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Angels are often portrayed as winged women. Even aside from the fact that those who are clearly angels in the Bible do not appear as winged women, I have not seen any evidence that the winged women that appear in the Bible are supposed to be angels. Zechariah 5:9-11 reads,

9Then I looked up and saw two women flying toward us, gliding on the wind. They had wings like a stork, and they picked up the basket and flew into the sky.

10“Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel.

11He replied, “To the land of Babylonia, where they will build a temple for the basket. And when the temple is ready, they will set the basket there on its pedestal.” (NLT)

It seems that these winged women are sinning by apparently building a temple of sorts to a symbol the angel has already named "Wickedness" (verse 8). Am I wrong? Is there reason to suppose these women are angels? If not, where might such a belief have arisen from? Is there any kind of indication what kind of being these angels are, or what they represent?

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Note that this is one of many occurrences of the number two in Zechariah. –  Kazark Jul 5 '12 at 18:21

5 Answers 5

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This prophecy concerns the problems encountered in rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is closely connected with the story in Ezra 4.

The wicked woman in the "eiphah" measure (bushel or barrel) represents one or more of the enemies of Israel, primarily the Samaritans and the Edomites, who harassed the builders after being excluded from the rebuilding project. Similar language of wickedness in Malachi 1:4. The eiphah is a standard dry measure and a symbol of justice. The word is used here to indicate that the iniquity of the enemies has reached full measure. This is a possible alliteration to the language of Genesis 15:16 [me].

The women angels in verse 9 possibly represent Judah and Benjamin (as in Ezra 4:1) or the Jerusalem and Samaria returnee communities who were rebuilding the Temple. In this prophecy they are removing the wicked from the land. They are the antitheses of the two women in Ezekiel 23:1 who brought wickedness into the land [Mordecai Zer-Kavod, Daat Mikra].

That there are angels in the form of women is according to Midrash Breishit Rabbah 21 (at the end) and Midrash Shmot Rabbah 25:2, also Maimonedes Guide to the Perplexed part I chapter 49, see also the Don Isaac Abarbanel on this verse.

The stork is a long-haul migratory bird with powerful wings. The power of the wings represents the stamina of the returnee community to deal with the harassment and send off their enemies far away. Similar Hebrew for the female forms with wings here in verse 9, clause 3 can be seen in Ezekiel 1:5-6 ("v'lhena c'nafayim"). The Hebrew here in verse 9 clause 2 is "v'ruah b'canfeihem", (with wind in their wings) where "ruah" can mean either wind or spirit. In this case the probable intent is "ruah hakodesh", the holy spirit, indicating that these women are indeed angels on a holy mission [A.S. Hartum, student of M.D. Cassuto].

The house for the wicked in the land of Shinar (Babylon) is saying that the enemies who are harassing the builders of the Temple in Jerusalem will eventually be worn out and will go back to build their own temples in their own lands. This probably refers to the Samaritans, who were exiled to Samaria by the Assyrians after the fall of the northern kingdom. The prophet is saying that these foreign implants will return to their former homes. In fact some did, but those who remained eventually built their own temple on mount Grizim. Mordecai Zer-Kavod posits that there is a parallel to Isaiah 49:17, "those who destroyed you will depart".

That is the simple meaning of the prophecy according to the approach of the ibn Ezra (1089 — 1164) that this particular prophecy was not escatological but like pre-exilic prophecy, was an interpretation of current events at the time of the prophet. (See Bernhard Anderson's Introduction to the Old Testament chapter 7 for an explanation of non-escatological prophecy.)

There is a difficult moral and religious dilemma behind this prophecy and Ezra 4. It is how to maintain the purity of the service of God and at the same time allow participation of non-Israelites. Should or could the returnee community have done more to allow non-Israelite participation? Or was it the case that the request to participate was a ruse or otherwise not sincere? Is this prophecy hinting that the returnees should pay off their enemies?

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From a Christian perspective prophets after the return from the Babylonian exile are often citing visions about the days of Messiah. However there is no evidence that ancient rabbinic sources understood Zechariah 5 as referring to the end times. Therefore, it seems purely a Christian view that equates this chapter to those times.

