Reed [N] [S]

  • "Paper reeds" ( Isaiah 19:7 ; RSV, "reeds"). Heb. 'aroth, properly green herbage growing in marshy places.

  • Heb. kaneh ( 1 Kings 14:15 ; Job 40:21 ; Isaiah 19:6 ), whence the Gr. kanna, a "cane," a generic name for a reed of any kind.

    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 ( 2 Kings 18:21 ; Ezekiel 29:6 ), also fickleness or instability ( Matthew 11:7 ; Compare Ephesians 4:14 ).

    A "bruised reed" ( Isaiah 42:3 ; Matthew 12:20 ) is an emblem of a believer weak in grace. A reed was put into our Lord's hands in derision ( Matthew 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 ( Matthew 27:48 ) was, according to ( John 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 .)

    These dictionary topics are from
    M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
    published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Reed". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .
  • Reed. [N] [E]

    Under this name may be noticed the following Hebrew words:

    1. Agmon occurs in ( Job 40:12 Job 40:16 ; Isaiah 9:14 ) (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. ( Isaiah 58:5 )
    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 mans 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.

    [N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
    [E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

    Bibliography Information

    Smith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Reed'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary". . 1901.



    (1) achu, translated "reed-grass" (Genesis 41:2,18; Job 8:11 margin). See FLAG.

    (2) 'ebheh, translated "swift," margin "reed" (Job 9:26). The "ships of reed" are the light skiffs made of plaited reeds used on the Nile; compare "vessels of papyrus" (Isaiah 18:2).

    (3) 'aghammim, translated "reeds," margin "marshes," Hebrew "pools" (Jeremiah 51:32); elsewhere "pools" (Exodus 7:19; 8:5; Isaiah 14:23, etc.). See POOL.

    (4) `aroth; achi, translated "meadows," the King James Version "paper reeds" (Isaiah 19:7). See MEADOW.

    (5) qaneh; kalamos (the English "cane" comes from Hebrew via Latin and Greek canna), "stalk" (Genesis 41:5,22); "shaft" (Exodus 37:17, etc.); "reed," or "reeds" (1 Kings 14:15; 2 Kings 18:21; Isaiah 36:6; 42:3; Psalms 68:30, the King James Version "spearman"); "calamus" (Exodus 30:23; Song of Solomon 4:14; Ezekiel 27:19); "sweet cane," margin "calamus" (Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20); "bone" (Job 31:22); used of the cross-beam of a "balance" (Isaiah 46:6); "a measuring reed" (Ezekiel 40:3); "a staff of reed," i.e. a walking-stick (Isaiah 36:6; Ezekiel 29:6); the "branches" of a candlestick (Exodus 37:18).

    (6) kalamos, "a reed shaken with the wind" (Matthew 11:7; Luke 7:24); "a bruised reed" (Matthew 12:20); they put "a reed in his right hand" (Matthew 27:29,30); "They smote his head with a reed" (Mark 15:19); "put it on a reed" (Matthew 27:48; Mark 15:36); "a measuring reed" (Revelation 11:1; 21:15,16); "a pen" (3John 1:13).

    It is clear that qaneh and its Greek equivalent kalamos mean many things. Some refer to different uses to which a reed is put, e.g. a cross-beam of a balance, a walking-stick, a measuring rod, and a pen (see above), but apart from this qaneh is a word used for at least two essentially different things:

    (1) an ordinary reed, and

    (2) some sweet-smelling substance.

    (1) The most common reed in Palestine is the Arundo donax (Natural Order Gramineae), known in Arabic as qacabfarasi, "Persian reed." It grows in immense quantities in the Jordan valley along the river and its tributaries and at the oases near the Dead Sea, notably around `Ain Feshkhah at the northwest corner. It is a lofty reed, often 20 ft. high, of a beautiful fresh green in summer when all else is dead and dry, and of a fine appearance from a distance in the spring months when it is in full bloom and the beautiful silky panicles crown the top of every reed. The "covert of the reed" (Job 40:21) shelters a large amount of animal and bird life. This reed will answer to almost all the requirements of the above references.

    (2) Qaneh is in Jeremiah 6:20 qualified qaneh ha-Tobh, "sweet" or "pleasant cane," and in Exodus 30:23, qeneh bhosem, "sweet calamus," or, better, a "cane of fragrance." Song of Solomon 4:14; Isaiah 43:24; Ezekiel 27:19 all apparently refer to the same thing, though in these passages the qaneh is unqualified. It was an ingredient of the holy oil (Exodus 30:23); it was imported from a distance (Jeremiah 6:20; Ezekiel 27:19), and it was rare and costly (Isaiah 43:24). It may have been the "scented calamus" (Axorus calamus) of Pliny (NH, xii.48), or some other aromatic scented reed or flag, or, as some think, some kind of aromatic bark. The sweetness refers to the scent, not the taste.

    See also BULRUSH; PAPYRUS.

    E. W. G. Masterman

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Bibliography Information
    Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'REED'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.