We’ve already taken a look at the basic structure of the Davidic Kingdom, but now I want to highlight a passage in the OT that focuses on the royal steward to the Kingdom of David (which in 1 & 2 Chronicles is called the Kingdom of YHWH, or the Kingdom of the Lord).
Isaiah 22:20-24 reads: “In that day I will summon my servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots–all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars” (NIV).
The broader context of this passage pertains to the Davidic King Hezekiah’s royal steward Shebna being replaced by Eliakim. The royal steward was distinguished from other royal officers by the possession of the key/s to the kingdom, in this case the royal house of David. The keys represented the supreme authority the steward wielded as the king’s representative. The keys are not merely symbolic of royal authority, however, but also of dynastic succession. Notice that Eliakim is replacing Shebna as his successor. Notice too that although the keys belong to David, at this point David has been dead for over 200 years. The symbol of the keys passes down from royal steward to royal steward, even though they belong to the king. We will see this image again in the NT, where the keys of the kingdom belong to Jesus (Revelation 3:7 even calls this symbol the “key of David,” NIV). We shall see how Jesus imparts these keys to Peter (Matthew 16:19) in a later post.
Also, notice how, like Joseph to Pharaoh, Eliakim too is called an av, a “father” (a pope) to the house of Judah (the Davidic Kingdom) and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
A final note. Eliakim in this passage parallels Peter in Matthew 16 in a number of ways which we shall highlight in future posts, but one way which is often ignored by scholars is in their “fall” accounts. In Isaiah 22:25, immediately following the account of Eliakim’s installation as royal steward, we read about his fall. Likewise, in Matthew 16, immediately following Peter’s installation as Jesus’ royal steward, Jesus rebukes Peter as a “satan,” a stumbling block, an obstacle. Indeed, in the Gospels we follow Peter and see his 3-fold denial of Jesus. But then Jesus restores Peter to his position in John 21:15-17, which we shall discuss in more detail later.
Ray, Stephen K. Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999.
Martin-Achard, Robert. “L’oracle contre Shebnâ et le pouvoir des clefs, Es. 22, 15-25.” Revue de thâeologie et de philosophie 11 (1977): 241-254.
Willis, John T. “Historical Issues in Isaiah 22, 15-25.” Biblica 74, no. 1 (1993): 60-70.
Willis, John T. “Textual and Linguistic Issues in Isaiah 22, 15-25.” Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 105, no. 3 (1993): 377-399.