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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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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 40:26 (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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 19:15 (A.V. "rush"); while from Isaiah 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 Jeremiah 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 Rosenmü ller, 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 (Isaiah 9:14; Isaiah 19:15; Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 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 Rosenmü ller [Bibl. Bot. p. 184] and Winer [Realwö rterb. 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 (Exodus 2:3; A.V. "bulrushes"). Transit boats were made out of the same material by the Ethiopians (Isaiah 18:2; A.V. "bulrushes"). The gome (A.V. "rush") is mentioned together with kaneh, the usual generic term for "a reed." in Isaiah 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 Exodus 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

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rush'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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