This is an interesting question. Many times, especially the Catholic concepts of angels picture them as good-looking women with long blond hair, long white dresses and huge white wings, but is there any biblical evidence for such concepts? On the other hand, can it be dogmatically said that angels, representing female features, do not exist?
We have addressed the question as to how angels are being portrayed in the Bible in our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.” Beginning with page 13, under the headline, “What Angels Look Like,” we show from the Bible that some angels have man-like features; some look like animals with wings (especially mentioned are those who are looking like a lion, a calf, a flying eagle, or black, white, red and sorrel horses); and others have features combining man-like and animal-like features (cherubs with wings are described as having the likeness of men, but each one has four faces—faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle). When describing the man-like features, we point out that sometimes, angels appeared as “young men,” but this is not always the case (at least, in several incidents, it is not mentioned that the angels manifesting themselves as men looked like young men).
We also said this in the above-mentioned booklet, on page 16, under the sub-headline, “Some Angels May Look Like Women”:
“We saw that angels commonly appear with man-like features, and some of them looked like young men. In addition, there is one Scripture that might perhaps indicate that some angels may look like women. Notice Zechariah 5:9–11: ‘Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven. So I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they carrying the basket?” And he said to me, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar [Babylon, Genesis 11:2, 9; compare also Genesis 10:10; Daniel 1:2]; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.”’”
We explain this seventh vision of the woman in the basket in our free booklet, “The Book of Zechariah—Prophecies for Today.”
Beginning on page 45, we also quoted Zechariah 5, verses 5-8, saying this:
“(5) Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, ‘Lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth.’ (6) So I asked, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘It is a basket that is going forth.’ He also said, ‘This is their resemblance [better: their iniquity] throughout the earth: (7) Here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket’; (8) then he said, ‘This is Wickedness!’ And he thrust her down into the basket, and threw the lead cover over its mouth…”
In identifying the woman in the basket, we stated:
“Some commentaries identify the woman in the basket as the woman or harlot riding the beast, as described in the book of Revelation. There, she is called ‘Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth’ (Revelation 17:5). She is also described as a religious city built on seven hills (Revelation 17:9, 18, New International Version, Living Bible)—in other words, Babylon the great, in the book of Revelation, signifies a false religious, political, military and economic system. In this regard, notice the explanation of the Scofield Reference Notes: ‘The Babylon phase of the apostate church is symbolized by an unchaste woman, sodden with the greed and luxury of commercialism… Prophetically, the application to the Babylon of the Revelation is obvious.’
“Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible agrees: ‘The land of Shinar means Babylon; and Babylon means Rome, in the Apocalypse…’”
When explaining the basket, in which the woman sits, we stated:
“We read that the woman… is confined to a basket or container, but she is trying, unsuccessfully, to escape from her prison (verses 7–8). This gives us the time setting of Zechariah’s vision—it describes the woman’s future judgment—which will occur when Jesus Christ returns… two women with wings of a stork (Zechariah 5:9)—perhaps angels—carry the imprisoned woman to the land of Babylon, to build a house or dwelling place for her (verse 11)… The two women will assist in removing ‘wickedness’—the wicked system—from this earth. Please note that true Christians are already told today to ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4). In the future, wickedness will be placed ‘forever in Babylon’ (compare Geneva Study Bible); that is, the burned and destroyed location and area of the modern city of Babylon will become a ‘house’ for demons during the time of the Millennium.”
The symbolism of the “woman” in the basket is biblically explained by comparing her with the fallen woman—Babylon the Great—riding the scarlet-colored beast in Revelation 17. In this context, we see the role of angels in regard to the destruction of Babylon and the evil Babylonian system of this world. In our Q&A, titled, “Please explain Christ’s saying, ‘Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together,’” we explain two passages in Matthew 24:26-28 and Luke 17:24-37, by showing an important distinction. While the passage in Luke seems to describe the protection of the body [Greek: soma] of Christ (the Church of God) through angels, including at the place of safety, the passage in Matthew seems to be describing this world as a body or better carcass or corpse [Greek: ptoma], referring to the destruction of this evil world at the time of Christ’s return, emphasizing the role of angels in the process. We say:
“Eagles or angels will be gathered together to protect Christ’s body–the Church, as implied in Luke 17:37. And as everyone can observe when eagles or vultures descend on a carcass, so Christ’s actual return to this earth, as implied in Matthew 24:28, will be obvious and visible to all. Since eagles can refer to angels, it is even possible that Christ’s picture of descending eagles in Matthew 24:28 (and not only in Luke 17:37) refers to angels, in the sense that God will send symbolic eagles or angels to descend on the dead body or the carcass of this spiritually dead world, to render punishment and judgment on those who do not know or obey God.
“We read that God will ‘give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven WITH HIS MIGHTY ANGELS, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed’ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).”
