Fire holders were used in various ways in connection with the service at the sanctuary. There were gold fire holders that apparently served as containers for holding the pieces of burnt lampwick removed from the lamps on the golden lampstand. (Ex 25:38; 37:23; Nu 4:9) The copper fire holders of the altar of burnt offering evidently served as ashpans or utensils for removing coals from the fire. (Ex 27:3; 38:3) Additionally, fire holders were used to burn incense. (Le 10:1) Each morning and between the two evenings, the high priest made perfumed incense smoke upon the golden altar of incense.—Ex 30:7, 8.
The fire holders as well as the other utensils used with the lampstand and with the altar of burnt offering had to be covered when the Israelites broke camp and the tabernacle was transported to another location during their journeys.—Nu 4:9, 14.
Solomon made fire holders of gold and silver for the temple, the plans of which had been given to David by inspiration. Possibly these were of more ornate form than those used in the tabernacle in the wilderness. (1Ki 7:48-50; 1Ch 28:11-19; 2Ch 4:19-22) Mention is made of genuine gold and silver fire holders being taken from the temple at the time of the Babylonian exile.—2Ki 25:15; Jer 52:19.
At Hebrews 9:4 reference is made to an object that, along with the ark of the covenant, pertained to or was associated with the Most Holy. In Greek it is called thy·mi·a·teʹri·on. That word refers to something connected with the burning of incense. Was it the altar of incense? Some translations present the matter that way, and the use of the word by Philo and Josephus with reference to the altar of incense is cited in support. (NIV, NE, JB, RS) Of course, it is well known that the altar of incense was not actually in the Most Holy. (Ex 30:1, 6) But it was immediately outside the curtain, or “toward the innermost room,” as 1 Kings 6:22 puts it. (Compare Ex 40:3-5.) On the other hand, thy·mi·a·teʹri·on can properly be rendered “censer,” and a censer was actually taken into the Most Holy by the high priest on Atonement Day. (Le 16:12, 13) In the Greek Septuagint, the word thy·mi·a·teʹri·on is always used with reference to the censer (2Ch 26:19; Eze 8:11, LXX), though a different word is used at Leviticus 16:12 when describing events of Atonement Day. The Jewish Mishnah, however, indicates that a special golden censer came to be used on Atonement Day. (Yoma 4:4; 5:1; 7:4) So, with good reason, some translators prefer to render thy·mi·a·teʹri·on as “censer.”—NW, CC, Dy, Yg, Da, Kx.
Misuses. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu used their fire holders to offer illegitimate fire before Jehovah and lost their lives as a result. (Le 10:1, 2) Likewise the rebellious 250 men headed by Korah were consumed by fire when they presented their copper fire holders before Jehovah. (Nu 16:16-19, 35, 39) King Uzziah was smitten with leprosy while using a censer illegally. (2Ch 26:18, 19) The 70 older men of Israel seen in Ezekiel’s vision were using censers to offer incense to idols.—Eze 8:10, 11; see INCENSE.