REED (Heb. qāneh, ’ăghammîm, ’ādhû, Gr. kalamos). A reed stalk was used as a measuring rod. In Babylonia six cubits made a reed or qāneh. Among the Israelites a reed came to denote a fixed length of six long cubits (
The “giant reed” is the bulrush or Persian reed of Pal., found in the Jordan Valley and around the Dead Sea. This Arundo donax can grow to the height of eighteen ft. carrying at its tip a white plume. The stem at the base of the reed may have a diameter of three inches. These thick, strong stems were used as canes or walking sticks, hence the reference in
The reference in 2 Kings also to the piercing of a hand refers to the fact that the hard stem of the reed can break up into sharp, thin slivers with points which can easily make holes in a man’s flesh.
Whether the cane or rod used to convey the sponge to our Lord’s mouth was the Arundo donax is not important. There are experts who consider that the necessarily long stem used was that of the Dhura or Durra, sometimes called the Jerusalem corn. The true Durra is the Egyp. rice corn, which can grow to a height of sixteen ft. Its stout stems are filled with a thick, dry pith which is never sweet. The plant grows well without irrigation.
In Weymouth’s tr. the word “cane” is used instead of “reed” in
Pens in Biblical days were made from reeds; thus, in
The common reed (Phragmites communis), found in the Holy Land, has stems which can grow twelve ft. in height. The stems are much valued for thatching in Britain.
The papyrus reed (Cypherus papyrus) grew down the Nile in the shallower parts, and produced huge main, thick horizontal roots, often twenty ft. long, out of which grew shorter roots for anchorage purposes. Whole plants were dug up, the roots being used for tool handles, and the stems being made into sandals, ropes, mats and baskets. The pith of the stems could be eaten, either cooked or raw while this could be extracted to make paper (see Bulrush).
The fact that the pith could be eaten or made into paper makes sense of
The word “reed” is used also in connection with measuring (
A reed equals about six cubits. The cubit is reckoned to be the measurement from the elbow to the end of the middle finger, i.e. one ft. six inches. In
The brook Kanah (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(1) achu, translated "reed-grass" (
(2) ’ebheh, translated "swift," margin "reed" (
(3) ’aghammim, translated "reeds," margin "marshes," Hebrew "pools" (
(4) `aroth; achi, translated "meadows," the
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" (
See also BULRUSH; PAPYRUS.
E. W. G. Masterman