After my last post, a good friend astutely pointed something out to me that I totally missed. My friend had been studying Rahab in the book of Joshua and connected the scarlet cord that Rahab hung in her window to my red dye story.

Of course! Rahab’s cord was scarlet (coccus ilicis, a.k.a. kermes vermilio, a.k.a. scarlet worm). It wasn’t blue or orange or green. Rahab’s salvation was ensured by a string dyed red, thanks to a bug that gave its life on a tree.

Rahab’s crimson cord
is part of a
that is woven
throughout the Bible.

A quick word search revealed that all the curtains in the tabernacle were indeed a tapestry woven of blue, purple and scarlet yarn.

Same word. Same bug.

The tri-colored curtains that hung in the doorway of the tabernacle served as a visual reminder of the blood that would one day be shed on a tree for the salvation of the world. God is in the details. How like Him to use something as insignificant as a bug to foreshadow the gospel.

This scarlet color even makes the jump into the New Testament.

“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him,
and then wove a crown of thorns and set it on his head.”
Matthew 27:28-29

Of course it was a scarlet robe! It wasn’t blue or orange or green. (Although Mark and John call it a purple robe, so maybe a deep-purplish-red?) Matthew, in writing for a Jewish audience, made a choice to use the word that would bring the Hebrew readers back to Isaiah 1:18.

God tells the redemption story even through His colorful creation.

To-Die-For Red Dye

What would you do if you wanted to dye something red?
You’d buy one of these, I suppose.

What would you do if you lived in Israel in 700 B.C.
and you wanted to dye something red?
You’d go look for some bugs.

Let me tell you about the coccus ilicis,
a.k.a. kermes vermilio,
a.k.a. scarlet worm.

  • When the momma bug gets ready to give birth to her young, she finds an oak tree, climbs it and willingly attaches herself to it permanently.
  • Then she deposits her eggs and they are kept safe under her body. As the eggs grow into larvae, they suck the life out of their mother and she dies.
  • For three days after her death, scarlet fluid drips down the tree, staining the wood. She has to die to produce dye. (This fluid from the dead bug is what was used in ancient times to create crimson dye.)
  • On the fourth day after her death, the bug’s head and tail come together forming a heart shape and her color transforms from red to white.

What a compelling picture.

  • Jesus willingly went to the cross. “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” John 10:18
  • Jesus died so we could live. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
  • Jesus bled on the tree. “In him we have redemption through his blood.” Ephesians 1:7
  • Jesus’ blood cleanses us. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18

Do you have goosebumps yet?
There’s more.

When Jesus was on the cross, he quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” In Jewish tradition, if someone quoted the first verse of a psalm, it was understood that he was referencing the whole thing. Because most of the psalms were memorized, the listeners knew what came next. It would be similar to us singing the first line of a song, like “God bless America, land that I love…” and everyone knowing exactly what those lyrics go on to say.

Psalm 22 foreshadows the crucifixion of Jesus in many ways:

“I am poured out like water…
my heart has melted within me…
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…
they divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment…”

But I’ve never noticed this before:
“I am a worm and not a man, scorned and despised by the people.” (v. 6)

The word for worm is coccus ilicis,
a.k.a. kermes vermilio,
a.k.a. scarlet worm.

And there you have it-
the gospel
in the life
of a bug.

Heaven and nature sings!
Whoever has ears, let them hear!