Would you please explain Zechariah's vision of the "woman in a basket," as recorded in Zechariah 5:5-11?


Several visions are recorded in the book of Zechariah. Some commentaries try to interpret these visions by limiting them to events at the time of Zechariah. However, as the book deals with the end time and the return of Jesus Christ (compare Zechariah 14:1 ff), it must be viewed, foremost, as containing prophecies for our time today.

In this light, let us review Zechariah’s vision of the woman in a basket, as recorded in Zechariah 5:5-11, where we read:

“(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. (9) 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. (10) So I said to the angel who talked to me, ‘Where are they carrying the basket?’ (11) And he said to me, ‘To build a house for it in the land of Shinar [i.e., Babylon, compare Genesis 10:10; Daniel 1:2]; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.'”

What does this vision try to convey to us today?

(1) Without trying to explain every word of this vision, 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…”

John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible concurs as well:

“This woman is a very lively emblem of the whore of Rome, sitting as a queen upon many waters; ruling over kings and princes; living deliciously, and in great ease and pleasure filling up the measure of her sins…”

(2) Regarding the reference to the land of Shinar, virtually all commentaries agree that this is a reference to Babylon, whether ancient or modern. The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown states that “Shinar” is “Babylonia…, the capital of the God-opposed world kingdoms, and so representing in general the seat of irreligion…”

(3) Evaluating the ORIGIN of ancient Babylon, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible points out:

“The name of Shinar, though strictly Babylonia, carries back to an older power than the world-empire of Babylon; which now too was destroyed. ‘In the land of Shinar’… was that first attempt [by Nimrod and the attempt to build the Tower of Babel] to array a world-empire against God… And so it is the… [appropriate] symbol of the antitheist or anti-Christian world, which by violence, art, falsehood, sophistry, wars against the truth…”

The Broadman Bible Commentary adds the following observation:

“Verse 8 identifies the figure as the wicked one or wickedness. In the Old Testament this may be understood in many ways. One is the worship of idols [such as]… the figure of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar [ancient name for Easter] [or]… the figure of a goddess representing idol worship in general.”

(4) The modern application of the woman in the basket, called wickedness, is explained by John Gill as follows:

“‘And he said, This is wickedness,’ …. particularly [referring to] the wicked one, the man of sin and son of perdition… that wicked lawless one, [2 Thessalonians 2:8] yea, wickedness itself, being extremely wicked, a sink of sin and of all abominations.”

The man of sin, as described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, refers to the future RELIGIOUS head of modern Babylon, who is also identified as the “false prophet” in the book of Revelation. He will indeed be a wicked and evil person, representing an evil and wicked system (compare Revelation 18:23-24).

(5) With this understanding, let us explore the additional meaning of the prophecy in Zechariah 5. We read that the woman, personifying worldwide wickedness or iniquity, 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. The modern CITY of Babylon the great–as well as the SYSTEM which it represents– will be destroyed with fire (Revelation 18:8, 21; 19:3). Depending on the translation, it will become a “dwelling place” or a “habitation” or a “house” (Elberfelder Bibel, Menge Bibel and Luther Bibel all say: “Behausung”) or a “home” (New International Version) of “demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” (Revelation 18:2).

This fact explains why two women with wings of a stork (verse 9) –perhaps angels–carry the imprisoned woman to the land of Babylon, to build a house or dwelling place for her (verse 11). (For a further discussion about the appearance and functions of angels, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”) 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.

As Wesley’s Notes put it, the house built for the personified wickedness is not going to be built “in mercy, but in judgment.” She will be “set there… on its base” (verse 11); that is, she “shall be confined without hope of release.”

This reminds us that Satan, the one behind this evil system, will also be “bound” by an angel “for a thousand years.” He will be cast “into the bottomless pit” and he will be “shut up,” and a “seal” will be set on him, “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years [of the Millennium] were finished” (compare Revelation 20:1-3).

Zechariah’s vision of the woman in the basket is meant to give us hope for the future. Even though wickedness and idolatry prevail in this present evil world, the time will come when Jesus Christ will make an end to wickedness. God WILL remember modern Babylon’s iniquities (Revelation 18:5). We read that God will judge “the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He [will avenge] on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Revelation 19:2).

“Modern Babylon” will not be able to deceive people in the new world to come. No one following God will want to “dwell” there–her future “house” or “home” will be reserved for demons and evil spirits. By contrast, each child of God will dwell “in the temple of… God” (Revelation 3:12).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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