A door lock of Bible times consisted of a sliding piece of wood that was pushed into a slot in the doorframe. A catch in the frame clamped down on the lock to hold it in place.

This lock was mounted on the inside of the door. It could be opened easily from that side

with a wooden key that released the catch in the doorframe. But how was a locked door opened from the outside?

The door had a hole near the lock that made this possible. A person put his hand through the hole from the outside and inserted the key in the doorframe to open the door. This is how Elgon’s servants opened a locked door to check on their master.

This locking system is also described by Solomon’s bride: “My lover thrust his hand through the latch-opening; my heart began to pound for him” (Song of Solomon 5:4 NIV).

Ancient door keys doubled as door handles. They were used to reach through the keyhole to lift the locking bolt.


Isaiah predicted that Shebna (read Isaiah 22:16) would be deposed from office and that he would be replaced by Eliakim. Carrying a key on his shoulder symbolized his position of power and authority, as well as his trustworthiness. The primitive locks of Bible time (read Judges 3: 23-25) had to be opened with long wooden keys. These keys were often slung over the shoulders of those who had the authority to lock and unlock doors in the king’s royal buildings. A key on the shoulder as a symbol of authority is probably the image behind Isaiah’s famous expression about the Messiah: “The government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6).

Judges 3:23-25

The hilt of the dagger disappeared beneath the flesh, and the fat closed over it as the entrails oozed out. Leaving the dagger there, Ehud locked the doors behind him and escaped across an upstairs porch. When the king’s servants returned and saw that the doors were locked, they waited, thinking that perhaps he was using the bathroom, But when, after a long time, he still didn’t come out, they became concerned and got a key. And when they opened the door, they found their master dead on the floor. (KAB)

Isaiah 22:22

22. I will give him responsibility over all my people: whatever he says will be done; none will be able to stop him. (KAB)

22. And the key of the house of Da’-vid will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (KJV)



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