In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus said to his disciple Peter “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19). A couple of chapters later he said very similar words to his other disciples (Mat 18:18).

What are the most common explanations and teachings about these binding and loosing verses that one hears today? Most people assume that they have something to do with spiritual warfare and binding the devil. Indeed, the surrounding context is about disciple’s authority, only the devil is not involved here.

In reality, binding and loosing are known technical legal expressions in the ancient Jewish world. “To bind” is to restrict, to confine, to limit and in legal sense “to forbid something”. On the opposite side “to loose” is to unbind, to untie, to free, to release which in a legal sense means “to permit something”.

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Here is an example from the first-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. He writes that under queen Alexandra of Jerusalem, the Pharisees “became the administrators of all public affairs, empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind”. (Jewish War 1:110). Josephus said that the Pharisees had the authority “to loose and to bind” and no, not demons or Satan.

When Jesus used this terminology in the Gospels, he did not speak about prayer or spiritual warfare either. The context is legal and the terms should be interpreted through first-century Jewish context. Just like the Pharisees in Josephus’s quote, the disciples were given a right to legislate, a right to make rules and norms, allowing and forbidding things in their own community. And that is binding and loosing first century’s style.

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116 COMMENTS

  1. This is very enlightening. The Western/Greek mindset (maybe American) has surely distorted this meaning which you eloquently provided. Thank you.

    • The Pharisees didn’t receive power from on high(Holy Spirit) so they may have picked up and used the term of binding and looking but they didn’t have the power to do so. And Who. speaks of not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    • The disciples were given the authority to bind and to loose what Jesus taught them. This was concerning the kingdom of God which is the church. They had the authority to preach the gospel of the church and they had the authority to loose and bind anything concerning the church. They did not have the right to make rules and norms concerning the church. They were to allow and forbid things they were taught by Jesus and the Holy Spirit concerning the church. That’s loosing and binding. This had nothing to do with community issues.

      • Seriously?! Jesus said, as He was sent we are sent!!! There are 2 kingdoms… Jesus got the victory Colossians 2:11 ¶” In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sinsfn of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
        12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
        13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
        14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
        15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” Jesus won the victory…. we are Ephesians 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
        12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,fn against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
        13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
        14 ¶ Stand therefore, ……,,” We are to take that victory to the world… through the power of Holy Spirit! Not being presumptive or flakey, but out of our relationship established through Jesus Christ!

      • This is not about the ” Church ” ! This is all about Yisrael and The Jewish Laws and Customs .Remember ? Y’Shua is a Jew who practiced Judaism and kept all of the Jewish Feasts and Festivals ( The Appointed Times ) .Read Constantine who started ” The Church ” in 313 CE/AD not Y’Shua and Not His Talmidim and Emissaries .

    • Jesus told the women that was bent over and could not straighten up for I believe 28 yrs, Women thou art loosed from your infirmities. Would this not an example of loosing and binding?

      • Yes, Darlene, I believe the Greek uses that same exact verb, “to unite”, “to unbind” or figuratively-speaking “release” of “free” Just like in English we say – “You are free to do such and such…”

    • You are most welcome. I am glad that makes sense. Sometimes it is challenging to explain a new concept in just a few words. But I guess that is why we offer classes. 🙂

    • Not all perverted the truth. Ellicott said “ They point primarily to legislative or interpretive functions, not to the judicial treatment of individual men….When he resisted the attempt of the Judaizers to ‘put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples’ (Act 15:10),He was loosing what was also loosed in heaven. When he proclaimed … the eternal laws of righteousness, holiness, and love, he was binding those laws on the conscience of Christendom.”

