fir'-pan (machtah, "firepan," "censer," "snuffdish," from chathah, "to snatch up"): A vessel for carrying coals. Brazen firepans were part of the furnishings of the altar of burnt offerings (Ex 27:3; 38:3, and in Nu 4:14, where the King James Version wrongly reads "censers," the context indicating a vessel belonging to the brazen altar).
The same word is translated "snuffdishes" in Ex 25:38; 37:23; Nu 4:9, where it refers to golden firepans which belonged to the golden candlestick or lamp stand, and were used to receive the burnt ends of the wicks. In 1 Ki 7:50 and 2Ch 4:22, although the King James Version reads "censers," the context points to the firepans belonging to the candlestick; as also in 2Ki 25:15 and Jer 52:19, translated "firepans" in the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American). A similar firepan designated by the same Hebrew word but translated "censer" was used to carry the burning coals upon which the incense was thrown and burned (Le 10:1; 16:12; Nu 16:6,17 ff).
The firepan or censer of the Hebrews was doubtless similar to the censer of the Egyptians, pictures of which have been found. It consisted of a pan or pot for the coals, which was held by a straight or slightly curved long handle. The style of censer used in recent centuries, swung by three chains, came into use about the 12th century AD.
George Rice Hovey