The Scarlet Thread: The Depth of God's Redemptive Love

book review one unified story scarlet

The Bible mentions the scarlet cord or thread in several significant instances, revealing the Bible is one unified story. Here are the main occurrences in chronological order:


In the Passover story, there is no explicit mention of a scarlet thread. However, the Israelites were instructed to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to the doorposts and lintel of their homes using a bunch of hyssop (Exodus 12:22). This blood served as a sign of protection, causing the Lord to pass over their homes and spare their firstborn from the tenth plague. While not directly stated, some scholars and theologians have drawn a connection between the blood of the Passover lamb and the concept of the scarlet thread, as both represent God's redemptive work and the protection of His people.

Tamar Giving Birth

In the story of Tamar and Judah (Genesis 38:27-30), a scarlet thread is tied around the wrist of one of Tamar's twin boys during delivery. This thread distinguishes Zerah as the firstborn, even though his brother Perez emerges first. The scarlet thread here signifies the importance of birth order and the rights of the firstborn in Hebrew culture. It also foreshadows the reversal of expectations in God's plan, as Perez becomes an ancestor of King David and Jesus Christ.

Rahab and the Spies

Rahab, a Canaanite woman, hides two Israelite spies and helps them escape Jericho (Joshua 2:18-21). In return, the spies instruct her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign of protection when the Israelites conquer the city. The scarlet cord represents Rahab's faith in the God of Israel and her willingness to align herself with His people. It also symbolizes God's mercy and salvation, as Rahab and her family are spared by her actions.

Scarlet Wool in Cleansing Rituals

In various cleansing rituals prescribed in the Torah (Leviticus 14:4, 6, 51; Numbers 19:6), scarlet wool is used alongside hyssop and cedar wood. These rituals include cleansing a leper (Leviticus 14) and purification involving the ashes of a red heifer (Numbers 19). The scarlet wool symbolizes the blood of the sacrifice, which is essential for purification and atonement in Hebrew tradition. It also points to the future sacrificial work of the Messiah, who would provide ultimate cleansing from sin.

Scarlet Thread in the Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) involves the ritual of two goats: one sacrificed and the other, the "scapegoat," sent into the wilderness after the high priest lays the sins of the people on it. A scarlet thread is involved in this ritual, symbolizing the transfer of sins and the community's purification. The scarlet thread tied to the scapegoat (traditionally, though not explicitly mentioned in Leviticus 16, derived from later Jewish tradition) visually represents the transformation from sin to forgiveness, embodying the profound themes of atonement, purification, and the renewal of the covenant with God. This ritual highlights the centrality of atonement in maintaining the holiness of the community and its relationship with God.

In these instances, the scarlet cord or thread carries significant symbolic meaning, pointing to God's plan of redemption, mercy, and salvation. From a Hebraic perspective, these occurrences are interconnected, revealing the continuity of God's work throughout history and the centrality of sacrifice and faith in the relationship between God and His people.

New Testament

In the New Testament, the symbolism of the scarlet thread is often associated with the death of Jesus Christ. Christian tradition holds that Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross serves as the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the Passover story. The blood of Jesus is seen as the true scarlet thread that runs throughout the biblical narrative, providing redemption, cleansing, and salvation for all who believe in Him.

  1.  In Hebrews 9:19-22, the author describes how Moses sprinkled the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, on the tabernacle and the people. This passage then links these Old Testament rituals to the blood of Christ, which purifies the conscience and provides eternal redemption.
  2. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, the apostle Peter writes, "knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." This passage connects the concept of redemption through the blood of Christ to the Passover lamb.
  3. In Revelation 7:14, the apostle John sees a vision of a great multitude wearing white robes, who "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." This imagery ties together the concept of cleansing and purification through the blood of Christ.

The scarlet thread symbolizes the continuous plan of God's redemption, culminating in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It represents the blood that was shed for the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of humanity's relationship with God. 


Recommended Reading

"The Scarlet Thread" by Richard Booker is an insightful exploration into the thematic continuity of redemption throughout the Bible. Booker masterfully traces the metaphor of the scarlet thread, from its early appearances in the Old Testament to its culmination in the New Testament, illustrating the unbroken line of God's salvation plan for humanity. His detailed analysis and engaging narrative style bring to life the deep connections between Old Testament symbols and their fulfillment in Christ.

This book is a valuable resource for those seeking to deepen their understanding of biblical themes of redemption, covenant, and grace. Booker's work is both educational and inspiring, making complex theological concepts accessible to all readers.