Zechariah is remindful of the donkey, bringing to mind his famous prophecy of the Lord coming in peace, riding on a donkey.
Vision 1 – God’s pity for God’s people | Zechariah 1:7‑17
Vision 2 – God’s protection of God’s people | Zechariah 1:18‑21
Vision 3 – God’s purpose for God’s people | Zechariah 2:1-13
Vision 4 – God’s purification of God’s people | Zechariah 3:1-10
Vision 5 – God’s empowering of God’s people | Zechariah 4:1-14
Vision 6 – God’s perfecting of God’s people | Zechariah 5:1-4
Vision 7 – God’s purging of God’s people | Zechariah 5:5-11
Vision 8 – God’s protecting of God’s people | Zechariah 6:1-8
An angelic guide helped Zechariah understand what God was showing him, throughout the night.
Vision 7, A Woman in a Basket
As Zechariah was gazing on the wreckage of what sin does in people’s lives, the vision changed to a woman in a basket, moving through the sky, over the land.
Then the angel who talked with me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what this is that is coming out.”
I said, “What is it?”
He said, “This is a basket coming out.”
And he said, “This is their iniquity in all the land.”
Then a leaden cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting in the basket! And he said, “This is Wickedness.”
So he thrust her back into the basket, and pressed the leaden weight down on its mouth. Then I looked up and saw two women coming forward. The wind was in their wings; they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and sky. Then I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they taking the basket?”
He said to me, “To the land of Shinar, to build a house for it; and when this is prepared, they will set the basket down there on its base.”Zechariah5:5-11 (NRSV)
What Does It Mean?
The sixth vision is about what will happen with the person who chooses to continue in sin. This seventh vision is about what God will do concerning sin itself.
- The basket was a unit of volume, an “ephah.” The word the angel used in Hebrew, אֵיפָה | ʼêyphâh, was the largest dry measure in use in Zechariah’s day, like a bushel. One source says it was about a five gallon container.
- “Iniquity,” עַיִן | ʻayin, translated “iniquity,” actually means eye or by analogy, fountain. It was the source, or the eye of the exiles, it was how they saw things, their worldview.
- The lead cover kept what was inside from getting out, but it also kept what was outside from getting in.
- The sitting woman, due to her size (no woman fits in a five-gallon pail) was most likely an idol, and is called “wickedness” (other translations say “evil”).
- The winged women were messengers of God, though seemingly not angels. Possibly they were similar to the Persian peri, beautiful winged spirits. If so, it would be appropriate for God to send them on this mission.
- Shinar, though identified often as Babylon, was much older. It was where Nimrod built his kingdom, and a later generation began construction of the Tower of Babel. It is the icon of rebellion against God.
Zechariah had looked up to see the scroll, and now the angel told him to look up once more. It seems something was either moving through the sky or coming up over the horizon—that is to say, the horizon of the land, the land of Judah, as Zechariah stood on Mount Zion.
Oddly, mundanely perhaps, it was a bushel basket with a leaden lid. This would have been a very ordinary sight, as grains kept in baskets needed to be well sealed against moisture and vermin. It was so ordinary, Zechariah had to ask for its significance—what is it?
You will notice the angel gave two answers. It is a measure, and it is their (that is to say the people’s) eye, or fountain, in all the land.
I wonder if Zechariah was as puzzled as I was by the angel’s explanation?
Jesus Gives the Answer
And then I remembered Jesus had also talked about the eye being central to a person’s state of being.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!Jesus, Matthew 6:22-23 (NRSV)
“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar [or under the bushel basket], but on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.
Your eye is the lamp of your body.
If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light;
but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.
Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”Jesus, Luke 11:33-36 (NRSV)
Matthew and Luke recorded this teaching of Jesus slightly differently, and we need both to see what God was showing Zechariah.
A lamp is meant to shed light, that is the whole point. No one goes through the trouble of lighting a lamp then putting it in a bushel basket—let alone clamping a lead lid on top!
Illumination, enlightenment, is what the eye is to the whole person—metaphorically, the eye is the source, the fountain for everything else the person thinks and feels. The eye, is perception, discernment, worldview.
Consider your worldview, and how you perceive God as well as Me, Jesus was saying. You may think rejecting Me is enlightened, but it is actually utter darkness.
Indeed, in each of the gospels, the turning point comes when Jesus heals a blind man, symbolically healing the spiritual blindness of all those who come to him in faith.
God Removes the People’s Darkness
The exiles had returned from captivity with the Persian king’s blessing and help. God had ordained their seventy-year sojourn in Persia because of their idolatry, their rebellion against God. Now, they had returned with a renewed commitment of faithfulness to God, and God alone. Their commitment would be put sorely to the test in the centuries to come, as even a casual read through the Books of the Maccabees will show.
The basket with the sitting woman inside represented the people’s idolatry, the darkness they thought was light, the lens through which they had seen the world. It really was the full measure of their iniquity. God would now remove it from them, in response to their very great desire to be devoted to the One True and Living God alone.
God’s two unusual attendants were heavenly beings carried by the wind in their wings. This is our clue they are sent by God.
[God] rode on a cherub, and flew;2 Samuel 22:11 (NRSV)
he was seen upon the wings of the wind.
He rode on a cherub, and flew;Psalm 18:10 (NRSV)
he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
You set the beams of your chambers on the waters,Psalm 104:3 (NRSV)
you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
And they removed the idol to Shinar, where a temple and a base would be prepared for it.
The only way for the people of God to recognize the ways they (we) have misunderstood God, God’s character, and words, and ways, is to see that misunderstanding exposed for what it is. This has happened a number of times in the two thousand-year history of the church. God, through reformation and restoration movements, has exposed false religion from true, false beliefs that had infiltrated the true faith. For the ancient Judahites, God exposed the idolatry, and moved it to the ancient base of rebellion against God.
Once exposed, God moved that falsity to its proper dark domain, for it will be dealt with at a future time on that Great and Glorious, yet also Dreadful Day of the Lord.
The vision God gave Zechariah held true, for the record bears out that never again would Israel bend the knee to idols.
[Gustave Moreau – The Sacred Elephant (Péri) – Google Art Project | By Gustave Moreau – 2QE6S7pSCwbbqg at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21897087%5D