Psalm 22 is known as one of the three Shepherd Psalms (Read: Following the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd, Psalms 22, 23, and 24). This psalm is also prophetic because it gives a “picture” of the cross from the perspective of our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. In great detail, this psalm describes the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus that would take place 1,000 years after the psalm was penned by David.
On the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 when He cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mat 27:46, Mark 15:34; Read: Was Jesus Forsaken by His Father?). And for those standing at the foot of the cross, His words should have evoked the words of this psalm in their minds. Had they remembered David’s words, they could have seen and understood what was happening before their eyes. And they could have remembered the promise of hope in this psalm’s closing words.
A Remez in Psalm 22?
In Jewish hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture), a remez is a hidden message or a deeper meaning. It’s said to be a “treasure” that is found below the surface of, or behind, the words. (See the list below of many remezes in the Bible.)
There’s an interesting remez in Psalm 22:6. This psalm is prophetic of the cross of Jesus. And in verse six, it says, “But I am a worm, and no man…” Jesus was certainly a man on the cross. So what did the psalmist mean when he wrote, “But I am a worm?”
The Worm in Psalm 22:6
The common Hebrew word for “worm” is “rimmah,” and it is defined as a maggot or a worm. However, in Psalm 22:6, the word for “worm” is “towla”’ or “tola’ath”.
Psa 22:6 But I am a worm [towla or tola’ath], and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
The Hebrew word “towla” or “”tola’ath”is used 43 times in the Old Testament — mostly as a color but sometimes in reference to man (eg. Job 25:6, Isa 31:14, 66:24).
Strong’s Dictionary defines this word as “a maggot (as voracious); the crimson-grub but used only (in this connection) of the color from it, and cloths dyed therewith:–crimson, scarlet, worm.”
So the word “tola’ath” or “towla” in Psalm 22:6 denotes not only a worm but also identifies it as a crimson or scarlet worm common to the Middle East and predominantly in Israel. It should be noted that the colors crimson and scarlet are very deep, blackish-red, which is the color of blood. And in this crimson worm, we find a hidden meaning of biblical significance.
The Life Cycle of the Crimson Worm
The Crimson Worm (scientific name: coccus ilicis or kermes ilicis) looks more like a grub than a worm. In the lifecycle of this worm is where the remez is found. And it points to the work of Jesus on the cross.
When the female crimson worm is ready to lay her eggs, which happens only once in her life, she climbs up a tree or fence and attaches herself to it. With her body attached to the wooden tree, a hard crimson shell forms. It is a shell so hard and so secured to the wood that it can only be removed by tearing apart the body, which would kill the worm.
The female worm lays her eggs under her body, under the protective shell. When the larvae hatch, they remain under the mother’s protective shell so the baby worms can feed on the living body of the mother worm for three days. After three days, the mother worm dies, and her body excretes a crimson or scarlet dye that stains the wood to which she is attached and her baby worms. The baby worms remain crimson-colored for their entire lives. Thereby, they are identified as crimson worms.
On day four, the tail of the mother worm pulls up into her head, forming a heart-shaped body that is no longer crimson but has turned into a snow-white wax that looks like a patch of wool on the tree or fence. It then begins to flake off and drop to the ground looking like snow.
Isa 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet [shaniy – root word of tola’ath], they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson [tola’ath], they shall be as wool.
The Body of the Tola’ath
In biblical times, the red dye excreted from the Crimson Worm was used in the High Priest’s robe and probably for red dye used on ram’s skins to create the covering of the Tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex 26:1, 28:5). Uses of this red dye continue today. While still red and attached to the tree, the worm’s body and shell are scraped off and used to make what is called “Royal Red Dye.” The waxy material is used to make high-quality shellac, used in the Middle East as a wood preserver. And the remains of the Crimson Worm are also used in medicines that help regulate the human heart.
What Does Psalm 22 Mean: “I am a Worm”
Was Jesus a “Crimson Worm” on the cross? In typology, yes!