We also note the reference to and involvement of angels in the destruction of Babylon in passages such as Revelation 14:8; 16:17-19; and 18:21.
In light of these parallel references and the fact that angels will be involved with the fate of the Babylonian harlot or fallen church, the conclusion could be reached that the two women in the book of Zechariah, carrying Babylon to her place of destruction and of imprisonment for demons, could indeed be a description of angels.
If we were to say that the two women are strictly symbolic and figurative, without describing in some way angels and their appearance, then what would they portray? The Bible does not give any hint at their symbolic meaning, if in fact it is strictly a symbolic description. We must be careful not to use certain passages as strictly symbolic, rather than literal, because otherwise, everything could be interpreted as being strictly symbolic. This mistake has been made oftentimes in orthodox Christianity, teaching for example that God has no form and shape. All the references clearly describing God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son as having a Man-like appearance were interpreted away as simply figurative representations. The same was done in regard to angels who allegedly have no “gender” and no form and shape either. But nowhere has it been explained what these very specific and quite different descriptions of angelic appearances are supposed to symbolize.
When a description is supposed to be understood only in a symbolic way, that symbol must be made clear in the Bible (Certain commentaries have attempted to give the two women in Zechariah 5 a symbolic meaning, allegedly referring to the Greeks and the Romans, or the Assyrians and the Babylonians, but all of this is clearly false and quite ludicrous, and no biblical evidence was presented to back up their claims.) While Christ is described in the book of Revelation as looking like a glorified “Man” (Revelation 1:12-15), which description is to be taken quite literally, as confirmed in many other passages, He is also pictured as a Lamb (Revelation 5:6). This description is clearly symbolic, as Christ does not look like a Lamb, but the symbol is also clearly explained, as Christ was and is the Lamb of God who was slain to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Some commentaries concede that the reference to the two women is not symbolic and that “there be no symbol” (cp. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible), but utterly fail to explain convincingly what the women are supposed to represent.
The following statements were published in bible.org:
“While angels generally appear as men in Scripture, Zechariah 5:9 may suggest this is not always the case. The two women mentioned in this passage are not specifically called angels, but they are clearly agents of God… The fate of the woman (wickedness) is portrayed: She is to be removed from the land. Although some regard the two women as agents of evil (partly because the stork is an unclean bird…), it seems preferable to regard them as divinely chosen agents. [To view the two women as agents of evil because they have wings compared with the wings of an unclean animal—a stork—is a ridiculous conclusion anyhow, because holy angels are also portrayed as representing “unclean” animals.]… The simile ‘wings like those of a stork’ is evidently intended to show that the winged women—carried along by the wind—were capable of supporting the woman (wickedness) in the basket over a great distance. The main point is that Scripture does not identify them as angels and we would be hard pressed to prove that angels sometimes appear as women from this passage.”
On the other hand, no alternative explanation is given as to what the women DID represent. One author wrote on the Internet: “… in Zech. 5:9, two winged women take the woman ‘wickedness’ away to Babylonia in a basket. While it is true that ‘wickedness’ is a personification rather than a true person in that context, the two creatures who transport her seem to be angels, functioning in a typically angelic way, and they are clearly described as female.”
In addition, we should take note of the fact that the physical world is patterned after the spirit world, which is explained in our recent sermon, “Our Ultimate Human Potential”. We also explain this fact in detail in our aforementioned booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,” beginning on page 58. God created the first human couple after His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26; 5:1-2). We are not saying, of course, that God combines male and female features in His appearance (as some have falsely suggested), nor are we saying that God would have “spirit” organs necessary in the physical realm for reproduction, but the fact remains that human beings resemble God, and as born-again members of the God Family, they will be God’s sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). Humans who were women in the flesh do not become “men” in the resurrection, but they will be able to manifest themselves to humans in such a way that they can be recognized as resembling their former physical appearance.
We read that angels do not marry or are given in marriage, and the same will be true for born-again members of the God Family, but it does not say that they (angels or resurrected saints) won’t be male or female (even though this has been erroneously stated many times, in misquoting Scripture). The passage in question reads in Luke 20:35-36:
“But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (also compare Mark12:25).
The point is, God created human beings as male and female in the physical realm, and they will be called sons and daughters of God in the spirit realm. The angels were created before man but in the spirit realm. So it cannot be ruled out that some of the angels (but by no means all or maybe even the vast majority of them) have been created as models for the physical creation of man.
We cannot dogmatically conclude that the reference in Zechariah 5:9 describes angels with women-like manifestations, but lacking biblical evidence showing what they could otherwise exclusively portray symbolically, the inference might be there. In any event, their description in Zechariah 5:9 differs fundamentally from the way orthodox Christianity portrays female angels.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link