The Scarlet Worm

Psalm 22:6 – But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. (KJV)

Recently, I began teaching a Bible study series that focuses on the Old Testament tabernacle. I use slides and other materials to explain its significance in Israel's history. In every detail, there's something fascinating to be learned. Even the colour scheme of the tabernacle — white, blue, purple, and scarlet — had a profound symbolic meaning. For example, scarlet was made from a dye produced by a special type of worm, and this little worm provides remarkable parallels to the gospel story.

Psalm 22 is called the psalm of the cross. Amazingly, it depicts the crucifixion of Christ a thousand years in advance. Moreover, in today's verse, the Messiah is described as one of the lowliest creatures on earth: a worm. However, the word for worm in the Hebrew is not rimmah, which refers to a maggot, but rather it is tola'ath, referring to the scarlet worm, a scale insect of the species Kermes vermilio.

This particular insect is quite interesting. Before the adult female is about to lay her eggs, she attaches herself firmly to the trunk of a tree, usually the low, shrub-like Palestine Oak. With a waxy secretion, she builds a hardened shell around herself, and lays her eggs under her body. When the larvae hatch, not only does her shell provide them protection, but they also receive nourishment from her dead body. After a period of three days, the larvae leave the shell, and the lifeless body of this tiny creature can be scraped from the tree and used for scarlet dye. When it's crushed, it gives off a fragment aroma.

Food for thought: In what ways does the scarlet worm illustrate our Lord's sacrificial death on a tree and the new life that He has brought forth as a result of His sufferings?

Let us stop for a moment and reflect on the story of tola'ath. During this Lenten season, may it inspire us to dig deeper, exploring other hidden nuggets of truth contained in God's Word.

Prayer: Lord, we acknowledge that You are the great "I AM", yet You humbly came to us declaring, "I am a worm, and no man." In Your manifold wisdom, even a lowly worm provides a beautiful picture of Calvary's cross and the fragrant offering of Your sacrificial love. Now, O God, open our eyes to the unsearchable riches of Your grace and the treasures that are ours in Christ Jesus before the world began. In His precious name, we pray. Amen.

1 comment on this post.
  1. PresbyCan Feedback:

    Very interesting Lori. Thanks for sharing.


    Well you live and learn. Sadly, I forget also.


    His death and Resurrection, our life, strength, and wisdom.


    Loved this Bible lesson, learned a lot from it. Thanks so much.


    Thank you! I love to learn new things and this is quite a wonderful picture!


    This is so rich Lori. Thank you for digging deeper that we might be blessed.


    Really fascinating.
    Thank you for sharing.


    Thanks, Lori, for this message. Those hidden messages are always so inspirational.
    Blessings.


    Very interesting devotional. I am constantly amazed and awed at God handiwork. Thank you for writing this. God bless.


    Lori,
    As always you amaze me with your devotionals. Your Biblical knowledge and applications to modern Christian living inspires. Thank you again.


    Lori, as usual, you’ve provided us with an instructive, thoughtful, devotional. Thanks for sharing this. Gave me some food for thought. Blessings.


    Thank you Lori. A very interesting and well researched Devotional. Yes, there is profound wisdom in the most unusual places. I pray that you and those you love will have a peaceful day.


    Thank you for your beautiful explanation of the “worm”. This verse has always been troubling, now seen in a new light.
    (Texas)


    Hi Lori,
    What an interesting devotional which I forwarded to our pastor and SS teacher with the message, “Now I know why I should read more carefully those verses about the temple which I often times find tedious!!!


    My dear Lori,
    What a revelation you have uncovered for this devotional!
    I wish I could have been at your presentation of this meaningful prophetic study.
    May God continue to bless you as you share your gifts to enrich others in their search for biblical truths.


    Dear Lori,
    Thank you for the beautiful devotional culminating in these words of the prayer: “I am a worm, and no man.” In Your manifold wisdom, even a lowly worm provides a beautiful picture of Calvary’s cross and the fragrant offering of Your sacrificial love. Now, O God, open our eyes to the unsearchable riches of Your grace and the treasures that are ours in Christ Jesus.
    Keep writing.


    Lori, as I have read and re-read the words of your devotional I am amazed, and almost stunned as I see once again the wonders of nature God uses to touch our spirits, and teach us.
    The parallel to Christ’s sacrifice boggles my mind as I see the extent of the sacrifice of love, in giving one’s life to be used to nourish, even down to the 3 days the transformation takes for a dying worm to become a thing of usefulness. And the idea of a pleasant smell coming from a dead carcass astounds me. Then the use God puts to the body of producing a scarlet dye, the colour of Christ’s shed blood, and even down to the fact of dying on a tree.
    My mind has some trouble grasping all of the depth of the teaching God is trying to impart through the death of a lowly worm.
    It challenges me as it says If God can use a worm to bring glory to Himself what might He be able to do with my life when I am totally willing to give my all for others?
    Thank you Lori. I shall be meditating on these thoughts for some time.
    I don’t keep all of the devotionals I receive, but this one is a Keeper.


    Very interesting. God is so awesome! I’ve passed this on to several friends. Thank you.


    Lori you have such a gift of understanding, and then putting that understanding into words. Thank you for the time and effort that you put into bringing this together so that it maybe so easily understood.


    Lori, l absolutely loved your devotional today. Something l did not know. Don’t you just love it when God reveals new things from His word!!! Well done.


    Hi Lori
    As I am experiencing unseasonable heat, I see you have such cold weather. I love the many stories of “God’s creatures” and your love for them. Your recent devotional of the worm has been an inspiration to me. Thanks SO much!
    God bless you!


    Special greetings, Lori. Thank you for sharing your thoughts — indeed touches many lives. May God in Christ Jesus gives you more strength and good health everyday. I pray that you will continually do your ministry until Christ return and most specially until we join the church above.
    (Philippines)


    Incredibly interesting! Thank you, and your mother, very much!


    Wow, thanks so much for sharing! Beautiful illustration! Blessings.


    How inspiring, thank you so much for sharing. Your Mother was definitely filled by the Holy Spirit.


    That is a wonderful gem from the bible. I have never heard of the scarlet worm. Thank you for sharing it.


    Thanks for this beautiful devotional. Your parents have been a godly example for you and your family.
    Blessings.