You may have heard it said, somewhere in some Christian circle, that there's a "scarlet thread" that runs through the Bible, meaning, of course, that it is Jesus's blood that holds this whole God story together. Tied to the very roots of Creation, it was poured out on the Cross and runs through rivers of living water to bring life to a world teetering on the edge of death. It's all very poetical and beautiful.
But, uh, there's also an actual scarlet thread running through the Bible. And it, too, is pretty interesting to trace.
We first see the scarlet thread in Genesis 38 in a rather interesting story.
So here's what happened: Judah, a son of Israel, married off his son to a woman named Tamar. The son dies, having had no children with his wife, and in the kinsman-redeemer social construct of Israel, Judah's next-eldest son marries Tamar. But he also dies having no children. Judah realizes he's only got one son left, so rather than risk losing a third son without heirs, he sends Tamar home and "promises" to send for her when his youngest son is old enough to wed.
Of course, he never sends for her, and she grows impatient. So she disguises herself as a prostitute and tricks Judah himself into sleeping with her. She ends up pregnant from the encounter, and just as he is about to have her stoned to death for becoming a whore, she reveals that he is the one who slept with her - thinking she was a whore - and she is spared. Bearing twin boys, she goes into labor. One baby sticks his arm out of the womb, so they quickly tie a scarlet thread around it to indicate that he is the firstborn. But then, he pulls his arm back in and his brother is actually born first.
This is the story of Perez and Zerah.
There are some interesting things we have to pick up on in this story if we want to truly trace this scarlet thread through the Bible.
First, this is a story of Judah. Judah is one of the twelve tribes of Israel, meaning he is one of the twelve sons of Jacob. When Israel's disobedience finally catches up to her and her kingdom is split, Judah becomes its own nation, a remnant, the preservation of something special about Israel.
Perez - the twin with the scarlet thread tied around his wrist - is a direct great-great-great...ancestor of David, the King that God promised would always have a son on the throne. David is a direct great-great-great....ancestor of Jesus, which means that Perez was, too.
Oh, this tribe of Judah.
And we know, too, that Jesus is the "only begotten," which means "firstborn" son of God, but we know, too, that Adam was, well, the "first Adam" (Jesus was the "second Adam"). So we look at this story where the "firstborn" son sticks his hand out and is given the scarlet thread, and we look ahead to Jesus, who had His hand on the earth from the very first, and this is the scarlet thread. But the first Adam thwarted everything and came wholly first into the world in flesh and mud and holy breath.
Perez and Zerah from "In the beginning" to "I am with you always."
And then there's the woman. She dresses herself as a prostitute; God's always accused His people of whoring on Him. And yet, this unfaithful, disgusting, despicable people is the very same one who bears the Son of the scarlet thread. The world may mock and laugh and scorn and scoff and even pick up stones and say that Israel deserves to die for her unfaithfulness, but God, the Father, steps in and spares her. And all of a sudden, the Father Himself has brought a Son into this world through the "unfaithful" woman, a promise He made from the very beginning and finally has kept, even as the world waits.
This is the first story of the scarlet thread, and we see how clearly it ties (see what I did there?) into the one we're more familiar with.
Just wait 'till you see where it shows up next....