The Crimson Worm

Psalm 22 is a “Messianic Psalm” because it contains some of the words Jesus, the Messiah, prayed while He was on the cross. The Psalmist recorded these prophetic utterances hundreds of years before Jesus actually said them on Mount Calvary. It is often referred to as the Crucifixion Psalm or The Psalm of the Cross. It is a snapshot of our Lord’s bleakest hours, the account of His dying words at Golgotha.

Verse 1 says, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” In the gospels of Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, Jesus cried out the same words while hanging on the cross. In that moment, Jesus was abandoned by God, the Father. Why? On His darkest day (Noon to 3 p.m. – Matthew 27:45), Jesus took on every sin ever committed by all humanity.

Because God, the Father is holy, He cannot tolerate the presence of sin. So when Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24), God, the Father turned His back on His only Son.  It was like a dad saying to his son in his greatest moment of need, “You’re on your own”.

Suspended on the cross between heaven and earth, and rejected by both, the foreshadowed Jesus says something that seems odd in Psalm 22:6, “I am a worm…” What did He mean by that? 

Usually in the Bible, the Hebrew word for a worm is “rimmah”, which means a “maggot”, but the Hebrew word used for worm here is TOLA’ATH, which means “Crimson worm” or “Scarlet worm”.   Both scarlet and crimson are the colors of blood – red.

The Crimson worm [coccus ilicis] is common in Israel.  Henry Morris observed that when it is time for the worm to lay eggs, it finds the trunk of a tree. It then attaches its body to that wood and makes a hard crimson shell and lays eggs underneath (p. 73, “Biblical Basis for Modern Science”, 1985, Baker Book House, by Henry Morris).

Morris says that when the worm dies, crimson fluid stains its body and the surrounding wood. In Bible times, commercial scarlet dyes were made from the dead bodies of Crimson worms. This is a picture of Christ dying on the tree and shedding His precious blood so that He might purchase eternal life for His children (Hebrews 9:12).

Man is underserving of such great love due to his sinful nature (Isaiah 53:6). Because of such depravity, Job’s counselor, Bildad, asked, “How can a human be justified before God? How can one born of woman be pure? If even the moon does not shine and the stars are not pure in his sight, how much less a human, who is a maggot, a son of man, who is a worm!” (Job 25:4-6).

However, Isaiah gives hope for lost men: “’Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel. I will help you’—this is the Lord’s declaration. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 41:14). Jesus redeemed lost men on the cross by taking on their wormlike state and pouring out His blood for them. That is why Isaac Watts identified himself as a worm in the original version of his beloved hymn.

Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

At the cross, at the cross where
I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!



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