"Table" is derived from the Latin tabula, meaning primarily "a board," but with a great variety of other significances, of which "writing-tablet" is the most important for the Biblical use of "table." So in English "table" meant at first "any surface" and, in particular, "a surface for writing," and further specialization was needed before "table" became the name of the familiar article of furniture ("object with a horizontal surface"), a meaning not possessed by tabula in Latin. After this specialization "table" in the sense of "a surface for writing" was replaced in later English by the diminutive form "tablet." But "surface for writing" was still a common meaning of "table," and in this sense it represents luach (Ex 24:12, etc.), a word of uncertain origin, plax, "something flat" (2 Cor 3:3; Heb 9:4), deltos, "a writing tablet" (1 Macc 8:22; 14:18,27,48), or pinakidion "writing tablet" (Lk 1:63--a rather unusual word). the American Standard Revised Version has kept the word in the familiar combination "tables of stone" (Ex 24:12, etc.), but elsewhere (Prov 3:3; 7:3; Isa 30:8; Jer 17:1; Hab 2:2; Lk 1:63) has replaced "table" by "tablet," a change made by the English Revised Version only in Isa 30:8; Lk 1:63.
The table as an article of furniture is shulchan, in the Hebrew and trapezal, in the Greek. The only exceptions are Song 1:12, mecabh, "something round," perhaps a "round table," perhaps a "cushion," perhaps a "festal procession," and Mk 7:4, the King James Version kline, "couch" (so the Revised Version (British and American)), while Jn 13:28 and Jn 12:2, the King James Version "at the table," and Tobit 7:8, the King James Version "on the table," represent only the general sense of the original. Of the two regular words, shulchan is properly "a piece of hide," and so "a leather mat," placed on the ground at meal time, but the word came to mean any "table," however elaborate (e.g. Ex 25:23-30). Trapeza means "having four feet."
2 Ki 4:10 seems to indicate that a table was a necessary article in even the simpler rooms. Curiously enough, however, apart from the table of shewbread there is no reference in the Bible to the form or construction of tables, but the simpler tables in Israel of the present day are very much lower than ours. The modern "tables of the money changers" (Mk 11:15 and parallel's) are small square trays on stands, and they doubtless had the same form in New Testament times.
See SHEWBREAD, TABLE OF; MONEY-CHANGERS.
To eat at a king's table (2 Sam 9:7, etc.) is naturally to enjoy a position of great honor, and the privilege is made by Christ typical of the highest reward (Lk 22:30). Usually "to eat at one's table" is meant quite literally, but in 1 Ki 18:19; Neh 5:17 (compare 1 Ki 10:5) it probably means "be fed at one's expense." On the other hand, the misery of eating the leavings of a table (Jdg 1:7; Mk 7:28; Lk 16:21) needs no comment. The phrase "table of the Lord (Yahweh)" in Mal 1:7,12 the King James Version (compare Ezek 41:22; 44:16--Ezek 39:20 is quite different) means "the table (altar) set before the Lord," but the same phrase in 1 Cor 10:21 is used in a different sense and the origin of its use by Paul is obscure. Doubtless the language, if not the meaning, of Malachi had its influence and may very well have been suggested to Paul as he wrote 1 Cor 10:18. On the other hand, light may be thrown on the passage by such a papyrus fragment as "Chareimon invites you to dine at the table (kline) of the lord Serapis," a formal invitation to an idol-banquet (1 Cor 8:10; Pap. Oxyr. i.110; compare iii.523). This would explain Paul's "table of demons"--a phrase familiar to the Corinthians--and he wrote "table of the Lord" to correspond (compare, however, Pirqe 'Abhoth, iii.4). "Table at which the Lord is Host," at any rate, is the meaning of the phrase. On the whole passage see the comms., especially that of Lietzmann (fullest references). Probably Lk 22:30 has no bearing on 1 Cor 10:21. The meaning of Ps 69:22 (quoted in Rom 11:9), "Let their table before them become a snare," is very obscure ("let them be attacked while deadened in revelings"?), and perhaps was left intentionally vague.
Burton Scott Easton