International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
snuf’-erz, snuf’-dish-ez (melqachayim, machtoth): These two utensils are thrice mentioned in connection with the wilderness tabernacle (Ex 25:38; 37:23; Nu 4:9). the American Standard prefers to read "snuffers and snuffdishes" in place of "tongs and snuffdishes" (compare 2Ch 4:22), the connection between the two utensils being indicated by the fact that both are said to belong to the seven lamps, and were to be made out of the talent of gold which was specified as the weight of the whole (Ex 25:37-39).
The seven-branched candlestick which stood in the holy place of both tabernacle and temple was surmounted, in each of its arms, by a removable lamp in which olive oil was burnt. From the requirement of keeping these lights brilliantly burning throughout each night of the year, arose the need for snuffers and snuffdishes. By the former, the burnt portions of the wick were removed; in the latter they were deposited previous to removal. The lamps may have required to be trimmed as often as every half-hour. For this purpose a priest would enter the outer chamber "accomplishing the services" (Heb 9:6).
In the time of Solomon’s Temple another word than melqachayim was used to describe this utensil. It is mezammeroth, from a verb meaning "to prune" or "trim," and is found in 1Ki 7:50; 2Ki 12:13; 25:14; 2Ch 4:22; Jer 52:18. In 4 of these passages, the English text reads, "the snuffers and the basins"; the 5th is merely a summary of things taken to Babylon (2Ki 25:14). In this constant later association of "basins" and "snuffers" it is seen that the basins referred to were used for the reception of the cast-off portions of the wicks of the seven lamps, and took the place of the snuffdishes of an earlier age.
W. Shaw Caldecott