What is the Scarlet Thread in the Bible?

"What is the Scarlet Thread in the Bible?" by Steppes of Faith

“’When we come into the land, you shall bind this line of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down’… And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.” Joshua 2:18,21

About ten years ago, my husband and I had the great pleasure of being a part of a Sunday school class that covered the Bible in a year. It was a whirlwind of information. One thing I remember is our dear friend, Tim (who was teaching the class), holding up a red silken rope at the end of each class to point out where the scarlet thread ran through that day’s story. My husband and I would look at each other completely confused.

What was the scarlet thread?

The Bible talks about scarlet threads or ropes in a few places. But the bigger idea of a thread running throughout the Bible, something that connects everything, is about so much more than a physical piece of cloth.

Twins and Temple

One of the places we read about a scarlet thread is in Genesis 38:27-30. Judah, one of Jacob’s sons and brother to Joseph, was married to Tamar who gave birth to twins. One twin stuck his arm out of the birth canal, so the midwife tied a scarlet thread around its wrist to help Tamar know which one was born first.

“Then it happened, as he drew back his hand that his brother came out unexpectedly; and [the midwife] said, ‘How did you break through? This breach be upon you!’ Therefore, his name was called Perez. Afterward, his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand, and his name was called Zerah.”

Technically, Zerah was born first, but because Perez was the first to come out of Tamar completely, he was the one who was called firstborn. And it was through Perez’s family that Jesus was eventually born.

A scarlet thread is also mentioned as being a part of both the high priest’s ephod and the temple’s curtains (Exodus 26:1). No one knows for sure what the different colors of threads used in the temple signified, but it’s evident that scarlet represents blood.

Thread of Prophecy

It is true that the scarlet thread signifies blood, but not just any blood. It more specifically points to the prophecy of Jesus’ work on the cross and the blood He shed for our sins.

The scarlet thread begins right away in Genesis with Adam and Eve. After they ate the fruit, God committed the first killing. He killed an innocent animal and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin, not just out of love but also as a representation of how He covers our sin with His righteousness (Genesis 3:21). I love how Pastor Ernest Angley explains it:

“Man had tried to cover himself after he sinned; he sewed fig leaves together, but without shedding of blood there is no remission (Hebrews 9:22). Without the shedding of blood, man has no covering to blot out his sins from the sight of God. The blood of the Son of God is the only way the sins of man could be washed away.”

The plan of redemption was already in motion even before Adam and Eve ate the fruit. God did not want to be separated from His finest creation, but He could not (and still cannot) tolerate sin in His perfect, holy presence. Because God is life and the penalty for sin is death, only a perfect sacrifice could reconcile us to Him. So, He sent His only son to be the perfect blood sacrifice that would pay the debt of sin eternally for all of us.

A Perfect Lamb

We see the scarlet thread again with Abraham and Isaac when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22:1-18). Because of Abraham’s obedience, God spared Isaac’s life, and a ram suddenly appeared nearby, one suitable for sacrifice to the Lord. The ram’s blood was shed to save Isaac’s life.

The prophecy of Christ’s coming is very evident in this story. As they were climbing Mount Moriah together, Isaac asked his father, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb (v. 7 and 8).”

Because God provided a lamb to Abraham, he named the place on Mount Moriah “The-LORD-Will-Provide,” which is where the Hebrew name “Jehovah Jireh” comes from. Later, God would provide another lamb, a perfect lamb, to be the perfect sacrifice to away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Another example is in Exodus 12 when the first Passover was instituted.

God told Moses to tell all the Hebrews to sacrifice a spotless lamb and put its blood on the door frames of their houses as a sign that believers were inside. When the Lord passed through the land and saw the blood, He would “pass over” those houses and spare them from death.

Again, we see how the blood of a lamb protected the people from death and how it foreshadowed the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Rahab and the Spies

Probably the best story that explains the scarlet thread is in Joshua 2:17-20 where Rahab the harlot hid two other spies from the king of Jericho. The king immediately began searching for them because they knew the Israelites were coming to take over the city.

Before the spies escaped, they made an oath to protect Rahab and her household if she kept a scarlet cord in her window. She kept her oath, and the Israelite army spared her family from the utter destruction her city endured later when the walls fell (Joshua 6).

God protected Rahab because she believed in the power the scarlet cord represented. Just as the Hebrews covered their door frames with blood, Rahab covered her house by putting the cord in the window. Through her faith, God saved her just as our faith in Jesus’ blood saves us.


Every instance of the scarlet thread leads up to Jesus’ death on the cross. It was there the prophecy of His coming and sacrifice were fulfilled. That means the forgiveness of sin is no longer dependent on the shedding of blood. Hallelujah!

The scarlet thread of Jesus’ blood began in Genesis and ends with His second coming and His victory over Satan. Revelation 19:12-13,16 tells us,

“His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Certainly, there is power and victory through the blood of Jesus Christ. It reminds me of an old hymn I love that said, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb. There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood the Lamb.”

The scarlet thread runs through every book of the Bible. It is a great adventure to trace the story of God’s redemption plan every time you read it.

