Rush is the rendering in the A.V. of two Heb. words, both of which are occasionally translated "bulrush" (q.v.).
1. Agmon (אָגַמוֹן; Sept. κρίκος, ἄνθραξ, μικρός, τέλος; Vulg. circulus, fervens, referenans) occurs in Job 40:24 (A.V. 41:2), "Canst thou put agmon" (A.V. "hook") into the nose of the crocodile? again, in 40:12 (A.V. 41:20), "Out of his nostrils goeth smoke as out of a seething pot or agmosen" (A.V. "caldron"). In Isa 9:14, it is said Jehovah "will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and agmon" (A.V. "rush"). The agmon is mentioned also as an Egyptian plant, in a sentence similar to the last, in Isa 19:15 (A.V. "rush"); while from Isa 58:5 (A.V. "bulrush") we learn that the agmon had a pendulous panicle. The term is allied closely to the Heb. agam (אָגָ ם), which, like the corresponding Arabic ajam, denotes a marshy pool or reed bed (see Jer 51:32, for this latter signification). Again is also considered to be derived from the same root as גּמֵא, gome, the papyrus (see No. 2 below). Some have even concluded that both names indicate the same thing, and have translated them by juncus, or rush. The expression "Canst thou put agmon" into the crocodile's nose? has been variously explained. The most probable interpretation is that which supposes allusion is made to the mode of passing a reed or a rush through the gills of fish in order to carry them home; but see the commentaries and notes of Rosenmüller, Schultens, Lee, Cary, Mason Good, etc. The agmon of Job 41:20 seems to be derived from an Arabic root signifying to "be burning;" hence the fervens of the Vulg. Rushes were used anciently for cords (Job 41:2) and for other purposes; nevertheless, they are proverbially without value. Figuratively the term is used of the least important class of people (Isa 9:14; Isa 19:15; Isa 58:5; Jer 51:32).
There is some doubt as to the specific identity of the agmon, some believing that the word denotes "a rush" as well as a "reed" (see Rosenmüller [Bibl. Bot. p. 184] and Winer [Realwörterb. 2, 484]). Celsius (Hierob. 1, 465 sq.) has argued in favor of the Arundo phragmites (now Phragmites communis). That the agmon denotes some specific plant is probable from the passages where it occurs, as well as from the fact that kaneh (קָנֶה) is the generic term for reeds in generalh Lobo, in his Voyage d'Abyssinie, says the Red Sea was seen to be literally red only in places where the gonemon was abundant. What this herb is does not elsewhere appear. Forskal applies the name of ghobeibe to a species of arundo, which he considered closely allied to A. phragmites. M. Bove, in his Voyage Botanique en Egypte, observed, especially on the borders of the Nile, quantities of Saccharum AEgyptiacum and of Arundo Egyptiaca, which is, perhaps, only a variety of A. donax, the cultivated Spanish or Cyprus reed, or, as it is usually called in the south of Europe, Canna ana Cana. In the neighborhood of Cairo he found Poa cynosuroides (the kusha, or cusa, or sacred grass of the Hindus), which, he says, serves "aux habitans pour faire des cordes, chauffer leurs fours, et cuire des briques et poteries. Le Saccharum cylindricum est employs aux memes usages." The Egyptian species of arundo is probably the A. isiaca of Delile, which is closely allied to A. phragmites, and its uses may be supposed to be very similar to those of the latter. This species is often raised to the rank of a genus under the name of phragmites, so named from being employed for making partitions, etc. It is about six feet high, with annual stems, and is abundant about the banks of pools and rivers and in marshes. The panicle of flowers is very large, much subdivided, a little drooping and waving in the wind. The plant is used for thatching, making screens, garden fences, etc.; when split it is made into string, mats, and matches. It is the gemeines Rohr of the Germans, and the Canna or Cana palustre of the Italians and Spaniards. Any of the species of reed here enumerated will suit the different passages in which the word agmon occurs; but several species of saccharum, growing to a great size in moist situations and reed like in appearance, will also fulfil all the conditions required — as affording shelter for the behemoth or hippopotamus, being convertible into ropes, forming a contrast with their hollow stems to the solidity and strength of the branches of trees, and when dry easily set on fire; and when in flower their light and feathery inflorescence may be bent down by the slightest wind that blows. SEE REED.
