This often translates the Hebrew word qa·nehʹ and its Greek equivalent kaʹla·mos, which terms evidently embrace numerous reedlike plants commonly growing in wet places. (Job 40:21; Ps. 68:30; Isa. 19:6; 35:7) 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 two or three inches (5 or 7.6 centimeters) at the base and grows to a height of eight feet (2.4 meters) or more. The leaves measure from one to three feet (.3 to. 9 meter) in length. Even in recent times this reed has been used as a measuring rod.—See Ezekiel 40:3, 5; Revelation 11:1; 21:15, 16.
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.—Matt. 27:29, 30, 48; see HYSSOP.
Figuratively, “reed” is used in the Bible to represent instability and frailty. (1 Ki. 14:15; Ezek. 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. (2 Ki. 18:21; Isa. 36:6) Concerning John the Baptist, Jesus said: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed being tossed by a wind?” (Matt. 11:7) These words may have been intended to show that John the Baptist was not a person wavering or vacillating, but 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.—Matt. 12:10-14; see Matthew 23:4; Mark 6:34; CALAMUS, CANE.