Sometimes a stalk or rod of any plant, as of the hyssop, Mt 27:48; Joh 19:29. Usually, however, the word reed denotes a reed or cane growing in marshy grounds, Job 40:21; Isa 19:6; slender and fragile, and hence taken as an emblem of weakness, 1Ki 18:21; Isa 36:6; Eze 29:6; and of instability, Mt 11:7. "A bruised reed," Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20, is an emblem of a soul crushed and ready to sink in despair under a sense of its guilty and lost condition. Such a soul the Saviour will graciously sustain and strengthen. The reed of spice, or good reed, (English version, "sweet calamus," Ex 30:23, sweet cane" Jer 6:20,) also called simply reed, (English version, "calamus" or "sweet cane,") Isa 43:24; Song 4:14; Eze 27:19, is the sweet flag of India, calamus odoratus. Reeds were anciently used as pens and as measuring-rods, Eze 40:5; 42:16. The Hebrew "reed" is supposed to have been about ten feet long.
(1.) "Paper reeds" (Isa 19:7; R.V., "reeds"). Heb 'aroth, properly green herbage growing in marshy places.
The reed of Egypt and Palestine is the Arundo donax, which grows to the height of 12 feet, its stalk jointed like the bamboo, "with a magnificent panicle of blossom at the top, and so slender and yielding that it will lie perfectly flat under a gust of wind, and immediately resume its upright position." It is used to illustrate weakness (2Ki 18:21; Eze 29:6), also fickleness or instability (Mt 11:7; comp. Eph 4:14).
A "bruised reed" (Isa 42:3; Mt 12:20) is an emblem of a believer weak in grace. A reed was put into our Lord's hands in derision (Mt 27:29); and "they took the reed and smote him on the head" (30). The "reed" on which they put the sponge filled with vinegar (Mt 27:48) was, according to John (Joh 19:29), a hyssop stalk, which must have been of some length, or perhaps a bunch of hyssop twigs fastened to a rod with the sponge. (See Cane.)
agmon. Used to form a rope: Job 41:2, "canst thou put a rush rope ('agmon) into his nose?" in Job 41:20 'agmon is a "caldron" from agam, "to flow." "Branch ("the high") and rush ("the low")" (Isa 9:14; 58:5), "bow down ... head as a bulrush," imply that the head of the 'agmown was pendulous. Some aquatic, reed like, plant, the Arundodonax, or phragmitis, used as a walking stick, but apt to break and pierce the hand leaning on it (2Ki 18:21; Eze 29:6-7). The gomee, of the sedge kind (Cyperaceae), the papyrus or paper reeds of which Moses' ark was formed (Ex 2:3). Used to form boats on the Nile, also garments, shoes, baskets, and paper (Isa 18:2); Job 8:11 "can the papyrus plant grow without mire?" so the godless thrive only in outward prosperity, which soon ends, for they are without God "the fountain of life" (Ps 36:9). Rapid growth at first, like the papyrus; then sudden destruction.
The papyrus is not now found in Egypt; but it has for ages been on the margin of Lake Huleh or Merom and Lake Tiberius and in Syria. Paper was formed by cutting the interior of the stalks into thin slices lengthwise, after removing the rind, and laying them side by side in succession on a flat board; similar ones were laid over them at right angles, and the whole was cemented together by a glue, and pressed and dried. The Egyptians stewed and ate the lower part of the papyrus (Herodotus ii. 92). It grows from three to six feet high; Tristram (Land of Israel, 436) says 16 feet, and the triangular stems three inches in diameter, N. of Lake Tiberias. There are no leaves; the flowers are small spikelets at the tip of the threadlike branchlets which together form a bushy crown on each stem.
Aroth (Isa 19:7) not "paper reeds," but grassy pastures on the banks of the Nile; literally, places bare of wood, from 'aarah "to make bore" (Gesenius). KJV is from 'or the delicate "membrane"; the antithesis to "everything sown by the brooks" is, the aroth were not sown but growing of themselves. In mentioning "the reeds and flags" it is likely the papyrus would not be omitted; however, a different word in the chap. before (Isa 18:2, gomee) expresses the "papyrus". Kaneh "a reed" in general; a measuring reed, six cubits long (Eze 40:5; 41:8; compare Re 11:1; 21:15). The "sweet reed from a far country" is possibly the Andropogon calamus aromaticus of central India; keneh bosem (Ex 30:23 "sweet calamus") or hatob (Jer 6:20); or it may be rather the lemon grass (Andropogon schoenanthus) of India (Isa 43:24; Song 4:14; Eze 27:19).
See WEIGHTS and MEASURES.
Under this name may be noticed the following Hebrew words:
1. Agmon occurs in
(Authorized Version "rush"). There can be no doubt that it denotes some aquatic reed-like plant, probably the Phragmitis communis, which, if it does not occur in Palestine and Egypt, is represented by a very closely-allied species, viz., the Arundo isiaca of Delisle. The drooping panicle of this plant will answer well to the "bowing down the head" of which Isaiah speaks.
2. Gnome, translated "rush" and "bulrush" by the Authorized Version, without doubt denotes the celebrated paper-reed of the ancients, Papyrus antiquorum, which formerly was common in some parts of Egypt. The papyrus reed is not now found in Egypt; it grows however, in Syria. Dr. Hooker saw it on the banks of Lake Tiberias, a few miles north of the town. The papyrus plant has an angular stem from 3 to 6 feet high, though occasionally it grows to the height of 14 feet it has no leaves; the flowers are in very small spikelets, which grow on the thread-like flowering branchlets which form a bushy crown to each stem; (It was used for making paper, shoes, sails, ropes, mattresses, etc. The Greek name is Biblos, from which came our word Bible--book--because books were made of the papyrus paper. This paper was always expensive among the Greeks, being worth a dollar a sheet. --ED.)
3. Kaneh, a reed of any kind. Thus there are in general four kinds of reeds named in the Bible: (1) The water reed; No, 1 above. (2) A stronger reed, Arundo donax, the true reed of Egypt and Palestine, which grows 8 or 10 feet high, and is thicker than a man's thumb. It has a jointed stalk like the bamboo, and is very abundant on the Nile. (3) The writing reed, Arundo scriptoria, was used for making pens. (4) The papyrus; No. 2.
REED, ?????, Job 40:21; 41:2,20; Isa 9:14; 19:15; 58:5; ???????, Mt 11:7; a plant growing in fenny and watery places; very weak and slender, and bending with the least breath of wind, Mt 11:7; Lu 7:24. Thus it is threatened, "The Lord shall smite Israel as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of the good land which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their idol groves, provoking him to anger," 1Ki 14:15. The slenderness and fragility of the reed is mentioned in 2Ki 18:21; Isa 36:6; and is referred to in Mt 12:20, where the remark, illustrating the gentleness of our Saviour, is quoted from the prophecy of Isa 42:3. The Hebrew word in these places is ???, as also in Job 40:21; Isa 19:6; 35:7; Eze 29:6. See BULRUSH.