to ensure that He did not remain on the Cross at the start of the Sabbath, at 6 pm. Often, those who were crucified would live for days while hanging on the cross, before they would expire.

It was traditional to break the legs of a condemned criminal who had been placed upon a cross, in order to hasten his death. The very act of being nailed to a cross caused great difficulty in breathing. The crucified would have to push down with his feet on the pedestal that his two fee was nailed to, just to stand up for a moment and draw a breath of air. Being suspended on the cross by the arms, the lungs were greatly impeded, and the mechanics of breathing were nearly impossible. The final strike against the body that ultimately caused the death of a crucified man was asphyxiation. After many hours, or often days—hanging on the cross, a person would become so fatigued that he was unable to push himself up, allowing breath to enter his lungs. Once this occurred, death quickly followed.

If the bones of a person on a cross, were broken at the middle of the lower leg; it would be impossible to thrust the body upwards and draw a breath. Instead of death by crucifixion taking days, it could occur within minutes. When the Roman guards came to break the legs of the three men who were being crucified on that day, they found that Jesus had already expired, and there was no need to break His legs.

Remember that in most cases, the legs of the condemned on the cross were not broken. Only during times of necessity, such as when there was an impending Sabbath that would begin soon. This was only done so that the condemned would die quickly and allow his body to be removed from the cross before the Sabbath began.

See the Chapter in this book: Crucified, for more details.

The fact that this event was predicted for the Messiah (as He fulfills the intent of the Passover Lamb), implies that the author of this prophecy knew His legs would not be broken. The writer possessed advanced knowledge that the Messiah would be put to death on the cross, along with the other criminals who were also being crucified. Even more amazing, the fact that the two criminals would have their legs broken, while those of the Messiah would be left intact. In about 90 percent of all crucifixions, the executioners did not break the legs of those on the cross.[1] The author of this prophecy knew that this crucifixion would occur just before the start of the Jewish Sabbath, which would require the legs of the crucified to be broken; yet leaving the bones of the Messiah unbroken—in fulfillment of Exodus 12:46.

How is it possible to write in describing these specific details unless the writer had actually seen the events take place?

This is truly an incredible prediction if we give proper consideration for what is stated here. The manner in which Jesus perfectly fulfilled these words; when He was not able to control what happened, is stunning. Only someone from outside time, who could see events take place before they actually occurred on earth, could accurately tell us these fascinating details. A Transcendent Being who lives outside the constraints of time would have the opportunity to see any event that would happen here on earth, at any time.

Incredibly, this event fulfilled the prediction of this prophecy from Exodus chapter 12; describing the death of the Savior: Not one bone of His body will be broken.

One of the stunning calling cards that undeniably identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior of the world, is this fact of His crucifixion. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, the Roman soldiers did not break His legs to hasten His death. Jesus was in complete control of the precise moment of His death. He said in advance that He had the power to lay His life down, when He wanted to, and He had the power to take it back again; in resurrection, three days later.

John 10:17-18 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Amongst all of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled, this is one of the most stunning and compelling—proving that the Messiah is Jesus Christ, there is no other.

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Part Two: Prophecy from Numbers 9:12

Not one bone of the Messiah shall be broken.

Numbers 9:12 “They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it.”

New Testament Fulfillment:

John 19:31-33 “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”

Extreme Validation

When the Roman soldiers come to break the legs of Jesus in order to hasten His death, they found that He was already dead. These men unknowingly became instruments in fulfilling the three prophecies of the Old Testament; which specifically state that the bones of the Passover Lamb could not be broken.

It seems that this specific aspect of the Messiah’s death is of particular importance to the Lord, as it is reported in three different prophecies. Upon examination of the circumstances surrounding this event, we can see why.

The purpose of these many Old Testament predictions is to validate the identity of the one who is the true Messiah. The source who revealed that that the legs of the Messiah would not be broken would also have to know that there would be two other men who were also being crucified on the same day. He would need to know that the crucifixion of the Messiah was going to happen on Passover, the day before the Sabbath. As a result of the specific day in which this would take place, the bodies of these men could not remain on their crosses past 6 p.m., on the day of their execution. The only way to make certain that the condemned could be removed before the beginning of the Sabbath at 6 p.m., was to accelerate their death by breaking the lower portion of their legs at the shin bone, so that lifting themselves to breath would be impossible.

“Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”[2]

This specific detail allows us to understand that the fulfillment of this prophecy was extremely difficult. The fact that every event did occur perfectly as Moses and David wrote, calls for our consideration. When Jesus fulfilled the words of these three prophecies precisely, this reality leaves us with no other conclusion except—He is the person these prophecies were written for.

Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12 were written 1,500 years before Jesus was born. Psalm 34:20 was written 1,000 years before Jesus was born.

In order for any person to be the true Messiah, He would have to fulfill the requirements of the Passover Lamb. When God told Moses what the specific details for the sacrifice were, He had in mind the time when His Son would come to earth 1,500 years later and be our Passover Lamb. God included the details of this procedure in His instructions to Moses in both Exodus and Numbers; in anticipation of the time when Jesus would arrive. The fact that the legs of the Messiah would not be broken, while those of the two men would; is an extraordinary revelation. To fulfill this requirement Jesus knew that He would have to die before the Roman soldiers came to break the legs of the two other men. In order to accomplish this, Jesus would need to have power over life and death, so that He could command His spirit to depart His body, before the soldiers came to break His legs.

Although the Roman soldiers break the legs of both criminals who were crucified next to Jesus, when they examine Jesus; they find that He has already expired, negating the need to break His legs. Think for a moment and consider what an amazing event this was. How carefully God had to plan and arranged the events of Jesus’ crucifixion so that He would fully pay for the sins of the world on the cross, but die before the soldiers arrive to break His legs. Imagine what it would have meant if Jesus had continued to live just a short time longer, and the soldiers had also broken His legs! Jesus would have failed to fulfill the prophecies that describe the Messiah as the Passover Lamb with not one bone broken. A simple failure in just this one prediction would have meant that Jesus could not fulfill all the prophecies of the Messiah, and He could not be our Savior. What great precision and control the Lord has orchestrated to ensure that Jesus would fulfill these many Old Testament prophecies!

What if: on the day that Jesus was crucified, He was the only one to died on a cross? What if there was only one other criminal to die, Isaiah said “transgressors.” This would have disqualified Isaiah’s prophecy, and more yet: it would have disqualified all of Isaiah’s prophecies. In order to be defined by God as a true prophet, all of the words of every prophecy that is spoken, must come to pass—precisely as they were predicted.[3] If this one prophecy had not been fulfilled by Isaiah, because Jesus was the only man to die on that day, then all 131 of Isaiah’ s prophecies would have been disqualified. This gives us an idea how impossible it was for these men to write such perfect descriptions and have them fulfilled to the very letter.

Jesus had to know every detail in advance

How is it possible to write in describing these explicit details unless the author had actually seen the events take place before they happened? This is truly an incredible prediction when we consider the extreme difficulty in causing the many specific details required to bring about this prophetic fulfillment.

Jesus was not a helpless condemned man dying on a cross with no control over anything that happened to Him. He not only told Moses to write this prediction, 1,500 years before these events took place, He controlled the specific way in which He died to insure the precise outcome. Jesus exhibits stunning control over all these circumstances—so that His bones would not be broken, in fulfillment of these three prophecies.

Let us imagine for just a moment that the timing of any one of the events concerning the crucifixion had been altered in the slightest. Let us say that the beating that Jesus received by scourging was just slightly more severe. The pressure from the strikes against His body just a little harder. What if the soldier beating Jesus with the scourge had hit a vital organ with the metal pieces of the scourge, causing it’s failure? Jesus may have died before He even made it to the cross. What if Jesus did not have the ability to control the precise moment that His Spirit departed His body? He would still be alive when the soldiers came to break the legs of the other men, and His legs would have also been broken. These simple changes in the entire process would have invalidated Jesus claim to be the Messiah—for the prophecies specifically state that the legs of the Messiah cannot be broken.

“No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down when I chose. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it back again. This command I have received from My Father.”[4]

In this prophecy, Moses commanded that the Passover Lamb could not have any of his bones broken while in the course of his preparation and death. It was Jesus’ intent to fulfill the purpose of the Old Testament Passover Lamb, as He became The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, with no bone broken.

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Part Three: Prophecy from Psalms 34:20

Not one of the Messiah’s bones will be broken. This chapter examines this prophecy, in light of the requirements of the Passover Lamb from Exodus 12.

Psalms 34:20 “He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.”

New Testament Fulfillment:

John 19:31-33 “Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.”

