Psalm 22 was written by David, King of Israel, about 1000 years before the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is too long to reprint here; you might want to go back and reread it before continuing.
The psalm is a prediction and prophecy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this prophecy about the agonies of Christ’s crucifixion was written about 400 years before crucifixion was invented.
The first twenty-one lines are full of words describing sorrow and suffering. There are many correlations between this psalm and the crucifixion of Christ. For example, the psalm begins with His final words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NIV) Psalm 22 discusses being mocked, despised, and insulted by others. It lists many of the sufferings that Christ endured on the cross: His bones out of joint, agonizing pain, heart damage, exhaustion, extreme thirst, pierced hands and feet, people staring and gloating, and soldiers gambling for His clothes.
As I was reading it, I was struck by Line 6, “But I am a worm and not a man,” I thought it was very curious that in this prophesy, Jesus would describe Himself that way, as a lowly worm. I began to look more closely at the verse.
The Hebrew word used for worm here in Psalm 22:6 is “tola’ath”, and its principle meaning is referring to the Crimson or Scarlet Worm (coccus ilicis).
When we learn about this special worm, we see that it was the perfect word for David to use to describe Jesus at that moment on the cross.
The Crimson worm is common to the region of old Israel and was used in the dyeing of garments to scarlet. Scarlet was the color of royalty and of blood. For example, when the soldiers were mocking Jesus before he was crucified, they put a scarlet robe on Him.
“They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said.” (Matthew 27:28-29 NIV)
Back to the worm.
When it is time for the Crimson worm to have babies, which she does only once in her life, she attaches her body to the wood of a tree, and makes a hard scarlet shell. She is so strongly and permanently stuck to the wood that the shell can never be removed without tearing her body completely apart and killing her.
This worm then lays her eggs under her body and shell. When the young hatch, they stay under her shell. During this time, the larvae feed on the living body of the mother. She sacrifices her life for theirs.
As the mother dies, after a few days, she secretes a scarlet red dye that stains both the offspring and the wood. It is this dye that was used to color garments. The young worms are dyed scarlet red the rest of their lives.
After three days, the dead Crimson worm’s body loses its crimson color and turns into a white wax which falls to the ground like snow.
Just like the Crimson Worm, Jesus sacrificed His life for His children. As with the worm, this act was a one-time event, and will never happen again. He shed His blood so that His children could be washed, nourished, and protected in His crimson blood. We, just like the offspring of the Crimson Worm, are stained for life with the shed blood of Jesus. He died for us, so that we could live through Him. He too, gave up His body, and rose after three days, changing from scarlet to a brilliant white.
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1-2 NIV)
When Jesus said “But I am a worm and not a man,“, He was saying He was no mere man. He was declaring He was the Son of God who was sacrificing His life for His children, and protecting and staining them with His saving blood.
I will never cease to be awed by the complexity and perfection of the Bible. Here is one little line mentioning a worm, written in a psalm about a crucifixion that would take place 1000 years later. The comparison to the lowly worm adds a lot to the psalm, and is another proof to me that the Bible was written by God.
As far as I am concerned, if God writes a book, I’m going to read it and do what it says.