frequently mentioned in Scripture. It is called in Hebrew maphteah , i.e., the opener ( Judges 3:25 ); and in the Greek New Testament kleis , from its use in shutting ( Matthew 16:19 ; Luke 11:52 ; Revelation 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 (Compare Isaiah 22:22 ).
The word is used figuratively of power or authority or office ( Isaiah 22:22 ; Revelation 3:7 ; Revelation 1:8 ; comp 9:1 ; 20:1 ; Compare also Matthew 16:19 ; 18:18 ). The "key of knowledge" ( Luke 11:52 ; Compare Matthew 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.
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. ( Matthew 16:19 ) In England in modern times certain officers of the government receive, at their induction into office, a golden key. --ED.)
ke (maphteach, an "opener"; compare kleis, "that which shuts"):
Used figuratively for power, since the key was sometimes worn on the shoulder as a sign of official authority (Isaiah 22-22). In the New Testament it is used several times thus figuratively: of Peter: "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19); of Christ, in Revelation, having the "keys of death and of Hades" (Revelation 1:18), also having "the key of David" (Revelation 3:7). An angel was given "the key of the pit of the abyss" (Revelation 9:1; 20:1). our Lord accused the teachers of the law of His day of taking away "the key of knowledge" from men, that is, locking the doors of truth against them (Luke 11:52; compare Matthew 23:13).
Edward Bagby Pollard
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