[Heb., qa·nehʹ; Gr., kaʹla·mos].
These terms evidently embrace numerous reedlike plants commonly growing in wet places. (Job 40:21; Ps 68:30; Isa 19:6; 35:7; see CALAMUS, CANE.) Some scholars believe that in many cases the “reed” intended is Arundo donax. This plant is common in Egypt, Palestine, and Syria. Its stem, terminating in a large plume of white flowers, has a diameter of 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in.) at the base and grows to a height of 2.5 to 5.5 m (8 to 18 ft). The leaves measure from 30 to 90 cm (1 to 3 ft) in length. The common reed (Phragmites australis) is also found in swamps and on the banks of rivers in Israel. It is a leafy grass 1.5 to 5 m (5 to 16 ft) high and has fluffy flower clusters atop its stiff, smooth stems.
In mockery, Roman soldiers placed a reed, representative of a royal scepter, in Jesus’ right hand and later hit him with it. Also, a reed was used to convey a sponge soaked with sour wine to the impaled Jesus.—Mt 27:29, 30, 48; Joh 19:29; see HYSSOP.
The reed was also used for measuring. The book of Ezekiel (40:5) indicates that a measuring reed was 6 cubits long. So a reed based on the common cubit measured 2.67 m (8.75 ft), and one based on the long cubit measured 3.11 m (10.2 ft).—Re 11:1; 21:15, 16; see WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.
Figurative Use. “Reed” is used in the Bible to represent instability and frailty. (1Ki 14:15; Eze 29:6, 7) Egypt was compared to a crushed reed, the sharp, pointed slivers of which would penetrate the palm of anyone leaning upon it. (2Ki 18:21; Isa 36:6) Concerning John the Baptizer, Jesus said: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed being tossed by a wind?” (Mt 11:7) These words may have been intended to show that John the Baptizer was not a person who was wavering or vacillating but one who was firm, stable, and upright. At Matthew 12:20 (Isa 42:3), the “bruised reed” seems to represent oppressed people like the man with the withered hand whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath.—Mt 12:10-14; see Mt 23:4; Mr 6:34.