2. Gome (גֹּמֶא; Sept. πάπειρος, βίβλινος, ἔλος; Vulg. scirpeus, scurpus, papyrus, juncus) is found four times in the Bible. Moses was hidden in a vessel made of the papyrus (Ex 2:3; A.V. "bulrushes"). Transit boats were made out of the same material by the Ethiopians (Isa 18:2; A.V. "bulrushes"). The gome (A.V. "rush") is mentioned together with kaneh, the usual generic term for "a reed." in Isa 35:7, and in Job 8:11, where it is asked, "Can the gome (A.V. "rush") grow without mire?" The name gome, according to Celsius (Hierob. 2, 138), is derived from גמא, "absorbere, bibere, quia in aqua nascitur, et aquam semper imbibit" (comp. Lucan, Phars. 4, 136). Though other plants are adduced by translators and commentators as the gome of Scripture, yet it is evident that only the papyrus can be meant, and that it is well suited to all the passages. Being in some respects so obvious, it could not escape the notice of all translators. Hence, in the Arabic version and in the Annals of Eutychius, the word burdi, the modern Arab name of the papyrus, is given as the synonym of gome in Ex 2:3. In Arabic authors on materia medica we find the papyrus mentioned under the three heads of Fafir, Burdi, and Chartas. Fafir is said to be the Egyptian name of a kind of burdi (bur reed) of which paper (charta) is made; and of burdi, the word fafururs (evidently a corruption of papyrus) is given as the Greek synonym. SEE PAPER REED.
(1.) The papyrus is now well known; it belongs to the tribe of sedges, or Cyperaceoe, and is not a rush or bulrush, as in the A.V. It may be seen growing to the height of six or eight feet, even in tubs in the hot houses of England, and is described by the ancients as growing in the shallow parts of the Nile. The root is fleshy, thick, and spreading; the stems triangular, eight or ten feet in height, of which two or so are usually under water, thick below, but tapering towards the apex, and destitute of leaves. The base leaves are broad, straight, and sword shaped, but much shorter than the stem. This last is terminated by an involucel of about eight leaves, sword shaped and acute much shorter than the many-rayed umbel which they support. The secondary umbels are composed of only three or four short rays, with an involucel of three awl-shaped leaflets. The flowers are in a short spike at the extremity of each ray. Cassiodorus, as quoted by Carpenter, graphically described it as it appears on the banks of the Nile: "There rises to the view this forest without branches, this thicket without leaves, this harvest of the waters, this ornament of the marshes." It is found in stagnant pools as well as in running streams, in which latter case, according to Bruce, one of its angles is always opposed to the current of the stream.
The papyrus was well known to the ancients as a plant of the waters of Egypt: "Papyrsum nascitur in palustribus AEgypti, aut quiescentibus Nili aquis, ubi evagatae stagnant" (Pliny, 13, 11). Theophrastus, at a much earlier period, described it as growing not in the deep parts, but where the water was of the depth of two cubits or even less. It was found in almost every part of Egypt inundated by the Nile, in the Delta — especially in the Sebennytic nome — and in the neighborhood of Memphis, etc. By some it was thought peculiar to Egypt; hence the Nile is called by Ovid "amnis papyrifer." So a modern author, Prosper Alpinus (De Plant. AEgypti, c. 36): "Papyrus, quam berd AEgyptii nominant, est planta fluminis Nili." By others it was thought to be a native, also, of India, of the Euphrates near Babylon, of Syria, and of Sicily. The genus cyperus, indeed, to which it is usually referred, abounds in a great variety of large aquatic species, which it is difficult for the generality of observers to distinguish from one another; but there is no reason why it should not grow in the waters of hot countries, as, for instance, near Babylon or in India. In fact, modern botanists having divided the genus cyperus into several genera, one of them is called papyrus and the original species P. Nilotica. Of this genus papyrus there are several species in the waters of India (Wight, Contributions to the Botany of India, "Cyperees, "p. 88).
