THE SCARLET WORM
The truth that spiritual, eternal life can only be attained on the basis of the suffering and death of the Creator of life is symbolized everywhere in the world of nature by the fact that even the birth of a new physical life must always be preceded by a time of travail and willingness to die on the part of the mother.
One of the most poignant illustrations of this truth is found in Psalm 22:6. This psalm, of course, is the great portrait of the sufferings of Christ on the cross, written a thousand years before they were actually fulfilled. At the height of His sufferings, He cried out: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.”
This particular word translated “worm” is the Hebrew ~toleah~. It refers to an insect like the cochineal, the females of which produced a substance from which a bright scarlet dye could be extracted. This “scarlet worm.” in fact, was the chief source of the scarlet and crimson dyes of antiquity. It was so closely identified with the coloring which was produced from it, that the same word (~toleah~, or its variants, ~tola~ and ~tolaath~) are commonly translated in the Old Testament to read “scarlet” or “crimson.”
It may be that the only reason the Lord prophetically identified Himself with this insect was in order to emphasize the extreme humiliation to which He subjected Himself in suffering as our Savior. More likely, however, He was thinking also of the sacrificial death to which the mother worm submitted herself in order to provide life for the young which she brought forth.
For the mother ~toleah~, the “scarlet worm.” affixes her body firmly to the trunk of a tree or to a post or similar wooden object so firmly that she can never leave again. After the young are born, her body provides protection for them until they can leave and provide for themselves. And in the process, the mother worm dies, with the scarlet coloring from her dried body imparted to the baby worms and to the tree on which she died.
Although the Lord Jesus was the Son of man, it is by Him that men are born to spiritual life. “For it became him, for whom are all things. and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). He is the antitype, the perfect fulfillment of the type represented by the mother worm, and indeed by every mother in the animal kingdom, and in, the human family, willing to enter into the suffering of travail, and even death if need be, in order that the child might be born. “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa 53:11).
Looking at the lifeless form of the mother worm impaled on the tree, stained blood-red in token of her suffering and death, we see a host of newborn creatures emerging from the scene of sacrifice, vibrant with life and, hopefully, filled with gratitude to the one who thus laid down her life that they might live. It is peculiarly appropriate that the twenty-second Psalm ends with a prophetic testimony: “A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to [better, “of”] the Lord for a generation They shall come, and declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this.”
HENRY MORRIS, Director Creation Science Research Center San Diego, California
Back to Bulletin Fodder