    • Prof Shir is only partially correct. Yes, Binding and Loosing were not only used as technical legal terms, The intertestamental literature has many examples of binding and loosing of angels and demons: “Many early Jewish sources report that Satan or demons  were `bound,’ or imprisoned, after God subdued them; magical texts  often speak of `binding’ demons by magical procedures.” Craig Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary: NT. See Tobit 8:1-3 an angel bound a demon. Also 1 Enoch 10:4-12; 18:16; 21:1-2; 62:5ff; 89:27-28; Testament of Levi 18:12; Greek Apocalypse of Baruch, Psalms of Solomon 5:4, etc.

      • Excellent point, Paul! But I am not suggesting that exorcism has no place and did not exist. Of course, that would be incorrect. In Rev 20:2 Satan is “bound” – imprisoned. My point rests on 2 NT passages I have cited. They are not about exorcism or anything of that sort. The context cannot be ignored and misconstrued.

  2. An opinion, My own: re: Binding & Loosing, Context of Scripture, if am I allowed 1st, if Jesus Christ, Could it be perhaps in reference to binding or loosing. If Saying Get thee behind me, is a type of binding, regarding authority, & can it be considered scriptural, if used in the more ancient times, as used by Jesus Christ. There was a Man, Jehu, commanded by a prophet to Do tasks in Ancient Israel, one command similarly used was Turn to, behind me, used several times in scripture by Jehu. In One book of Kings I believe.

    • Dear George, my point is very simple, that when Jesus uses such terminology it has a concrete and specific meaning “to allow” or “to forbid”. Interpret the text with these meanings and you build on that.

  3. The “spiritual“ interpretation comes in to play with the context of the binding and loosing being done on Earth *and* in Heaven. Please explain: How does one confine the meaning of binding and loosing in HEAVEN to a strictly earth-bound interpretation of legislation? Thanks.

    • No, it rests on those that He gave it to. But to understand it you have to see beyond the physical world constraints.

  4. The total ministry of Christ was to open the human understanding to the spiritual world. Everything He did was to show how blind mankind had become. To limit the binding only to the administration of the church would limit the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ was continually defeating the powers of hell by freeing those held captive. Christ told us we are to bind the strong man to take his possessions To regulate the binding and loosing to only earthly matters would negate the spiritual power Christ has given us through the Holy Spirit.

    • James, no disrespect, but no one was ever “told” or “commanded” or even gently “directed” to “bind the strong man”. No such language in the gospels. Jesus simply used such words as an illustration that he as the Son of Man had the power to do as he wanted to Satan. He is stronger than the string man. Please re-read Mark 3:27 / Mat 12:29.

      • Prof, I agree with you, Jesus in His ultimate wisdom gave this authority to the Apostles, if they thro were through, The Holy Spirit, able to pass on this authority, then such authority lies surely with those in that lineage, however, I’m unable to believe that such authority can lay with the Pope, as that lineage is a false one, one that has been badly corrupted by man down through the centuries for money, greed, power, and the various control by high powered families, sorry that’s the way it has planed out over time. Lord have mercy on them all.

  5. Thank you for this explanation. I always wondered if the church was binding the devil then who kept letting him loose. Good teaching

    • Debra, the ability to bind the powers of the enemy depend completely on the relationship with Yeshua. If you don’t have a deep personal relationship with him which gives you access to his power & authority, you can bind & loose til the cows come home, & it won’t have any effect. Sadly, in today’s church, there’s very little real power & a lot of show.

  6. Fruitful! Your example from Flavius Josephus has helped me to identify the problem I have had with this teaching on binding and loosing. Something very important seemed to be missing. I now realize that we added language because the teaching was missing. Our Christ followers added “being gifted” in place of binding and loosing. I was not a Christ follower so I added “Jesus built fences around the Torah” (borrowed language).

  7. The Word Of GOD Is Spirit and Life. John 6:63. That means every Word spoken by MESSIAH CHRIST JESUS is a Living Enity. The meanings of JESUS Words are progressively upgraded to deal with whatsoever stubborn spirit that must be bound or loosed to advance the Kingdom of GOD. Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 2:44, Revelation 11:15-17 and Matthew 18:17-19 codified this authority. Therefore, only the Holy Spirit can authorize the exact truth in any given Rhema. Those who don’t have the Holy Spirit INDWELLING them cannot decree what exactly JESUS’ Words says. Shalom. Amen. Oged.

