A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking flax he will not quench, until he leads justice to victory. Bible see other translations

“A bruised reed he will not break.” In this verse, the “bruised (or broken) reed” and the “smoking flax” are the figure of speech hypocatastasis for afflicted and weak people. In fact, the verse is a litotes (“meiosis”),a because it is stating in the negative something that is really positive. It is not just that Jesus will not break a reed that is bruised, but he will heal the reed and cause it to stand upright. It is not just that Jesus will not put out a smoldering wick, he will trim that wick and make it burn brightly. Jesus will not oppress the oppressed. A “smoking flax” is a smoldering wick—the wicks of the oil lamps (sometimes mistranslated as “candles”) that were used at the time were often made of flax and often linen. For example, the remains of a 1500-year-old linen wick was discovered at the town of Shivta in the Negev in 2018, the wick being kept from disintegrating by the dry conditions of the Negev. The Mishna, tractate Shabbat, mentions the materials that kosher wicks can be made from.

[for an explanation of hypocatastasis, see commentary on Revelation 20:2.]

[See figure of speech “tapeinosis/meiosis.”]

“leads justice to victory.” This is the figure of speech personification. “Justice” is portrayed as a person, and today justice is currently being thwarted and ignored. If we were to translate the verse without the personification, we might say something like: “until the Messiah’s victory brings justice.”

Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 155.

Commentary for: Matthew 12:20