The Gospel in a bug!

After presenting a Bible study on Psalm 22 - a couple of the attendees had mentioned that there was something interesting about the phrase:

  " But I am a worm, and not a man, A reproach of men, and despised by the people. PS 22:6 NASB

Now, I was told that this worm impales itself on a tree - stuff like that. Now, I had no idea what they were talking about. My experience is that Christians are willing to accept interesting stories that they think are evidence justifying their faith, or that they think will glorify God, or they just find inspiring, and then pass them on to others, without ever doing a fact check. I was suspicious that this was the case here as well. This practice is not some intentional evil, not a conspiracy, it is well intentioned, but I believe Christians need to be honest, lovers of truth, and protective of the reputation of other Christians by not being duped into myths.

I decided to learn what I could about this worm thing, primarily using no Christian sources for information, but sticking to secular sources for information as much as possible, and perhaps Jewish sources for questions regarding the Hebrew language, in which the Psalm was written. In this way, I could avoid Christian wishful thinking, and arrive at factual information without it being spun by an agenda.

The first step, was to learn about the Hebrew word in the Psalm, underlying the word "worm" there. The word is "towla`at". I was told that this word is a reference to an organism known as the crimsom worm or the scarlet worm.  My Hebrew dictionary relates it to the "crimson grub". That information is in Strong's Dictionary. Of the word "towla`at", Strong's said:

specifically (often with ellipsis of OT:8144) the crimson-grub

Now, I will admit, I did not know what ellipsis meant, so I went to Mirriam-Webster Dictionary:

ellipsis - the omission of one or more words that are obviously understood but that must be supplied to make a construction grammatically complete

I needed to find out about the word Strong's cataloges as OT:8144


shaniy (shaw-nee'); of uncertain derivation; crimson, properly, the insect or its color, also stuff dyed with it

So, between Strong's and M-W Dictionaries, I learned that there are these two Hebrew words for scarlet or crimson speak of a color and a creature from which the color is made. The two word's are mostly interchangeable, and the context determines if we are talking about the color as an adjective, or the grub or dye from it, as a noun.

We look at the phrase I am a worm and not a man, it is obvious that it is the grub, not the color, as "I am a crimson and not a man", makes no sense. Israelites, would have been familiar with the grub.

Now, knowing this information, I proceeded to   look at other uses of these words in the Bible, and researched as best I could, this little creature known as the Crimson Grub. Well a name like crimson grub or scarlet worm is fine, but common names often do not mean much, I needed the exact specie, I wanted the latin taxonomic name for this creature. Eventually, I was able to find it, it is coccus ilicis. Now that  had an exact specie, I needed to learn what I could about it. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary.

coccus ilicis. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved March 24, 2008, from website:

Coccus ilicis

1. The dried bodies of the females of a scale insect (Coccus ilicis),
allied to the cochineal insect, and found on several species of oak near the Mediterranean. They are round, about the size of a pea, contain coloring matter
analogous to carmine, and are used in dyeing. They were anciently thought to be of a vegetable nature, and were used in medicine.

2. (Bot.) A small European evergreen oak (Quercus coccifera) on which the kermes insect (Coccus ilicis) feeds. --J. Smith (Dict. Econ. Plants).

I couldn't help noticing that this grub was used in medicines, made me recall the verse:

Isa 53:5
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

That is interesting only the females are used in the dye, okay, why is that? As it turns out, the male is not earth bound, but instead is a flying insect.

Now, certainly I am reading a lot into the symbolism here, but humor me. Our Father, is in heaven, and leaves leaves Jesus to accomplish His job on earth. The male (father) of this species, leaves the female to accomplish her work as well.

From Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"

Bear with me, there is more. The female, is a rather unattractive thing, in fact, it is so difficult to see that it is a "worm", that is was not recognized as such and was believe in some times and cultures, to be part of a plant. Compare that notion with the following Messianic passage, particularly verse 14:

Isa 52:13-15

13 See, my servant will act wisely;  he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man  and his form marred beyond human likeness —
15 so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

The New Living Translation renders it:

Isa 52:14
14 Many were amazed when they saw him — beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.

See what I am getting at, this grub could scarcely be recognized as a grub, as the Messiah would be so disfigured, that He could barely be recognized as a man. As I mentioned, this grub is not much to look at, and we will have a look at in soon, first, I have a few more things to examine. As you probably know, the chapter numbers are not inspired by God, they are just added for our convenience. If we were to keep reading a few sentences later, we would  see the following verse:

Isa 53:2 He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

Remember I told you that this grub was not an attractive thing?

quercuscoccifera49.jpg (10813 bytes)

There, you can se learned from this sit :Kermes is one of the oldest dyes known, being mentioned in the Bible book of Genesis (38:28) as scarlet or crimson. It is obtained from the bodies of an insect, Kermes ilices (formerly known as Coccus ilicis). It is chemically very similar to carmine and, as the older name indicates, the insects are related to those from which carmine is obtained. Although it forms bright crimson lakes, it is not used in histotechnology."ith this information, I am on a roll, there is inertia, and I was able to find more and more information, bit by bit, this detective work is fun. Looking back into the

The color produced from the dye

crimson.jpg (1315 bytes)

Crimson ( tola’at , Strong's #8438): This word can represent the color crimson or the worm "coccus ilicis" which, when dried was ground into a
powder and used as a dye for the color crimson. This worm also contains a chemical that is an anti-bacterial agent and was used in the formula for the ashes
of the red heifer (Leviticus 14:4) which was used when someone came into contact with a dead body (a host for bacteria).

I found the above information interesting, because of the fact that this crimson, this worm, is necessary to make one clean, which I see as symbolic of removing sin, not to mention the many references in the Bible, to Jesus being a healer, in his life, and forever. The red heifer, in the book of Enoch, 86:6, appears to be a reference to the red heifer relating to the return of Messiah in the last days.

In the Epistle of Barnabus, the red heifer is definetly connected to Jesus. While these two books are not properly part of the bible, they do represent much of current thought in their times, interesting side notes.

Now, the life cycle of this insect, is interesting, when her life is near it's end, she climbs up a tree - and fastens her body to it. It is her last act in life. She dies there, but her eggs hatch, and because of her death, her offspring are given new life - she makes the ultimate sacrifice - her own death, so that others, may live.

No symbolism there is there?

John 10:18
18 "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.

John 15:12-13
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends

Phil 2:8
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death-
even death on a cross

Coccus ilicis - Coccus in Latin, means scarlet - comes from the Greek word 'kokkos' (berry)

Yes, Plasm 22 tells of a worm a crimson/scarlet worm. Crimson, the color of blood, as the blood of  Jesus, shed of us, on a piece of wood, so that we might live. Scarlet, symbolic also of sin,

Isa 1:18
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

How fitting that the man who became sin, who lowered himself to the status of a servant, who sacrificed Himself by hanging on a tree, who was not much to look at, would be hinted at in a prophecy,

by mentioning a lowly insect, scarlet like the sin Jesus became, hanging on a tree of it's on volition, to die, that others might live.

Jesus last words, are recorded below:

John 19:30
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

oh . . . . I never told you what "ilicis" means in latin. It simply means, "it is finished".


Thanks go to  Rebekah David and Ayin Jade, for bringing my attention to this creature.