Cane, the rendering in only two passages (Isa 43:24; Jer 6:20) of the Hebrews word קָכֶה, kaneh', from which, indeed, the modern term (Chald., Syr., and Arab. essentially the same; Gr. κάννη, Lat. canna) appears to have been derived, signifying properly a reed (as usually translated), i.e. the tall sedgy plant with a hollow stem (from קָכָה, to erect), growing in moist places (1Ki 14:15; Job 40:21; Isa 19:6; Isa 35:7; so Ps 68:31, beast of the reeds [A. V. "multitude of spearmen,"], i.e. the crocodile); also the sweetflag (Eze 27:19; Song 4:14; fully Ex 30:23); also the cultivated reed used as a staff (Eze 29:6; Isa 36:6); hence a measuring reed or rod (Eze 40:3,5; Eze 42:16-19); also a simple stalk of grain (Ge 41:5,22); likewise the upper bone of the arm (Job 31:22); the rod or beam of a balance, put for the balance itself (Isa 46:6); the shaft or stem of the sacred candelabrum (Ex 30:31; Ex 37:17), as well as its branches or tubes (Ex 25:32-33,35, etc.). As the name of a plant, the word designates in Scripture three kinds of the genus A rundo, of which we accordingly give here a detailed description.
1. Common Cane. — In most of the passages of the Old Testament the word kaneh seems to be applied strictly to reeds of different kinds growing in waterthat is, to the hollow stems or culms of grasses, which are usually weak, easily shaken about by wind or by water, fragile, and breaking into sharp-pointed splinters. Thus, in 1Ki 14:15, "As a reed is shaken in the water;" Job 40:21, "He lieth in the covert of the reed;" Isa 19:6, "And they shall turn the rivers far away; and the reeds and flags shall wither." Also in Isa 35:7; while in 2Ki 18:21; Isa 36:6; and Eze 29:7, there is reference to the weak and fragile nature of the reed: "Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt, whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it." The Greek word κάλαμος appears to have been considered the proper equivalent for the Hebrew kaiehl, being the term used by Matthew (Mt 12:20) when quoting the words of Isaiah (Isa 42:3), "A bruised reed shall he not break." The Greek word Latinized is well known in the forms of calamus and culmus. Both seem to have been derived from the Arabic kalea, signifying a "reed" or "pen," and forming numerous compounds, with the latter signification, in the languages of the East. It also denotes a weaver's reed, and even cuttings of trees for planting or grafting. Or they may all be derived from the Sanscrit kalm, having the same signification. The German halm, and the English haulm, usually applied to the straw or stems of grasses, would seem to have the same origin. The Greek κάλαμος and the Latin calamus were used with as wide a signification as the Oriental kalm, and denoted a reed, the stalk or stem of corn, or any thing made therefrom, as a pen, an arrow, a reed pipe. Κάλαμος is also applied to any plant which is neither shrub, bush (ὕλη), nor tree (δένδρου) (see Liddell and Scott's Greek Lex.). So calamus means' any twig, sprig, or scion (Pliny, 16:14, 24). The term κάλαμος occurs very frequently in the New Testament, and apparently with the same latitude of meaning: thus, in the sense of a reed or culm of a grass, Mt 11:7; Lu 7:24, "A reed shaken by the wind;" of a pen in 3Jo 1:13, "But I will not with pen and ink write unto thee;" Mt 27:29, "Put a reed in his right hand;" ver. 30, "Took the reed and smote him on the head;" and in Mr 15:19, it may mean a reed or twig of any kind. So also in Mt 27:48, and Mr 15:36, where it is said that they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it on a reed, while in the parallel passage, Joh 19:29, it is said that they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth; from which it is probable that the term κάλαμος was applied by both the Evangelists to the stem of the plant named hyssop, whatever this may have been, in like manner as Pliny (Joh 24:14, 75) applies the term calamus to the stem of a bramble.