  8. The comments above make interesting reading; but all miss the mark. Yeshua was giving Kefa (Peter) and later the other Apostles (Heb Shaliachim) their smicha; their ordination. They were given the authority to represent the sect of the Nots’rim (Nazarenes). To bind and loose was specifically the authority to make halacha- rulings on how Torah was to be observed. They could not change Torah, but they could prayerfully and led by the Spirit make rulings on the minutia of obedience. They could also admit or disfellowship others.

  9. Yeshua is a Jew ,He did not come starting churches .This is false theology .Constantine created the Roman Catholic Church in 313 AD /CE .All of the Talmidim were Jews not Gentiles .On the Day of Shavuot /Pentecost they were all Jews who waited in Yerushalayim for the Ruach HaKodesh /Holy Spirit to be poured out on them .The Talmidim were called ,especially Kefa /Peter and Sha’ul /Paul were called to preach to the Jews and to the Goyim /Gentile .The Word of G-d was written my Jews not gentiles .

  10. We have used this Scripture as we have always understood it to mean,and it has worked powerfully.Satan and his demons have been cast out of people and situations countless number of times. Do you suggest that we repent, before God and apologize to Satan fo” misinterpreting” that Scripture bade on your interpretation sir? Rev.Yarima El-Samaila, Nigeria

  11. If you believe Jesus is the Son of God, Lord of all, and receive Him, Saviour, Redeemer, Promised One; you are free from your guilt, shame and fear as you forgive others their sins. We are loosed, loosed to forgive others. To release them to the truth. We are bound by our unbelieving. Apostles had the authority to expose the truth of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, also the jailor, released from the fear of the authorities and whose family was saved! Paul did extraordinary miracles, involving “exorcism as Sceva’s seven sons demonstrate

  12. My thoughts: “To bind or to loose” in today’s context — if a person “X” wrongs another person “Y”, and “Y” seeks retribution for it, “X” is made bound to his/her wrongful deed. But if “Y” forgives “X”, then “X” is loosed from his/her wrongful deed. And since God allows our actions here on earth (because he has given us free will), the responsibility is on each of us whether to bind or loose. Whatever we choose to do, will be considered done in the eyes of the Lord and in heaven.

  13. Menge C. Kasonde The Scripture has been grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood. Punkt. We have to learn to humble ourselves as believers because much as we rely on the Holy Spirit for understanding, that which has already been taught and revealed to the Jews can only be grasped by learning from them. Yeshua told His disciples that to that which they already knew, the Holy Spirit would reveal even more to them. As such, it is imperative to learn first before the Holy Spirit can reveal even more.

  14. I’ve been teaching this for several years. Unfortunately, too many have spiritualized what should be taken literally. I have used Greek and Hebrew reference material for several years. I wonder if this is the “increase of revelation of knowledge” spoken of in scripture!

  15. This is so clarifying and makes perfect sense. Just one question: is there a connection with Isaiah 22:22? There is an interesting parallel with the use of the word keys in both passages (the keys of the kingdom of David vs the keys of the kingdom of heaven) and I was wondering if the “bind and loose” is somewhat similar in meaning to the “he shall open and none shall shut”? The parallelism in the passages is strikingly similar to be a coincidence, particularly knowing how well Jesus knew the book of Isaiah

    • Absolutely there is a connection. The words are not exactly the same, but conceptually they describe the same action.

  16. I am so excited about this expository, I wish I can enroll in your class. Unfortunately I am a retired administrator and cannot afford to. Bravo, let our prayers be based on the correct scripture for the ultimate effectiveness. Thanks once more and may Yahweh bless you continually.

