What is the significance of a scarlet thread?There are several mentions of a scarlet thread throughout the Bible, occurring in varying situations. Often these are symbolically linked to the theme of redemption through Jesus' atoning sacrifice on the cross—His shed blood for our salvation.
In Genesis 38:27–30, during the birth of Judah and Tamar's twin boys, the midwife ties a scarlet thread on the arm of Zerah when it emerges from the birth canal. This was to indicate him as the firstborn son. However, it was actually the other twin, Perez, who was born first. The birth line of Jesus Christ came generations later through the ancestors of Perez (Matthew 1:3).
The Bible mentions there being scarlet threads both in the curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1) and in the priest's ephod (Exodus 28:6). The curtains also contained blue and purple threads. The ephod, a garment like an apron, also contained threads of gold, blue, and purple.
Scarlet thread is also mentioned in Joshua 2 in the story where Rahab hides the two Israelite spies who had come to scope out the city of Jericho. She expressed her faith in the God of the Israelites and helped the men escape by a rope through her window. She asked them to deal kindly with her and her family, as she had treated them, when the Israelites came back to conquer the city. The men promised to do so and instructed her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign. She does as they say (Joshua 2:18—21), and she and her family are kept safe (Joshua 6:22–23). Rahab was an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). The scarlet cord in her window hearkens back to the story of God's plague in Egypt where the Israelites had to sprinkle the red blood of a lamb on their doorposts so that their households would be spared from death (Exodus 12:13).
Some theologians talk about there being a scarlet thread that runs through the Bible. This is referring to the consistent theme and promise of redemption that we see woven throughout the Bible. Without shed blood, forgiveness is not possible (Hebrews 9:22). Whether the actual sacrificial blood of animals, the salvation granted with a scarlet cord, or the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, redemption is signified with scarlet. All versions of redemption in the Bible lead us to the true redemption that comes only through Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) once and for all.
What is Christian redemption? What does it mean to be redeemed?
Why was a blood sacrifice required in the Old Testament sacrificial system?
Why is Christianity so bloody?
Who was Rahab in the Bible?
Who is Jesus Christ?
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