International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
tab'-let: A rigid flat sheet (plate, pad or slab) used to receive writing. Stone, clay, wood and perhaps bronze, gold and lead tablets, at least, are mentioned in the Bible. In the Old English sense of "locket" the word is incorrectly used in the King James Version also of what the Revised Version (British and American) translates as "armlets," margin "necklaces" (Exodus 35:22 Numbers 31:50) and "perfume boxes" (Isaiah 3:20).
The technical Hebrew word for tablet, luach, is generally translated in both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) as "table." This is used for stone, wood or metal plates or tablets with or without writing. In Isaiah (30:8) where the Revised Version (British and American) translates "tablet," it is contrasted with the "roll" and probably means the wood or waxed tablet. In Habakkuk (2:2, the American Standard Revised Version "tablet," the King James Version and the English Revised Version "table") it perhaps refers to a metal tablet to be erected on a wall, but more likely it refers to the wooden tablet. It is also used in Proverbs (3:3; 7:3, the American Standard Revised Version "tablet," the King James Version and the English Revised Version "table") and in Jeremiah (17:1) figuratively of the writing upon the tablets of the heart, the word being rendered in the Septuagint by the same word (plax) used by Paul (2 Corinthians 3:3, "tables" in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)) in the same figure. In other cases (Exodus 24:12, etc.) it is used of the tablets of stone containing the Decalogue.
The word gillayon (Isaiah 8:1), which is translated in the Revised Version (British and American) "tablet" and in the King James Version "roll," is elsewhere (Isaiah 3:23) translated "mirror," and is thought to mean a blank polished surface for writing, particularly because in later use it means the blank margin of a roll.
The clay tablet is referred to in Ezekiel (4:1, English Versions of the Bible "tile"), and its use there for a map of the city has been strikingly illustrated in modern excavation by a tablet map discovered at Nippur (Hilprecht, Explorations, 518). Jeremiah (32:14, the Revised Version (British and American) "deeds," the King James Version "evidences") may also refer to clay tablets, but not surely, since roll deeds were also kept in earthen jars. Job (19:24) is thought by some to refer to the writing on leaden tablets, such as were in very common use in antiquity and in the Middle Ages for the writing of charms and especially curses, but more hold that inscriptions filled with lead are meant here. The plate of pure gold (Exodus 28:36 Leviticus 8:9), engraved like the gravings of a signet, which was on Aaron's miter, may also be properly described as a tablet, recalling the silver treaty between the Hittites and Egyptians and the gold plate on which Queen Helena of Adiabene (Yoma' 37a; Jewish Encyclopedia, VI, 334) had engraved a passage from the Pentateuch (Numbers 5:19-22). Bronze tablets (deltos) are several times referred to in 1 Maccabees (8:22; 14:18, 27, 48).
"Daleth" (daleth or deleth), the Semitic (Phoenician) original from which the generic Greek word for tablet (deltos) is derived (Gardthausen, p. 124, note 1), is perhaps not found strictly in this meaning in the Old Testament. The word is used, however, of two kinds of written documents and in such a way as to suggest that one is the original of, and the other derived from, the "daleth"-tablet. In Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20 it is enjoined that the laws of Yahweh shall be written upon the gates of the houses, and in each case the "daleths" (doors) are meant, since the door-posts are also mentioned, and in 1 Samuel 21:13, where David "scrabbles," it is expressly said to be upon the "doors" ("daleths") of the gate. This practice of writing upon house doors and city gates corresponds to the modern posting of notices on church doors and scoring of tallies on a door by the rural innkeeper; and the name seems to have passed from this great door tablet to the portable tablet. On the other hand Jeremiah (36:23) uses "daleths" (English Versions of the Bible "leaves") for the columns of a roll, obviously transferring the term from the panel form of the folding tablets.
pinakis, or pinakidion, is found in Ezekiel 9:2, 11 in the version of Symmachus in place of the "writer's inkhorn," and pinakidion, in Luke 1:63, of the (wooden) tablet on which Zacharias wrote the name of John. Puxion is used several times by Septuagint as the translation for luach, and once (Songs 5:14) for ivory tablets. Sanis is used as the translation of "daleth" or luach 2 or 3 times in the Septuagint and still oftener in the other versions. The most common Greek term both in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 3:3 Hebrews 9:4) and in the Greek Old Testament is plax, most often used of the tables of stone. This, like platos, which is also used for luach in Septuagint, is not recognized in the modern textbooks (Thompson, Gardthausen, Birt).
Gardthausen, Griechische Palaeog., Leipzig, I (1911), 123-32; compare pp. 24-45.
See also literature under WRITING.
E. C. Richardson