Under that view, the woman in the basket is viewed as a filthy woman that is like a harlot, who has been unfaithful to God. God sending his people away in a container they cannot escape from with a heavy lid. The forces (women) that carry her away must hold on both sides as it is heavy and need broad wings to maintain lift. These women seem neutral, with the female gender only there to match the contents of the basket. The other possibility is that they represent unclean woman (like Gentile nations) as the bird like wings that they had may have been an ‘unclean bird’.

That they have a house built for them speaks the permanent nature of her exile into a world without God, Babylon, the ancient location of the tower of Babel.

The interpretation is then applied to signify God’s longstanding punishment upon his people for rejecting their Messiah, being scattered into unclean parts of the earth, by unclean nations, for a very longs time.

The fulfillment of this prophecy would be the experience of Israel shortly after Jesus was crucified.

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The picture given by the prophet is revealed by putting the pieces together "in the mind's eye." The image is an inversion of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead of a rectangular box, there is a round basket. Instead of the kapporet (of fine, hammered gold) there is a lid made of lead. Instead of two holy cherubim, there are two women with stork's wings. Instead of the tablets, manna and rod, there is a woman called Wickedness. The fact that these three figures are female points to Israel's deception and harlotry with other gods. The name "Shinar" alludes to the tower of Babel, the center of false worship. However, the purpose of what is going on is revealed by the "festal" structure of the prophet's visions. They use Israel's annual feasts as a deep structure, which is a process of purification (that Israel might serve the nations at Booths). The twin visions of the flying scroll (which has the dimensions of the Tabernacle) and the women in the ephah are the 'Day of Coverings (Atonement).' The sin of idolatry - pictured as this "evil twin" of the Most Holy, is being expelled from Israel. The prophecies are the inauguration of the "new covenant" predicted by Jeremiah, which reunited Israel and Judah. This "Restoration" period ended with the reappearance of this wicked woman, the whore of Babylon, in the Revelation. Though the Pharisees condemned the prostitutes and tax collectors, Jerusalem herself had become the worst prostitute (the whore) and tax collector (for the beast).

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Again, it is one revelation. This woman is 'wickedness', not because she is a woman, but because she symbolically represents wickedness. She is a spiritual entity.

To understand this and many other truths, one must understand the dichotomy between good and evil. This is NOT DUALISM, God is always in control. But He allows evil to fulfill His Purposes.

There are 2 Tree's: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

There are 2 Mysteries: The Mystery of Godliness and the Mystery of Iniquity

There are 2 'Christs': The Anointed One and the Anti-anointed One(Anti-christ)

There are 2 cities: Jerusalem and Babylon

There are 2 Kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness(World System/Babylon the Great)

There are 2 'women': The woman of Rev. 12-Spiritual Israel, the one who delivers the promised Messiah, and the Great Harlot, the mother of all harlotries and abominations on the earth.

This list is not conclusive, but you can see the contrast between good and evil.

Who is pictured is the Mother of all Harlotries. She originates in Babylon, as opposed to Jerusalem, but she is sealed(prevented) from the full impact of her wickedness until a time in history, when she will rally her children against the children of the Covenant. Just as both Trees in the Garden were restrained from man; The Tree of Life(Christ) was restrained until Israel came to full stature as a nation, so also is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil restrained until Christ through His Church had been revealed to all the nations, then Spiritual Babylon is revealed to all the world that it may choose who it will serve.

The 2 angels with wings as storks I believe are spirits who take 'wickedness' to make a spiritual home-Babylon, so they are not 'good' but 'fallen' angels, waiting for their opportunity to expose the earth to their evil.

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It is clear that the 2 women are servant of God as they are removing SIN from the land. Further in chapter 6 it is spoken of Christ in chapter 6:12-13. So these winged women are angels that clean up the land, which symbolically represent the whole earth. John said of Jesus: behold the lamb of God that takes away the SIN of the world. this not the acts of sins but the sinful nature of mankind. These women incarcerate iniquity away from God's people.

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