One of the prophet Zechariah’s visions is of a measuring basket with a lead cover. In Zechariah 5:7-8 he writes, “Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! [The angel] said, ‘This is wickedness,’ and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth.” Why would God use a woman to portray wickedness in this vision?
Here are a couple of things to consider: first, the Hebrew word translated “wickedness” is a feminine noun. As such, using feminine imagery throughout this section would be appropriate, from a purely grammatical standpoint. While the English language does not typically speak of non-living objects as male or female, other languages often do. For example, we would refer to “evil” as an “it”: “Evil, it is a negative thing.” In Spanish, however, evil is a masculine noun, el mal, and would be referred to as “he”: “Evil, he is a negative thing.” Likewise, in Hebrew, wickedness, is a feminine noun, referred to as “she.”
Second, the use of “woman” in verse 7 parallels the mention of “two women” in verse 9. The woman in the basket represented widespread wickedness (verse 6); after the prophet sees what’s inside, two women pick up the basket and fly away with it to Babylonia, where it finds a home (5:11).
The basket’s destination also gives us a clue as to the presence of a woman in Zechariah’s vision: Babylon is the name of the evil world system in the final days. Revelation 17 pictures this system as a woman, called “the great prostitute” (verse 1). So, the woman in Zechariah’s vision is let out of the basket in order to ride the scarlet beast in John’s vision. In other words, the wickedness that was previously kept in check will be unconfined and wreaking havoc in the last days.
In summary, the entity in the basket is a woman for grammatical reasons and also for consistency with later prophecies. Other passages symbolize worldwide sin with similar imagery; for example, Revelation pictures the spiritual adultery of the last days as a prostitute. Thus, Zechariah’s prophecy dovetails nicely with John’s apocalyptic vision of the future.