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. It appears to have existed there from the earliest times. Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4, 8, § 4) says, "The papyrus grows also in Syria around the lake in which the sweet scented reed is found from which Antigonus used to make cordage for his ships." This plant has been found also in a small stream two miles north of Jaffa. Dr. Hooker believes it is common in some parts of Syria. It does not occur anywhere else in Asia. It was seen by lady Callcott on the banks of the Anapus, near Syracuse, and Sir Joseph Banks possessed paper made of papyrus from the lake of Thrasymene (Script. Herb. p. 379).
(2.) A brief description of the uses of this plant, as given in the works of the ancients, is thus summed up by Parkinson in his Herbal, p. 1207: "The plant, say the ancients, is sweete, and used by the Egyptians, before that bread of come was known unto them, for their food, and in their time was chawed and the sweetnesse sucked forth, the rest being spit out; the roote serveth them not only for fewell to burne, but to make many sorts of vessels to use, for it yielded much matter for the purpose. Papyrus ipse (say they), that is the stalke, is profitable to many uses, as to make ships, and of the barke to weave, and make sailes, mats, carpets, some kinds of garments, and ropes also."
a. The lower part of the papyrus reed was used as food by the ancient Egyptians; "those who wish to eat the byblus dressed in the most delicate way stew it in a hot pan and then eat it" (Herod. 2, 92; see also Theophr. Hist. Plant. 4, 9). The statement of Theophrastus with regard to the sweetness and flavor of the sap has been I confirmed by some writers. The chevalier Landolina made papyrus from the pith of the plant which, says Heeren (Histor. Res. Afric. Nat. 2, 350, note), "is rather clearer than the Egyptian;" but other writers say the stem is neither juicy nor agreeable.
b. The construction of papyrus boats is mentioned by Theophrastus. So Pliny (Hist. Nat. 6, 24): "Papyraceis navibus armamentisque Nili;" and again (7:56): "Naves primum repertas in AEgypto in Nilo ex papyro." Plutarch, as quoted by Rosenmüller, says, "Isis circumnavigated the marshes in a papyrus wherry for the purpose of collecting the pieces of Osiris's body. From Heliodorus's account it appears that the Ethiopians made use of similar boats, for he relates that the Ethiolpians passed in reed wherries over the Astaboras; and he adds that these reed wherries were swift sailing, being made of a light material, and not capable of carrying more than two or three men." Bruce relates that a similar kind of boat was made in Abyssinia even in his time, having a keel of acacia wood, to which the papyrus plants, first sewed together, are fastened, being gathered up before and behind, and the ends of the plants thus tied together. Representations of some Egyptian boats are given in Kitto's Pictorial Bible (2, 135), where the editor remarks that when a boat is described as being of reeds or rushes or papyrus, as in Egypt, a covering Qf skin or bitumen is to be understood. Ludolf (Hist. Ethiop. 1, 8) speaks of the Tzamic lake being navigated "monoxylis lintribus ex typha praecrassa confertis, "a kind of sailing, he says, which is attended with considerable danger to the navigators. Wilkinson (Anc. Egypt. 2, 96, ed. 1854) says that the right of growing and selling the papyrus plants belonged to the government, who made a profit by its monopoly, and thinks other species of the Cyperaceoe must be understood as affording all the various articles — such as baskets, canoes, sails, sandals, etc., which have been said to have been made from the real papyrus. Considering that Egypt abounds in Cyperaceoe, many kinds of which might have served for forming canoes, etc., it is improbable that the papyrus alone should have been used for such a purpose; but that the true papyrus was used for boats there can be no doubt, if the testimony of Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 4, 8. 4), Pliny (Hist. Nat. 13, 11), Plutarch, and other ancient writers is to be believed.
c. From the soft cellular portion of the stem the ancient material called papyrus was made. "Papyri," says Sir G. Wilkinson, "are of the most remote Pharaonic periods. The mode of making them was as follows: the interior of the stalks of the plant, after the rind had been removed, was cut into thin slices in the direction of their length; and these being laid on a flat board in succession, similar slices were placed over them at right angles; and their surfaces being cemented together by a sort of glue and subjected to a proper degree of pressure and well dried, the papyrus was completed. The length of the slices depended, of course, on the breadth of the intended sheet, as that of the sheet on the number of slices placed in succession beside each other, so that though the breadth was limited, the papyrus might be extended to an indefinite length." SEE WRITING.