In later times the term cane has been applied more particularly to the stems of the Calamus rotang, and other species of ratan canes, which we have good grounds for believing were unknown to the ancients, notwithstanding the opinion of Sprengel (Hist. Rei Herb. 1:171), "Ctesias makes two kinds of 'calamue,'. the male without pith, the female with it, the latter without doubt the Calamus rotang, the other our Bambusca, as Pliny restates (16:36)." SEE FLAG.
2. Cultivated Cane. — Of this Dioscorides describes the different kinds in his chapter περὶ καλάμου (1:114).
1. Κάλαμος ὁ ναστός, or the Arundofarcta, of which arrows are made (Arundo arenaria?).
2. The female, of which reed pipes were made (A. donax ?).
3. Hollow, with frequent knots, fitted for writing, probably a species of Saccharum.
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
4. Thick and hollow, growing in rivers, which is called donax, and also Cypria (Arundo donax).
5. Phragmites (Arundo phragmites), slender, light-colored, and well known.
6. The reed called Phleos (Arundo anpelodesmos Cyrillii). (Flora Neapol. t. 12.)
These are all described (1. c.) immediately before the papyrus, while κάλαμος ἀρωματικός is described in a different part of the book, namely, in ch. 17, along with spices and perfumes. The Arabs describe the different kinds of reed under the head of Kusb, or Kussub, of which they 'give Kalamus as the synonymous Greek term.
From the context of several of the above passages of Scripture in which kaneh is mentioned, it is evident that it was a plant growing in water; and we have seen, from the meaning of the word in other languages, that it must have been applied to one of the true reeds, as, for instance, Arundo AEgyptiaca (perhaps only a variety of A. donax), growing on the banks of the Nile. In the New Testament κάλαμος seems to be applied chiefly to plants growing in dry and even barren situations, as in Lu 7:24, "What went ye into the wilderness to see a reed shaken by the wind ?" To such passages, some of the species of reed-like grasses, with slender stems and light flocculent inflorescence, formerly referred to Saccharum, but now separated as distinct genera, are well suited. SEE REED.
3. Sweet Cane. — This is designated in Hebrews by KENEH' BO'SEM קנֵה בשֶׁב, reed of fragrance, Ex 30:23), or KANEH' HAT- TOB (קָנֶה הִטּוֹב, good or fragrant reed, Jer 6:20). It is probably intended also by kaneh (" reed") simply in Song 4:14; Isa 43:24; and Eze 27:17, as it is enumerated with other fragrant and aromatic substances. Finally, it was brought from a far country (Jer 6:20; Eze 27:19): Dan also, and Javan, going to and fro, carried bright iron, cassia, and calamus to the markets of Tyre.
The best description by ancient writers of this plant is that of Dioscorides (1:17), who calls it the aromatic reed (κάλαμος ἀρωματικός), and immediately after as a rush (σχοῖνος). He states it to be a produce of India, of a tawny color, much jointed, breaking into splinters, and having the hollow stem filled with pith like the web of a spider; also that it is mixed with ointments and fumigations on account of its odor. Hippocrates was acquainted with apparently the same substance (κάλαμος εὐώδης and σχοῖνος εὔοσμος), which Theophrastus, Polybius (v. 46), and Strabo (16:2) describe as growing in Coele-Syria, where modern travelers, however, have observed only common or scentless flags. Bochart, indeed, doubts whether the Scriptural plant could have been brought from India (Hieroz. pt. 2:1. 5, 100:6); but Dr. Vincent maintains that this trade was then fthy open (Periplus of the Erythrcean Sea, 2:365). Hence Dr. Royle (Illustr. of Himal. Botany, p. 425) identifies the "sweet cane" of Scripture with the Andrcp gon calamus (aromaticus), a plant extensively cultivated in India, from which an oil, deemed to be the famous spikenard of antiquity, is extracted (Royle, Essay on Hindoo Medicine, p. 33, 142; Hackett, On the Spikenard of the Ancients, p. 34; Calcutta Med. Trans. 1:367). SEE CALAMUS.