Jesus’ death on the cross is the foundation of every Christian’s faith. Without Him shedding His holy blood to pay our debt of sin, we would have no hope of heaven. But thanks be to God we have been redeemed!

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42 Replies to “What is the Scarlet Thread in the Bible?”

  1. I found your wonderful explanation tonight after speaking about the scarket thread at a street meeting here in India. I was actually speaking on a different take of the idea .. namely that in all our lives has run a scarlet thread of the workings of God to bring us to redemption.
    Eg… the prayers of a mother … the words of a stranger.. the circunstance that has brought us to our knees.
    Your thoughts?

    • That’s an interesting take on the scarlet thread. I don’t know if I would call it a scarlet thread, though. It’s more about the Holy Spirit working in our lives to bring us to redemption and to guide our faith as we navigate the world. But I like that you’re in India sharing the word of God and explaining how He works in our lives. That’s such an important area of the world that needs to hear your message. I pray God blesses your ministry.

  2. My bible has a section included after Revelation titled “The Scarlet Thread Of Redemption”. Because it is not featured in all of my bibles (actually only found in one), I searched for it in other places. Thankfully I found the complete context of it with you. Many don’t have any awareness of the significance of the Scarlet Thread throughout the bible but you’ve connected the dots.

    • You’re right. Not many Bibles say anything at all about it. In fact, none of mine do. I heard about it years ago from one of my pastors. So glad I could help you, though. That’s why I’m here. Thanks for reading!

      • When on the day of atonement a scarlet thread was tied to the goats-if they turned white, their sacrifice was accepted by God and their sins were shown to be forgiven-after 30 AD this ceased because the LAMB OF GOD was slain and He was/is our propitiation for sin. (evbibletalk.blogspot.com) Now as it says in Is 1:18 though your sins be as scarlet they will be white like snow-though they be as crimson they will be white as wool! Messiah Yeshua nailed our iniquities (sins) AND our infirmities (diseases) to the cross. Vitamin d3 is a virus killer-it is extracted from the lamb’s wool (lanolin) which contains vit d3 as cholecalciferol! How like Him is it to put the virus killer IN THE LAMB!!!! Hallelu-YAH!

  3. Someone gave me a scarlet thread as a present, to hang in our new business, but couldn’t give me the complete meaning, therefore I googled and came upon this explanation, which I need and is very comforting. To God and God alone be all glory, now and forever.

    • I’m so glad I could bless you! Thanks for reading, and good luck with your business! Hope to hear from you again sometime. God bless!

  4. There is no mention of the kind of fruit they ate in the Bible. To say it was a apple because some apples are red inaccurate. It just says fruit.

  5. Amen! I would have never come across this post if it wasn’t for God, thank you Jesus for all that you do and all that you continue to do for us.

  6. I’m so thankful Jesus blood paid the cost for me, what it all means will I ever grasp it all? “It is finished” remains to be seen.

    • I agree, it’s hard for humans to understand the vastness of God’s love for us. I believe His work of redemption is finished, but He’s not finished with His other work. I believe the best is yet to come. Thanks for stopping by and God bless!

  7. I love all of the reminders and symbolism of Jesus’s love and sacrifice for us throughout the Bible.

    • The whole theme of the Bible is the kingdom of GOD you have entirely missed the point. Adam and Eve sinned and the Ransom sacrifice of Jesus is a cover for us he paid for our sins and so we have the chance of everlasting life.
      Scarlet thread is interesting but is not significant enough to focus on.
      Just like when baking a cake in a tin that has a dent in it, all subsequent cakes will have a dent . So we all have the dent of sin in us and the prophecy at Gen 3 v15 -16 shows how Jehovah God will put his original purpose back on track.
      Isiah 55 v11 says his word will not return without results
      For more information go to Jw.org and download the Book What does the Bible teach us. Free of charge you will find it very interesting and answers very important questions

      • I appreciate your thoughts, Martha. Yes, the kingdom of God is very important, obviously. But the major theme of the Bible absolutely is God’s plan of redemption as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Jesus’ death and resurrection redeemed us individually, and His yet-to-come second coming will redeem Israel. The scarlet thread is merely a theological element of the plan where one can trace through the history of human Jesus’ birth. It’s not meant to be something focused on exclusively. It’s just another way of studying God’s word. I pray you’re not being led off-track by your teachers. Your personal relationship with Jesus is more important than you understanding what all His kingdom entails. Please be cautious of false teaching.

      • I Love the stories of the scarlet thread and its symbolism of the blood of Jesus to cover my sins/our sins of the world. He God showed up and provided for Abraham.
        Dear God,
        Forgive me of my sins and I ask Jesus to come into my heart. I ask for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see you and open my ears to hear your voice. Thank you for providing a sacrifice Jesus your only Son to die in place of me. Amen

    • I used to have a long and thin poster of the entire blood line. the scarlet thread started in Genesis and went through the whole bible to Jesus. It was so informative. Love your article. Thanks.

    • Thank you for taking out your time to explain this concept.

      One thing, I am not sure Joshua was with the other spies at Rahab’s house, He was with the spies when Moses first sent spies out but not when Joshua sent out spies. I may be wrong though.