    • Shalom Erica, I am so happy that you are a part of our online community. God’s blessing on you as well!

  17. It would be terrific if yiu could provide the course information in printed form…either hard copy or pdf, for those of us who di not have time to take the course.

  18. So to all the experts who wish to increase our knowledge, I repeat my question of 01/28 which was never answered: I have gathered from all your interpretations that binding and loosing is only about parliamentary procedure; practical legislation; earthly values and not spiritual. If only concerning the mundane and the tangible, why would Yeshua go out of His way to emphasize that whatever we bind and loose will be so not just in earth, but in HEAVEN? Herein comes the (very) spiritual aspect of the practices.

  19. I understand the legal meaning of bind and loosen. I’m wondering (like some others above), how it applies in heaven as well as on earth.

  20. Understanding the meaning and context of binding and loosing begs the question how spiritual warfare against Satan, demons, and their activities in people’s lives.

  21. The concept of loosing and binding has to with the authority that Jesus had. He said l do nothing out of my own but do what my Father tells me to do. Looking at that, where was His authority seated? It is seated in heaven, given to Him by His Father. As l understand it, the Hebrew says that, what has already been bound in heaven, is bound on earth. So all within the power of the Father had been given to the Son to execute on earth. His authority in His will is our authoriy. Earthly authority is useless.

  22. Jesus is refering to Job, 38:31, that God gives His authority to whomsoever he wills, and that He made that abundantly clear through the repentance of Eliphaz the son of Esau son of Isaac son of Abraham. God had shown that His man ( Job ) is received by the face of God, the Abraham ritual covenant sacrifice was still in place and received through the man chosen by God, Job prayed for them and his captivity was ended. Jesus is the accepted covenant sacrifice and He gives to His own, to bind or loose the belt of Orion.

  23. I think Jesus was putting his instruction in a form that the disciples could understand–that of “binding and loosing”–giving the Bride the same authority as the Law of Moses–by the Word of God. This must have astounded those who heard Him. They were used to obeying those in spiritual authority over them (as indeed, Jesus instructed them to do). They were undoubtedly aware of the heavy responsibility being placed on their shoulders–but, Jesus promised that He would send a “helper” to remind them of all that He had taught them. His yoke is light.

  24. Shalom, interesting discussion, be mindful of connotations for binding and loosing, context is important, binding can be good ie tefillin is binding the word to the arm and forehead, good context for binding. A Mitzvah. Loosing can be good , to be loosed from sin through forgiveness. Both the binding and the loosing are represented in Heaven as on earth in the context of the scriptural passage, so mindfulness of the words is important both can have positive or negative connotations but neither are inherently good or bad it is entirely dependent on what the binding or loosing refers.

  25. While I enjoyed the article, it unfortunately falls flat because it removes the power of the Holy Spirit from the believer’s life by rationalizing the terminology. The missing key ingredient is the heavenly binding & loosing. The description should have gone further to explain that the physical idea explained was an implication of what can happen in the Spiritual realm when a believe understands their authority over the enemy to put the enemy in their place so to speak and not let the attacks against the believer defeat them. I speak from experience in the supernatural.

    • I agree. I purposefully did not go into the issue you mentioned. Can not accomplish this in a three hundred word post. That is another article!

  26. This passage is clearly about binding and loosing Jesus’ authority being passed on to the apostles and the ekklesia/church he left to continue his teaching. Exercised in extending the Gospel to Romans, disciples of John the Baptist, Greeks; relationship of Gentiles to Jewish law (Acts 15). Jews and Gentiles in one community/assembly, see Ephesians chapters 2 (esp. 14-16) and 3 (esp. 3:6). Salvation is of the Jews historically, but by faith for believers of all nations.

  27. Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 8:7 Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this

  28. This would make sense of Paul speaking to each community about rules in the congregational community setting. They would apply to that community and not necessary for all believers. Each community received a different Message.

