CENSER. A vessel, probably shaped like a saucepan, for holding incense while it is being burned (Num.16.6-Num.16.7, Num.16.39). The same Hebrew word is sometimes rendered “firepan” (Exod.27.3) or “snuffdish.” NIV in certain contexts uses “wick trimmer” (Exod.25.28; Exod.37.23; Num.4.9).

CENSER (מַחְתָּה, H4746, or מִקְטֶ֫רֶת, H5233, i.e. censer, firepan, or snuffholder. NT: λιβανωτος [incense] LXX πυρει̂ν, or θυμιατήριον, G2593, censer).

The problem involved appears chiefly in the OT. A maḥtah (from a root meaning “to remove”) apparently consisted of a shallow cup, or pan, with handle (short or long), which was used to remove ashes (hot or cold) from an altar, or to gather burnt parts of wicks from the lampstand, or to burn incense on hot coals placed on the pan (cf. Num 16:6). In a number of instances, when the word is tr. “censer,” it should be tr. “firepans” (Exod 27:3). It is rightly tr. “firepans” in Numbers 4:14; 1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chronicles 4:22.

Nowhere is a description of the utensil given, but the root of the term most commonly used suggests a shovel or a pan. For the Tabernacle the device was made of bronze (Exod 27:3); for the Temple of Solomon, of gold (1 Kings 7:50).

Modern censers, a bowl for hot coals, a perforated cap, and the entire contrivance hanging from a chain, were not in use in Biblical times.

The second term given above, miqtereth, signified “incense-burner.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

sen’-ser: In the King James Version censer is used as a translation of two Hebrew words, namely, machtah, and miqTereth. The former word is generally rendered "censer," sometimes "firepan," and in three cases (Ex 25:38; 37:23; Nu 4:9) "snuffdish" It denoted a bowl-shaped vessel used for different purposes, namely,

(1) a censer, in which incense was burnt (Le 10:1);

(2) a firepan, made of bronze, used in connection with the altar of burnt offering (Ex 27:3);

(3) a snuffdish, i.e. a receptacle to hold pieces of burnt lamp-wick removed by the tongs or snuffers (Ex 25:38).

Probably in all these cases the same kind of vessel was meant, namely, a bowl-shaped utensil with a handle, not unlike a saucepan. The other Hebrew word (derived from the same root as the word for "incense") denoted a vessel for conveying incense (Eze 8:11; 2Ch 26:19). The Greek word thumiaterion, by which the Septuagint rendered miqTereth, is used also in Hebrews 9:4, where the King James Version gives "censer," but the American Standard Revised Version is probably more correct, namely, "altar of incense" (see Commentaries under the word). Compare also Re 8:3,1, where libanotos, properly the adjective of "frankincense," is translated "censer."