The Key of David



What is a key? It is basically something that opens or closes. It may be a physical instrument that is carried on a key chain, or it may be the piece of information that solves a puzzle or opens the understanding of an abstract concept. It can also be a list or a table containing information to interpret symbols in a document on a map, etc. There are several other definitions we do not need to consider, e.g. a music key.

Put simply a key is something that opens, closes, or discloses. How does that definition fit in with the Key of David?

David was a king, the king of all twelve tribes of Israel. God anointed him king (1 Sam 16:12). He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) and he was the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). He was the most prominent type (Appendix 3) of the Messiah. Many messianic prophecies were written about and by David. These two are important about him: (1) He was king, and (2) He was a type of Messiah.

In ancient times, the leader or ruler of a city or his appointed gatekeeper kept the key to its gate. Such keys were very large and were curved like a sickle and were not easily transported. They either had a shoulder strap attached to them or were carried over the shoulder in an ornamented sling known as a baldric. Most of the large gate keys were of wood and were heavy. The key to Ulysses storeroom, which Penelope took, was large and made of bronze with an ivory handle (Homer’s Odyssey, Book XXI), and is an indication of keys in Homer’s time (traditionally c. 1100 BC but perhaps as much as 300 years later). It opened a wooden door with wooden bolts.

Joseph Bonomi, a famous architect, traveler, archaeologist, and Egyptologist, described a key from Nineveh. He said that it was made of wood with iron pegs at one end to work the tumblers. It was very heavy, weighing just about as much as a man could carry by himself. He said that such keys ranged in size from fourteen inches to more than two feet1. Such a key would have been more easily carried slung over the shoulder.

The person who carried the gate key to the gate and opened or closed it, either the ruler or his representative, carried it over his shoulder because of its size and weight. Of course locks and keys grew smaller as time passed. Since the person who carried the key was a powerful individual, the key became a mark of high office. Eventually the key was embroidered on the sash of individuals in high office. The sash with the emblem of the key was worn over the shoulder just as the key had originally been carried over the shoulder. The embroidered key emblem itself became the mark of high office. According to Adam Clarke, Aeschylus wrote (in Supplement 299) that the Priestess of Juno was the key-bearer of the goddess. This was the priestess’ mark of office.

In fact, the key is sometimes an element in heraldry. One can see this in the military heraldry of Britain. The Castle and Key emblem are used in several coats of arms.

As we can see, a key was an emblem of authority and power. The key of David refers to the power and authority of David to rule over the complete kingdom, that is all twelve tribes. He was the king who unified the kingdom, drove out the enemies of Israel, and established a lasting peace through his strength and power. That is exactly the province of Messiah. He will unite and rule over all of God’s kingdom in power, drive out His enemies, and establish everlasting peace and justice.

Jesus has the keys to the kingdom, the keys to the abyss, and the keys of death and hell. Let us consider this messianic prophecy from Isaiah:

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: {21} And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. {22} 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. {23} And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house. {24} And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father’s house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. {25} In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 22:20-25)

Eliakim means “God will raise.” Hilkiah means “portion of Yehovah.” Together they say “God will raise His portion.” This literal reference to Eliakim the priest symbolically applies to the Messiah. The nail (Messiah) Eliakim would be in place and then be removed. This applies to Messiah being cut off. Matthew Henry says that Christ is this nail and that he is permanent. When Messiah was cut off, His power actually increased, and His resurrection established his permanency.

The key of the house of David is David’s power, authority, and permanency. God said that the House of David would have a king on the throne forever. This will culminate with Messiah’s return in power and great glory. Messiah will ultimately rule on David’s throne over the House of Jacob forever. The house of Jacob includes all of God’s people. God’s people are those who believe on His Son, the Messiah; that includes both Jew and Gentile.

The key of David will be laid upon Christ’s shoulder, indicating that He has been given the mantle and scepter of David. That is, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He will rule forever. Whatever he opens can never be closed and what He closes can never be opened. He will close the lake of fire after casting everything and everyone evil into it. He will close death and the place of the dead forever, meaning all who are not in the lake of fire will live forever because death is locked up and can never be loosed. He will open the Kingdom. He will open eternal life. He has opened the Most Holy place to all of his people so that they might have direct access to the Father. He will open the seven seals of the scroll and usher in the end of the old age and the beginning of the new, the Heaven age.

The key of David is the seal and symbol that all authority in heaven and in earth is given to the Son. The key of David is the symbol that God’s power is vested in the Son. He is all powerful and no one and no thing can prevail against him. Not even death.

The key of David, given to the Christ, is our assurance “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose“, and “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28 & 38-39)

Copyright ©, 2021, Mark Oaks

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior? He is going to return to the world soon. Are you ready? When He does if you do not know Him as your Savior, you will join all those who do not know Him in “Outer Darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22:13-14).

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  1. From the article, Ancient Roman Key Gallery and A Brief History Lesson! © 1996-2020 The Keyless Lock Store™ and™, This quote was taken from Mr. Joseph Bonomi’s work, Nineveh and its Palaces, 1853, Offices of the Illustrated London Library, 227 Strand, London. (the work is still available online).
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