  29. Concerning the “binding and loosing,” I don’t believe Christ gave the disciples the authority to make or unmake rules. I believe “esomai–shall be” is a perfect passive participle. This has the meaning that whatever the disciples may bind or lose has already been bound or loosed in heaven. They are just carrying out what the Holy Spirit is revealing to them as they proclaim the gospel. Otherwise, we have the apostles making laws on their own without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, not all the New Testament is the result of inspiration. Them’s my thoughts. —

  30. This was a wonderful heated debate indeed! But first, let me congratulate Prof. Shir for ably expounding the context of “binding” and “loosing.” Your interpretation of the two phrases truly demonstrates a 1st Century Jewish theological understanding of “binding and loosing”as articulated by the Scriptures, if well observed that is. Second, I don’t see any problem in your interpretation of the “binding and loosing theology.” I believe this was one of the most important steps Jesus took to empower his apostles in anticipation of the heavy task ahead of them of leading the Church of God. Take it or leave it, and on Pentecost Day their authority to “bind” and “loose” was finally sealed by the pouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. This signified that whatever decision they would make on earth, if made by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, would definitely meet God’s approval in heaven. So the apostles were now fully empowered not only to preach the Gospel with full force but also to make ecclesiastical decisions as documented by Dr. Luke in Acts 15:24,28, read the verses objectively and honestly, and you will understand the proper context and usage of the two phrases: “to bind” and “to loose. Note carefully these phrases: “…some went out …without our authorisation…It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Doesn’t this tell us that the decision the apostles made was also guided and approved by God the Holy Spirit? In fact, I believe this is the same authority (of binding and loosing) that Rav Shaul was using to handle various situations or even disputes in the Corinthian church and others. So for me it is not just a matter of usage of the words, but the meaning. And we must always bear in mind that meaning originates from context. And therefore, the end MUST never justify the means. Stay blessed! God bless Israel!

    • I am so glad my point makes sense to you. Legislating is an essential and reasonable way to lead a community. And God is offering help with that. There is a perfectly reasonable, historical, cultural and linguistic range of what these terms can mean. What I see too often are very creative interpretations that take these phrases well outside of that reasonable range. Sadly these are the meanings people are most familiar with, hence my article.

  31. Thank you so much for your insights. As an elderly lady I may not be able to study as much now but being shown once many years ago that there is a difference between Jewish & gentiles when studying the Holy Scriptures gave me more understanding. The Holy Scriptures, (The Bible) is for us gentiles but not necessarily about us. Your knowledge of the Jewish way of thinking in those earlier years, is a great help.

  32. Prof. Shir, thank you for this concise and insightful article! Your interpretation seems to be the “key” to understanding what Jesus meant. (pun intended).

  33. I see no issue with the interpretation and intent of binding and loosing as referenced to permission and prohibition. The charge to cast out demons is still a legitimate instruction as these signs shall follow those that believe. Salvation is through the Jews, namely Yeshua alone. The sinful nature of the Jew is precisely like the fallen nature of the gentile so there is no need for fleshly pride. Paul did preach to the Jews first but they rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul went to the gentiles, who would, and did receive the message.

    • Yes, Kenneth, we are all human and all in need of God’s mercy and grace, both Jews and non-Jews. But I am going to disagree with you on the fact that Jews rejected Jesus. If Jews rejected Jesus, then who spread his name among the nations? I will give you a hint, not the nations. 🙂 I know it is a common idea, but it is not entirely correct. Read this

  34. Please will you revisit your citation of Josephus, “Jewish Wars” (1:110) that appears to be lacking. I have to assume that the “1” refers to book 1 but then what is “110”. After the book number (in this case “1”) I would expect to see the chapter and then verse but “110” cannot be applied to either as there are 33 chapters containing typically 4 to 11 verses.
    Thanks.

