frequently mentioned in Scripture. It is called in Hebrew maphteah, i.e., the opener (Jg 3:25); and in the Greek New Testament kleis, from its use in shutting (Mt 16:19; Lu 11:52; Re 1:18, etc.). Figures of ancient Egyptian keys are frequently found on the monuments, also of Assyrian locks and keys of wood, and of a large size (comp. Isa 22:22).
The word is used figuratively of power or authority or office (Isa 22:22; Re 3:7; 1:8; comp. Re 9:1; 20:1; comp. also Mt 16:19; 18:18). The "key of knowledge" (Lu 11:52; comp. Mt 23:13) is the means of attaining the knowledge regarding the kingdom of God. The "power of the keys" is a phrase in general use to denote the extent of ecclesiastical authority.
Song 5:4-5. A piece of wood, from seven inches to two feet long, fitted with pegs which correspond to small holes in the bolt within; the key put through a hole draws the bolt. The symbol of authority to open or shut (Isa 22:22; Re 3:7; 1:18). A chamberlain's (eunuch) badge of office is often a key, hung by a kerchief "on the shoulders" (Isa 9:6). The power of the keys was given to Peter and the other apostles only at times (Mt 16:19; 18:18) when, and in so far as, Christ made him and them infallible. Peter rightly opened the gospel door to the Gentiles (Acts 10; Ac 11:17-18; 14:27), but he wrongly tried to shut it again (Ga 2:11-18; compare Lu 11:52).
A. R. S. Kennedy.
Used symbolically for authority to open or to shut. Spoken of Eliakim, 'established by God,' as having the key of the house of David laid upon his shoulder: "he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open." Isa 22:22. He is a type of the Lord Jesus, as spoken of in Re 3:7, who has also the keys of hades and of death. Re 1:18. To Peter were given the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Mt 16:19, which he opened to the Jews in Acts 2, and to the Gentiles in Acts 10. The Lord charged the doctors of the law with taking away the key of knowledge. Lu 11:52. This they did by their traditions and by hindering those who would have entered in to the blessings brought by Christ.
The key of a native Oriental lock is a piece of wood, from seven inches to two feet in length, fitted with the wires or short nails, which, being inserted laterally into the hollow bolt which serves as a lock, raises other pins within the staple so as to allow the bolt to be drawn back. (Keys were sometimes of bronze or iron, and so large that one was as much as a man could carry. They are used in Scripture as a symbol of authority and power. Giving keys to a person signifies the intrusting of him with an important charge.
In England in modern times certain officers of the government receive, at their induction into office, a golden key. --ED.)
KEY is frequently mentioned in Scripture, as well in a natural as in a figurative sense. The keys of the ancients were very different from ours; because their doors and trunks were closed generally with bands, and the key served only to loosen or fasten these bands in a certain manner. In a moral sense key has many significations: "And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder: so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open," Isa 22:22,