Why choose a worm for a topic? I have to turn back the clock many years to the first time I heard the explanation of – “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people,” (Psalm 22: 6). I was at a Bible College. The lecturer explained the word used here was for a special worm, one from which crimson dye was made. Crimson was a color so expensive only kings (and high priests) wore it. I remembered it, but never heard anyone else mention this fact… till recently.
Psalm 22 is generally seen as a crucifixion psalm and as we approach this time of year, twice recently I have heard my almost forgotten fact mentioned. A friend, who calls regularly every weekend, told me excitedly of a sermon she had heard in church. It was about the tola worm. I smiled, my memory was not faulty, I had remembered correctly.
Then I logged in to an online Bible Study, and what was the topic? You have probably guessed.
“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” Psalm 22: 6
Once again, after many years, I was fascinated.
Most of us know what a worm looks like… some of us might squirm. Others might use the earthworm as bait for fishing, However, a closer look at the original language shows that this is not the word that is used here.
Usually in the Bible, the Hebrew word for a worm is “rimmah” which means a maggot – but the Hebrew word used here for worm, is TOLA’ATH, (Tola: latin name coccus ilicis]) which means “Crimson worm” or “Scarlet worm”. It looks more like a grub than a worm.
There is more to this worm than meets the eye
When it is time for the Tola worm to lay eggs (which she does only one time in her life), she finds the trunk of the Quercus coccifera, the kermes oak and attaches her body to it and makes a hard crimson shell. She is so strongly and permanently stuck to the wood that the shell she has formed can never be removed without tearing her body completely apart.
The Tola worm then lays her eggs under her body in the protective shell. When the larvae hatch, they stay under the shell. The mother’s body gives protection for her babies, and also provides them with food – the babies feed on the LIVING body of the mother!
After a few days, when the young worms grow to the point that they are able to take care of themselves, the mother dies. As the Tola worm dies, she oozes a crimson or scarlet red dye which not only stains the wood she is attached to, but also her young children. They are colored scarlet red for the rest of their lives.
After three days, the dead mother Crimson worm’s body loses its crimson color and turns into a white wax which falls to the ground like snow. This was collected and used as shellac to protect wood.
Jesus as a Tola worm
Just like the Crimson worm, Jesus sacrificed or gave up his life on a tree so that his children might be washed with his crimson blood and their sins cleaned white as snow. He died for us, that we might live through him!
The minister leading the Bible study gave many cross-references to scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments.
This is not my purpose – to repeat a Bible Study, merely to share an interesting fact… one that might give you a different understanding of that scripture. Or, as it did for me, confirm something I was taught a long time ago.
Sharing some thoughts,