The Feast of Passover

According to Exodus 12:3, the Lamb must be examined on the 10th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, or April 6; by our current calendar. This was the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, 32 A.D. Jesus came on this day, to announce that he was the Messiah; because He was also presenting Himself as the Passover Lamb, for inspection for any defects (sin). Four days after this, Jesus would be killed as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, on the precise day that the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed.

This event was the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy that the Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem 173,880 days from the decree of Artaxerxes, to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. For further details concerning this important prophecy, see the chapters: Arrival of the Messiah, Passover Lamb, and; The Seven Feasts.

According to the Book of Exodus:

• The Passover Lamb must be a male (Exodus 12:5). Jesus is a male.
• He must be Spotless or Perfect. (Exodus 12:5). Jesus is perfect and without sin: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
• He must be killed at twilight (Exodus 12:6). This was early evening, the time when Jesus was crucified. “And About the ninth hour (3 p.m.) Jesus cried out with a loud voice ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ ” (Matthew 27:46)
• The whole assembly of the congregation shall kill it (Exodus 12:6). The Jews, who were gathered before Pilate, declared that Jesus’ blood would be upon them: Let His Blood be upon us and our children (Matthew 27:25).
• The Blood shall be for a sign (Exodus 12:13). “…the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
• Not one of His bones shall be broken (Exodus 12:43, 46).

How Jesus and the Passover Lamb are one and the same:

Exodus 12:13: “When I see the Blood, I will Pass Over you.”
Romans 3:25: “…by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.”

Exodus 12:13: “The plague shall not be on you to destroy you.”
Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Exodus 12:14: “This day shall be to you a memorial.”
Luke 22:19: “…And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ ”

Jesus fulfilled the feast of Passover, by becoming the perfect Passover Lamb, on the precise day the feast was observed, at the right time of the day.

See the chapter: Passover Lamb for information, regarding how Jesus perfectly fulfilled the intent of the Passover Lamb.

A significant purpose of The Messiah’s was to fulfill the prophetic allusions that Exodus 12 describes. One of the requirements of the Passover feast was that not one bone of the lamb could be broken.

Exodus 12:43,46 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover…, nor shall you break one of its bones.”

Jesus was placed on the cross on the precise day that Passover was observed.

The fact that Psalms 34:20 predicted the Messiah would have none of His bones broken (as He fulfills the type of Passover Lamb), implies that the author of this prophecy knew that during the time Jesus was being crucified, Roman soldiers would come to break His legs to hasten His death. Jesus was aware of this prophecy and the fact that at a specific moment the soldiers would arrive. To prevent this prophecy from failing, Jesus dismissed His Spirit and died before the soldiers came to break His legs.

John 19:30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He dismissed His spirit. (RCR)

This prophecy is truly an incredible prediction if we would give proper consideration for what has been written. Jesus saw this event in advance, spoke these facts to David, came to earth as the Messiah, and ensured that He died before the soldiers came to break His legs; thereby fulfilling His own word.

This is the stunning reality of Old Testament prophecy: God, who has seen all of the events of human history, before they take place; communicated the details of the Messiah’s death for the sins of the world, to faithful men, who recorded these words for us in the scriptures. When Jesus came to Jerusalem as the fulfillment of all these prophecies; again; faithful men recorded the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. These New Testament facts are a fulfillment of everything that was predicted—concerning the Messiah. These prophecies were written from hundreds to thousands of years before Jesus fulfilled them in the narrative of the New Testament scriptures.

The fulfillment of these three prophecies; Part One: Exodus 12:43,46, Part Two: Numbers 9:12, Part Three: Psalm 34:20, all describing the same event; is one of the most remarkable predictions that concern the Messiah.


[1] Koskenniemi, Erkki; Kirsi Nisula and Jorma Toppari (2005). “Wine Mixed with Myrrh (Mark 15.23) and Crurifragium (John 19.31-32): Two Details of the Passion Narratives”. Journal for the Study of the New Testament (SAGE Publications) 27 (4): 379–391. doi:10.1177/0142064X05055745. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
[2] John 19:33-34
[3] 1. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?”—22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
2. Romans 4:17 God, who… calls those things which do not exist as though they did…
3. The test for whether a word spoken by someone who claims to be a prophet of God—is valid—is determined by their fulfillment. If any word or part of the prophecy fails, the person who spoke the prediction is called a false prophet; and no one should listen to that person.⁠1 If, however, the words that are spoken in each of these prophecies come to pass exactly as they were written, then we can have confidence that God is the original source of these predictions.
[4] John 10:17-18, Author’s translation.