    • Dear David, Josephus as many other ancient texts has a different reference system, not like the Bible chapter: verse. If you want to find the quote, it is in War, Book 1, Chapter 5, Paragraph 2. I assume you are using a Whiston translation – that is the Equivalent of B.J. 1.110.

  35. I think it’s really important to remember that whenever Jesus discloses keys or gives people keys to aid in their transformation into Christ likeness they unlock spiritual realities which allow them to be manifested in the natural. I like Maureen’s comment a lot regarding how unbelief binds Heaven. The Kingdom of God is built by the Holy Spirit, although there is a true historical context for the scripture, there is no way that we can leave out the Holy Spirit regarding its interpretation because the focus is regarding the Kingdom of God which is built of the supernatural precious stones.

  36. I agree with Dr. Eli but I would like to bring to your attention that Jesus bound demons, cast them out and others. He gave this power to the believer. The spirit filled believer has been given the ability to “bind and loose” in the spirit realm. This will seem strange to those who have not experienced the baptism of the Holy Ghost. You may want to put me in the class with the over zealous etc. It does not hinder my belief and experience. Like Paul told Agrippa, I wish that all believers were filled with the Holy Ghost.

  37. I have heard many pastors preach on this topic of binding and loosing.
    but always in the context of marriage. Does this term have anything to do with marriage? I do not see anybody commenting here even mentioning marriage.

    • People can choose to apply these words to tying any context they wish as long as they understand that the original teaching is about allowing something and forbidding something in a legal context. Staying outside of the original meaning does not legitimize improper applications.

  38. When Jesus said that the Pharisees sat in Moses seat He was saying that they had the authority to interpret Torah – what was intended to be specifically permitted or prohibited by the commands in Genesis-Deuteronomy. For example, how far was it permitted to walk on the sabbath – what is a sabbath day’s journey.
    That the West links this to having authority over demons, health, weather and money is utterly wrong, foolish, misleading, ignorant and in some cases stupidity. In the final analysis, never mind the true meaning, it just doesn’t work.

  39. When reading your explanation the scripture in Psalms that says …Life and death are in the power of the tongue… Is that a fair connection or could you explain why not?

  40. So, I’m a little confused. Why would Y’shua discuss this with his Disciples, since we don’t see any evidence of using this in the context that you describe. I don’t doubt that it’s a first-century legal term, but I do think there’s more here. Even in the context that you describe, binding and loosing can still pertain to spiritual warfare as our authority comes from Y’shua, through the court of Heaven.

    Thanks for all your insights!

    • Dear Todd, Yeshua does not teach “spiritual warfare” in these verses. Just dig into the surrounding context of the verses. It is about managing the affairs of their community. Apostles had that power and authority, they made rules for their faith community, forbidding certain things and allowing others as God gave them wisdom. This teaching is not a license to “bind up” some heavenly things or “loose” some prosperity or anything you may hear on TBN 🙂 Sorry, I do not see how it can work both ways. Only one of the meanings has to be valid.

  41. Good day. Was binding and loosing only given to the 1st century apostles? Nowadays, I see Pastors, Bishops making this claim that they too have authority to bind and loose. Will appreciate some clarity.

    • Depending on the ecclesiastical theology/views of any particular church the leader should have the authority of “making rules” (binding/loosing) in the congregation he leads. We are not talking about biding evil spirits now… if you read my article.

  42. Thank you for clarifying. Thanks a lot.

    I will also appreciate a short article on tithing. Lots of debate in the Christian about this. Others believe (as I do) that tithing was meant for the Levite’s and not meant for pastors, bishops and rabbies. Now that Levite’s are not existing, there should not be a reason to tithe. Of course, others believe differently than some of us. They want the money at all costs (tithing as being part of the law)and yet they claim that the law was nailed to the cross.

  43. If one reads the jewish encyclopedia on binding and loosing you’ll notice 2 views converging as one, but half of the view pertains to supernatural authority.

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