Psa 22:6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
Isa 1:18 … though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
- Just as the mother worm attaches herself to the wood of a tree or fence, Jesus put himself on a wooden cross, a type of “tree.” And Jesus willingly allowed the nails to be driven into His hands (1 John 3:16). However, it wasn’t the nails that held Him on the cross. It was His desire to fulfill the purpose and plan of God the Father to redeem man from sin (Gal 1:4).
- Just as the mother worm attaching herself to a tree is part of God’s design for the worm’s lifecycle, so also, it was God’s plan, His design, to send His Son to be attached to a tree, a wooden cross, to die (2 Tim 1:9, 1 Pet 1:20).
- Just as the mother worm, when crushed, excretes a crimson, scarlet dye that both covers the baby worms and stains, or marks, them, Jesus was also bruised, or crushed, for our iniquities (Isa 53:5). His scourgings, and the nails that were driven into his hands and feet, brought forth His crimson, scarlet blood that both washes away our sins (Rev 1:5) and marks us as His own (Eph 2:13).
- Finally, just as the baby worm is dependent on the mother worm for the crimson dye to give it life and to mark it, a repentant sinner must depend on the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, to receive new life, and to be marked as His own (Acts 4:12, 1 Pet 1:18-19).
A Little Red Worm
In expounding on Psalm 22:6 (“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people”), Charles Spurgeon wrote:
“There is a little red worm which seems to be nothing else but blood when it is crushed. It seems all gone except a blood-stain. And the Savior, in the deep humiliation of His spirit, compares Himself to that little red worm. How true it is that ‘He made Himself of no reputation’ for our sakes! He emptied Himself of all His Glory, and if there is any glory natural to manhood, He emptied Himself even of that! Not only the glories of His Godhead, but also the honors of His Manhood He laid aside that it might be seen that ‘though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor.’”
Jesus became poor. And in typology, having the sins of the world upon Himself, Jesus became like a worm, like a lowly crimson worm, hanging on a tree. (Job 25:6 and Isa 41:14 reveal the typology of sinful man as a worm.)
Nature Declares the Glory of God
Look around and see all the whispers of Jesus. From the beauty of God’s creation — the sun, the moon, the stars, the land, the seas, the animals, and especially mankind — everything testifies of our amazing God. In the spring, we see new life emerging, and in the summer, we feel the sun’s warmth. In the fall, the colors of God’s “paintbrush” are vivid, and in the winter, the world rests in a blanket of white. All this is the lifecycle of nature. And all is a gift from God.
“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 [white] as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
Remezes in the Bible
In Jewish hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture), a remez is a hidden message, or a deeper meaning found below the surface or behind the words.
- Why Did Satan Rebel Against God?
- The Names of Jehovah hidden in Psalm 23! This will surprise you!
- Is There a Remez (Hidden Message) in Genesis 5?
- Did Pilate Proclaim Jesus to be God?
- Is There a Remez (Hidden Message) in Revelation 7? Why is Dan missing?
- The Meaning of Numbers in the Bible?
- The Meaning of Colors in the Bible?
- What’s the Amazing Remez (Hidden Message) in the Book of Numbers?
- Is There a Remez in Psalm 23? Names of God?
- How is Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the Crimson Worm? A Remez In Psalm 22
- What are the Mysteries in the Bible?
- Why Was a Ram Sacrificed in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
- What do Zelophehad’s Daughters have to do with Christmas?
***Lent: 40 Titles for 40 Days (Download NOW: 40 Titles for Lenten Devotions)
What is Lent? Should I Give Up Something? (Article and Video)
This Time Called Lent (Video)
Prepare for Lent (Video)
Lent Reflections (Video)
How Should You Observe Lent? (Article)
How Should You Observe Lent? (Reflect and Prepare short video)
Have You Sat At The Master’s Table? (John 13-17)
What's Wrong with This FB Lenten Fast?
