15This is what the Almighty Lord of Armies says:
Go to Shebna, the man in charge of the palace, and say to him,
16“What are you doing here?
What right do you have to dig a tomb for yourself?
What right do you have to cut it out in a prominent place?
What right do you have to carve out
a resting place for yourself in the rock?
17Look, mighty man!
The Lord will throw you out.
He will grab you.
18He will wrap you up tightly like a turban.
He will throw you far away into another land.
There you will die.
There your splendid chariots will remain.
There you will become a disgrace to your master’s household.
19“I will remove you from your office
and do away with your position.
20When that day comes, I will call my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah.
21I will dress him in your linen robe
and fasten it with your belt.
I will give him your authority,
and he will be like a father to those who live in Jerusalem
and to the nation of Judah.
22I will place the key of the house of David around his neck.
What he opens no one will shut.
What he shuts no one will open.
23I will fasten him firmly in place like a peg,
and he will be a source of honor for his father’s household.
24They will hang on him the whole weight of his father’s household,
descendants and offspring and all the little utensils,
from bowls to jars of every kind.”
~ Isa 22:15-24 (GWT)
Shebna, “the man in charge of the palace” thought very highly of himself. The NLT translates his position as “palace administrator”. Some choose to translate it “steward”. Matthew Henry and others believe it to be a position similar to Joseph in Egypt, equivalent to a modern prime minister. Apparently, Shebna let this power go to his head.
So, God tells Isaiah that He will take away the position from Shebna and give it to Eliakim. Eliakim will get the robe and the belt or sash, which represent his authority. Eliakim will “be like a father”, which means he will rule like a father over his household.
He will be given another symbol of authority, though: the key of the house of David. Most translations say the key will be on his “shoulder”, which probably indicates that the key was as much symbolic as it was real. A key meant responsibility for what was guarded. It mean authority to open and shut the doors of the things that are guarded. David, of course, was a king. The Jewish kings descended from David. The keys, then, were to the Davidic kingdom.
Sometimes, people are given the “keys to the city”. Of course, it is a highly symbolic and useless key. However, a prime minister or palace administrator had real authority.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us that Eliakim would have been the “king’s representative”. The importance of the position was great enough that when Azariah was struck with leprosy, it was his “steward”, his heir, that ruled in his place.
Jesus came to earth as The King’s Representative. He willingly guides those destined to be in the Kingdom to see the King Himself, but He also keeps all intruders and imposters out.
Is it any wonder that He alone has the “key of David”, the only One Who has control of God’s government, which will come and be set up on this earth?
7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; (Revelation 3:7, King James Version)
UCG has a decent FAQ on “What are the ‘keys of the kingdom’ referred to in Matthew 16:19?” that is an interesting beginning guide into this subject.
It is Christ Who has the key of David, the keys of the Kingdom and God’s government. Jesus gives each of God’s children direct access to the Father because we follow Him. He alone is the only man Who is the Mediator of the better covenant.