By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason Ministries
Psalm 22 is known as the Psalm of the crucifixion, written nearly 1,000 years before Jesus cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?.” David prophesies of the Crucified One’s words in vs. 6: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” The word worm is not just describing any worm. Here it is tola,1 an insect that was crushed to get the die color of red/scarlet and used to color the robes of royalty.
Strong’s Concordance says: OT:8144 shaniy (shaw-nee’); of uncertain derivation; crimson, properly, the insect or its color, also stuff dyed with it.” Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Definition of tola: (1) worm, scarlet stuff, crimson = (a) worm – the female ‘coccus ilicis’ (b) scarlet stuff, crimson, scarlet, the dye made from the dried body of the female of the worm “coccus ilicis.”
There are two Hebrew words for scarlet or crimson that speak of a color and a creature from which the color is made. The two words can be translated two ways: “scarlet” or “worm.” In Old Testament times when people wanted to dye something scarlet, they would dip the material in the crushed dye of this insect, and the material would take on a scarlet color. These two Hebrew words occur juxtaposed in many of the passages in Exodus (26 times it is referred to). The dye was highly valued (Lamentations 4:5) as it was used to color the cloth in the tabernacle. Scarlet was woven into the fine linen of the screen for the doorway (Exodus 26:36); there was one way into the Tabernacle. This picture was fulfilled by Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
Creationist Henry Morris gives further insight:
When the female of the scarlet worm species was ready to give birth to her young, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again. The eggs deposited beneath her body were thus protected until the larvae were hatched and able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the commercial scarlet dyes of antiquity were extracted. (Biblical Basis for Modern Science, p.73 1985, Morris)
The blood-red scarlet material seen throughout the Old Testament in various pictures and illustrations foreshadowed the Messiah’s work of redemption on the Cross. Scarlet was used in the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31); and when our Lord was crucified (His flesh rent), the veil was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus became our “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17). He cried with a loud voice, yielding up His Spirit, and the veil of the temple tore from top to bottom, opening “a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Matthew 27:50-51, Hebrews 10:19-20). The use of animal sacrifices would no longer be used as the means to approach God.
This insect attaches itself to the tree (as Christ did for us). Peter’s favorite saying was Christ was crucified on the tree. Jesus, at His crucifixion, invoking the image of a worm, is not meant to convey his human status, but rather the color of blood. He is describing the red-stained tree of His Crucifixion. The same word is sometimes translated as “scarlet” or “crimson.”
In order to produce the dye for these robes the worm had to be crushed. After the worm was crushed, it was no longer recognizable. Christ was crushed for our sin.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)
What a picture this gives of Christ, the King of the Jews, the king all Kings dying on the tree, shedding His precious blood for those who reject God (Isaiah53:3). Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. Two thousand years ago, a bloody man hung on a tree (a Roman cross). It may not have looked beautiful to men, but it was acceptable to God (Isaiah 53:10).
It is here the scarlet thread of redemption is completed (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
It was there under the wrath of God that He shed His blood for the sins of mankind. It is that crimson flow of His blood that makes it possible for us to be clothed in the robes of His righteousness.
(source: Let Us Reason)