About Holy Week
Jesus’ Last Days Timeline: the Cross and the Resurrection
Blessed is the King -- A Palm Sunday video
Hosanna -- Palm Sunday (Jesus Wept) (video)
Walking with Jesus – Tested by the Chief Priests and Elders
The Last Supper
What is Maundy Thursday? The Basin & The Towel
Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday (video)
What’s your Judas experience? The Pain of Betrayal
What Do We Know about Judas? This Might Surprise You.
The Last Supper was NOT a Passover Seder?
Was Jesus crucified on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
Thursday Crucifixion? Do these two reasons “nail” it?
Why do we call it good [Friday]?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
How is Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the Crimson Worm? A Remez In Psalm 22?
Who do you need to reconcile with today?
Who Killed Jesus?
Since Jesus was the Passover LAMB, Why Didn't God Provide a Lamb in Genesis 22?
Did Pilate Proclaim Jesus to be God?
Was Jesus Forsaken by His Father?
The centurion's song from the foot of the cross: “Surely This Was a Righteous Man”
Journey to the Cross: Maundy Thursday and Good Friday
How Do We Know Psalm 22 Is About The Cross?
Q & A: Thursday Crucifixion Discussion
Three Days in the Heart of the Earth
The Days of Darkness
Sadness and Despair: The Darkest Days of All Time
Obituary of Jesus: Body Stolen or Risen? What do you say?
About Easter and Resurrection Life
The Father's, Son's and Believer's Perspectives of the Cross
Because He Lives, I Can Face Tomorrow (video)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Alleluia (video)
A Place in the Sun (Son) (video)
You'll Never Walk Alone (video)
How to Close Your Eyes and Really SEE Jesus!
Open Your Eyes to The Full Gospel
Are you glad to see Jesus?
Ponder the Prophecies of Jesus’ Mission (video and downloadable file)
What If We Skipped Easter This Year?
He’s back….and it changed everything!
The Lord is Risen Indeed! Hallelujah!
Because He Rose: The resurrection changed everything! (video)
What’s the Meaning of the Folded Napkin in the tomb?
Keep Easter Alive in Your Heart: He Came Back (video)
The Only Soul-Saver, Sin-Forgiver, Chain-Breaker, Pain-Taker, Way-Maker, Hope-Giver: Jesus
Keep Looking Up
Praise God, He’s Alive
Christian Internet Forwards? The Rest of “The Birdcage” Story? (video)
Ways to Glorify God - Bookmark
Watch NOW...You will be blessed.
Read: Is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” a Christian Song?*******
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
We continue to reach people worldwide with the truths of God's Word and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your generosity is both a blessing and encouragement. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and . . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2022
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- How long did JOB SUFFER?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- How are the Shepherd’s ROD and STAFF Different?
- Which Old Testament Book Did JESUS QUOTE most often?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- ONLY ONE LIFE, Twill Soon Be Past – by C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931)
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM in Psalm 22?
This is not a Got Questions? article. But it's so popular it ranked among the top pages viewed:
More Popular Got Questions
- Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the KEYS of Death and Hell?
- How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- Jesus' Last Days TIMELINE: The Cross and The Crucifixion
- How Many MIRACLES Did Jesus Do?
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
- SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
- What are the NAMES of JEHOVAH Hidden in Psalm 23?
- Jesus in the Gospels: What are the Four Different Presentations of Jesus?
- If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
- Why Did God Create Man Knowing MAN WOULD SIN?
- What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
- What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
- Was MARY a LEVITE Making Jesus both a Priest and King?
- Why Was a RAM SACRIFICED in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
- Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
- Can Jews go to Heaven without knowing Jesus?
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- Jimmy Stewart - Nativity Scene Prayer: Mr. Krueger's Christmas
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- Not by Might, Not by Power, But BY MY SPIRIT says the Lord (Zechariah 4:6)
- Erwin Lutzer - We Will Not Be SILENCED