|A64 : by Tony Garland |
If we look at the overall context within which this passage occurs, we see that it is among of a series of visions given to Zechariah. In each of the visions, Zechariah is shown various phenomena while a heavenly messenger interprets (Zec. 1:9,19; 2:3; 3:1; 4:1,13; 5:3; 5:5-11).
When we consider the visions, they include elements which are almost certainly non-literal but meant to represent spiritual or physical truths. For example: the colored horses walking throughout the earth (Zec. 1:8-8), the four horns and four craftsmen (Zec. 1:18-21), the stone with seven eyes (Zec. 3:9), the lampstand and olive trees (Zec. 4:2-7,11-14), the flying scroll (Zec. 5:2). In several cases, when Zechariah asks for further explanation, the angel provides an interpretation of the meaning of the symbols which Zechariah has seen in the vision. This same pattern attends the vision of the woman in the basket.
Therefore, it seems best to understand the two winged women who carry the basket—as well as the woman within the basket—as being symbols rather than literal beings such as demons in feminine form. In favor of this understanding we note that nowhere else does Scripture record angelic beings—whether elect or fallen—appearing in feminine form (despite popular misconceptions).
This understanding finds further support from the interpretation provided by the angel who is guiding Zechariah during the sequence of visions. Concerning the woman in the basket, he says, "This is wickedness!"—the angel emphasizes what the woman represents rather than her literal personage. Moreover, the two women carrying the basket have, "wings like the wings of a stork". Notice that they did not have stork's wings, but wings like a stork. Key words "like," "as," and "resembling" are often indicators that what is being communicated is not literal, but symbolizes something else which is.
In this case, the reference to wings like that of a stork is an intentional reference to an unclean bird (Lev. 11:19; Deu. 14:18). Since we find unclean birds representing evil or demonic influence in other passages (Mat. 13:4,19; Rev. 18:2), this reinforces the interpretation that the winged women and the woman carried in the basket represent evil within the vision.
Since we know that dark spiritual forces are often behind evil which manifests in the physical realm and that fallen angels or demons indirectly serve God's purposes (e.g., 1K. 22:21-22; Rev. 16:13), we wouldn't be surprised to find them involved in the transfer of wickedness which the vision depicts. However, we should recognize that the figures in the vision are merely that: figures which represent a greater spiritual reality which is partially explained to Zechariah. We do not expect a literal woman in a literal basket carried by feminine figures (angelic or otherwise) with wings like storks flying to Shinar. Their participation in the vision is to symbolize the evil which will be transferred as indicated.
As for the woman in the basket, I believe she is likely to be associated with another symbol located in the land of Shinar: Babylon the Harlot of Revelation 17 and 18. I discuss this view in my Revelation Commentarya.