One of the songs that emerged in my Christian upbringing encouraged the singers and listeners to keep the commandments. As I’ve gained a few more years, I’ve often seen value in going back and revisiting the phrases of my youth. The prompting to research this phrase came about as I was in church one day. Having recently developed an affinity for dictionaries (I usually have between 5 and 7 dictionary apps on my phone), I decided to look up the word keep and understand more about what it means.
Keep appears in the King James Version of the Bible 535 times. With that many entries the word would obviously carry more than one meaning. As it turns out the word has several definitions. Dictionary.com lists it as having 55 and the OED lists 8 (with several subsets). While that seems like a lot, words like run, go, and take have signficantly more definitions. Run, for example, has 396 definitions.
For those who are LDS, Webster’s 1828 dictionary is a key ingridient in understanding the scriptures as it locks in the meanings of the American understanding of the words in the Bible, but also the Book of Mormon. In Webster’s 1828 dictionary lists a minimum of 21. And what do they tell us about the meaning of the word in the phrase?
KEEP, verb transitive preterit tense and participle passive kept. [Latin habeo, and capio.]
1. To hold; to retain in one’s power or possession; not to lose or part with; as, to keep a house or a farm; to keep any thing in the memory, mind or heart.
2. To have in custody for security or preservation.
The crown of Stephanus, first king of Hungary, was always kept in the castle of Vicegrade.
3. To preserve; to retain.
The Lord God, merciful and gracious, keeping mercy for thousands–Exodus 34:18.
4. To preserve from falling or from danger; to protect; to guard or sustain.
And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee. Genesis 28:15.
5. To hold or restrain from departure; to detain.
–That I may know what keeps me here with you.
6. To tend; to have the care of.
And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it. Genesis 2:15.
7. To tend; to feed; to pasture; as, to keep a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle in a yard or in a field. He keeps his horses on oats or on hay.
8. To preserve in any tenor or state. keep a stiff rein.
KEEP the constitution sound.
9. To regard; to attend to.
While the stars and course of heaven I keep–
10. To hold in any state; as, to keep in order.
11. To continue any state, course or action; as, to keep silence; to keep the same road or the same pace; to keep reading or talking; to keep a given distance.
12. To practice; to do or perform; to obey; to observe in practice; not to neglect or violate; as, to keep the laws, statutes or commandments of God.
13. To fulfill; to perform; as, to keep one’s word, promise or covenant.
14. To practice; to use habitually; as, to keep bad hours.
15. To copy carefully.
Her servant’s eyes were fix’d upon her face,
And as she moved or turned, her motions viewed,
Her measures kept, and step by step pursued.
16. To observe or solemnize.
17. To board; to maintain; to supply with necessaries of life. The men are kept at a moderate price per week.
18. To have in the house; to entertain; as, to keep lodgers.
19. To maintain; not to intermit; as, to keep watch or guard.
20. To hold in one’s own bosom; to confine to one’s own knowledge; not to disclose or communicate to others; not to betray; as, to keep a secret; to keep one’s own counsel.
21. To have in pay; as, to keep a servant.
To keep back, to reserve; to withhold; not to disclose or communicate.
I will keep nothing back from you. Jeremiah 42:4.
1. To restrain; ; to prevent from advancing.
KEEP back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. Psalms 19:13.
2. To reserve; to withhold; not to deliver. Acts 5:3.
To keep company with, to frequent the society of; to associate with. Let youth keep company with the wise and good.
To accompany; to go with; as, to keep company with one on a journey or voyage.
To keep down, to prevent from rising; not to lift or suffer to be raised.
To keep in, to prevent from escape; to hold in confinement.
1. To conceal; not to tell or disclose.
2. To restrain; to curb.
To keep off, to hinder from approach or attack; as, to keep off an enemy or an evil.
To keep under, to restrain; to hold in subjection; as, to keep under an antagonist or a conquered country; to keep under the appetites and passions.
To keep up, to maintain; to prevent from falling or diminution; as, to keep up the price of goods; to keep up one’s credit.
1. To maintain; to continue; to hinder from ceasing.
In joy, that which keeps up the action is the desire to continue it.keep out, to hinder from entering or taking possession.
To keep bed, to remain in bed without rising; to be confined to one’s bed.
To keep house, to maintain a family state.
His income enables him to keep house.
1. To remain in the house; to be confined.
His feeble health obliges him to keep house.
To keep from, to restrain; to prevent approach.
To keep a school, to maintain or support it; as, the town or its inhabitants keep ten schools; more properly, to govern and instruct or teach a school, as a preceptor.
KEEP, verb intransitive To remain in any state; as, to keep at a distance; to keep aloft; to keep near; to keep in the house; to keep before or behind; to keep in favor; to keep out of company, or out of reach.
1. To last; to endure; not to perish or be impaired. Seek for winter’s use apples that will keep
If the malt is not thoroughly dried, the ale it makes will not keep
2. To lodge; to dwell; to reside for a time.
Knock at the study, where, they say, he keeps.
To keep to, to adhere strictly; not to neglect or deviate from; as, to keep to old customs; to keep to a rule; to keep to one’s word or promise.
To keep on, to go forward; to proceed; to continue to advance.
To keep up, to remain unsubdued; or not to be confined to one’s bed.
In popular language, this word signifies to continue; to repeat continually; not to cease.
KEEP, noun Custody; guard. [Little used.]
1. Colloquially, case; condition; as in good keep
2. Guardianship; restraint. [Little used.]
3. A place of confinement; in old castles, the dungeon.