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  • Dyed In the Wool

    Posted on December 12th, 2010 Bob 9 comments

    Listen to today’s audio devotional by clicking on 09 Dyed in the Wool .

    ìÖ though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.î (Is 1:18) Have you ever connect British Redcoats, (or even Santa’s suit) with this verse before? I find it absolutely fascinating what Larry comes up with sometimes. As he said, wool takes on the color of red so well, one cannot remove it by natural means, Ö but God can remove the scarlet of sin from our hearts, and within this very verse in Isaiah, is an illustration describing just how He does it.

    Notice that this verse has two words for the same color. The Hebrew word for ìscarletî is ìshaniy, (#08144), refers to the insect, ìcoccus ilicisî; (ìthe dried body of the female yielding coloring matter, from which is made the dye used to color cloth redî).†The word, ìcrimsonî (towlaî #8438) is often used in conjunction with the word ìscarletî. They are practically synonymus, but ìtowlaî refers to the worm, more than the color. This grub, or scarlet worm, is found in a species of oak trees around the Mediterranean and is about the size of a pea. The female has a very round shape and red color.† ìCrimsonî (or ìtowlaî) is also translated as ìa worm, a grub, a maggotî in Scripture.

    There is a fascinating story behind this little worm, which will explain the profound meaning of this verse. When the life of the female coccus ilicis, (or scarlet worm) is nearing itís end, she climbs a tree and attaches her body to it, fixing herself so firmly and permanently, she virtually impales herself on the tree, and never leaves again. Just before she dies, her eggs hatch and she gives birth to her young. The eggs deposited beneath her body are now protected from predators. Then, after the larvae hatch they are able to enter their own life cycle. As the mother dies, crimson fluid from within her body, stains her own body and the surrounding wood she is attached to. She makes the ultimate sacrifice: because of her own death, her offspring are given new life. From the crushed, dried dead bodies of such female scarlet worms, the scarlet dye is extracted and used to dye wool red. This dye is referred to in the Bible as simply ìscarletî (the color), or, ìcrimsonî (the worm).

    Psalm 22:6 speaks of Christ when it says, ìBut I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the peopleî The word ìwormî in this verse, is also ìtowlaî (the word ìcrimsonî)Ö the worm; crimson, the color of blood. This verse is actually saying, ìBut I am ëcrimsoníî, referring to the coccus ilicis and the blood of Jesus Christ that would be shed for us, as He was impaled on a tree, so that we might live.

    In addition to this, the crushed ìcoccus ilicisî contains a chemical that is an anti-bacterial agent which is why it was used in two types of purification ceremonies:

    1) When there was a plague, scarlet was included in the purification of the house. ìAnd he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarletî (Lev 14:52)

    2) The scarlet worm was also used in the formula with the ashes of the red heifer ìAnd the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.î (Lev. 19:6) These ashes were used to cleanse a person when they came into contact with a dead body (a host for bacteria). This crimson, the worm coccus ilicis, was necessary to make one clean, which is symbolic of the blood of Jesus removing the sin of disease and death from us.

    ìBut he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised [crushed] for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healedÖ For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?î (Is 53:5, Heb 9:13-14)

    The scarlet thread is also referred to in the book of Joshua, when Rahab the harlot, hung a ìscarletî thread from her window, which preserved her life from the Israelite invasion to come. ìAnd she said, According unto your words, so be it. And she sent them away, and they departed: and she bound the scarlet line in the window.î (Josh 2:21 Here, the scarlet thread that had been dyed using the scarlet wormís body, is used to identify the home of Rahab, who befriended the Israeli spies, and it spared her life and her family from destruction. In the same way, we are chosen and identified by God, through the blood of Jesus Christ that washed our sins away. Is your scarlet thread hanging from your life and boldly declaring for all to see that you identify with Jesus Christ?

    Thus, is the Gospel revealed throughout Scripture in the scarlet thread, and it ends with Jesus last words, ìWhen he had received the drink, Jesus said, ìIt is finished.î With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (Jn 19:30)

    By the way, did you know that in Latin, the word, ìilicisì, literally meansÖ. ìit is finishedì. I wouldnít have believed it, unless I looked it up.
    So, I hope, when you see red wool coats this winter, itíll remind you of the wool of the little lamb and the little worm, ìcoccus ilicisî.

    ìShe is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarletî. (ìcoccus ilicisî) (Pr 31:21)

    Is all your household clothed in scarlet? Are you clothed in scarlet? Have you ìput on the Lord Jesus Christî? (Gal 3:27)

    ìAnd he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the LambÖ Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. (Re 7:14, Ps 51:7)

    May the love of Jesus Christ warm your soul today.

    - Bob


    9 responses to “Dyed In the Wool” RSS icon

    • Dear Bob: Our friends Charlie and Barb Hendrickson forwarded this article to us. I was blessed by it. I am working on a language arts curriculum using the Bible and am wondering if I can use this article and the photo with it as part of our study of Similes using Isaiah 1:18. I can be reached at or 218-444-6705 or Patti Lofgren, 2358 Holand Road SW Bemidji, MN 56601. Thank you for considering my request. Patti

    • Looking up info on this worm.

      I have looked up info on this worm for sharing with children in my Sunday a.m. class.

      In one link it states that this worm in death position itself into a shape of a heart and then turns to wax (white as snow) that is used to make shellac to preserve wood.

      If this worm is the size of a pea I wonder how this is possible?

      Am wondering if this was only said to increase the symbolic story of this worm relating to Christ.

    • The shape of a heart? I guess people see what they want to see. Turns white? Hmmm, it’s used to make scarlet dye. Shellac? – There is an insect called the Kerria lacca that secrets lac which is an ingredient used to make scarlet dye and in the excretions is also an ingredient to make shellac. I don’t know if these things are true or not, but people have a tendency to stretch the truth to make something even more symbolic than it actually is. When that happens we run the risk of discrediting the entire analogy. It is amazing though that God has designed His entire Creation to reveal His glory. We just have to seek it out.

    • wooow! It is amazing what this little worm does and what’s more awesme is what My Lord Jesus Christ did for us at the cross….HIs Love endures forever. How loving is our God!

    • Thanks for the awesome insight!

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    • There is a lot to find out about this, but you have made great points.

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