Zechariah’s vision of the woman in a basket is quite bizarre and mysterious, and it is difficult to be dogmatic about its interpretation.
This vision follows the one about the flying scroll. In this one, the prophet is shown a large measuring basket, and a woman is revealed to be inside after the basket’s top is removed. She is referred to by an attending angel as the personification of wickedness. After the heavy lead top of her basket is replaced to hold her captive inside, she is carried off by two winged women to the land of Shinar, a reference to Babylon. Here she will be placed in a temple and be worshiped.
One interpretation of this vision is a warning about the false god of materialism. The Jewish people had just returned to Judah after a seventy-year exile in Babylon. They had finally put away all the idol worship they had acquired from the peoples around them, but this vision suggests that a new temptation is before them and the entire world.
As Francis Bacon is quoted as saying, “Money is a great servant but a bad master”. The obsessive pursuit of money can draw our focus and purpose away from worshiping the Lord and can also tempt us to deal less than honestly with those around us when seeking to maximize our own profit. As with so many things, the answer lies in wisdom and balance.
After seeing the vision of the flying scroll, the angel told Zechariah to look up to see what was coming next.
6 I asked, “What is it?”
He replied, “This is the measuring basket that goes out.” He continued, “This is their eye in all the land.” 7 Then behold, a lead cover was lifted and a woman was sitting in the middle of the measuring basket. 8 The angel exclaimed, ‘This is Wickedness!’ Then he shoved her back inside the measuring basket, throwing the lead weight over its mouth.
9 After this I lifted up my eyes and behold, I saw two women emerging with the wind in their wings (they had wings like the wings of a stork) and they raised the measuring basket between the earth and the heaven.
10 I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the measuring basket?”
11 He said, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar. When it is prepared, she will live there in her own place.” Zechariah 5:6-11 (TLV)
As mentioned, it is hard to be certain about what Zechariah’s vision is pointing to. The main hint here is the use of a measuring basket, a widespread tool of commerce at the time. Another principle to use when interpreting scripture is to refer to other scripture as a guide. For instance, in the New Testament book of Revelation, there is another vision given to the apostle John which includes the same concepts of evil commerce, greed, and immorality as represented by a wicked woman of power in Babylon.
The apostle John’s vision includes the following:
1 After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his glory. 2 He cried out with a mighty voice, saying:
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a den for demons,
a haunt for every unclean spirit
and for every unclean bird
and for every unclean and detestable beast.
3 For all the nations have drunk
of the wine of the fury of her immorality.
The kings of the earth have committed
sexual immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth
grew rich off the power
of her self-indulgence.”
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you participate in her sins
and receive her plagues!
7 As she has exalted herself and indulged herself in luxury,
so give her the same measure of torment and grief!
For in her heart she says,
‘I sit as a queen—
I am no widow;
I shall never see grief.’ Revelation 18:1-4,7 (TLV)
Many commentaries have been written to explain the meaning of this end times prophecy of global wickedness represented by the figurative woman of Babylon, and her ultimate demise at the hand of the Lord. Suffice it to say that there is evil on the earth, and its perceived luxuries can be seductive to anyone who is not grounded in faith and under the protection of the Lord. With God’s help, we believers can “put a lid on it”.
What evils and temptations do you find the most difficult to resist?
Lord, please strengthen us to resist the temptations of evil today, especially in those areas where we struggle the most. Help us to successfully put a lid on wickedness today. Thank You for loving us through our life’s journey. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.