Back to Shinar

Another passage which is often overlooked in establishing the identification of Babylon is the puzzling passage which occupies the last half of Zechariah chapter 5. An angel shows Zechariah a basket containing a woman covered with a lead disk. The angel identifies the woman: “This is Wickedness!” (Zec. Zec. 5:8). The basket is then transported away by two winged figures.1 When Zechariah asks where the basket is bound, the angel responds, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.”

First, the prophet sees as “ephah” (or bath) which was the largest measure for dry goods among the Jews. It would, therefore, be the natural symbol for Commerce. Next, we note that twice over it is said that the ephah “goeth forth” (Zec. Zec. 5:5, Zec. 5:6). As the whole of the preceding visions concern Jerusalem and her people, this can only mean that the center of Jewish commerce is to be transferred from Palestine elsewhere. Next, we are told that there was a “woman” concealed in the midst of the ephah (Zec. Zec. 5:7). We say “concealed,” for in Zec. Zec. 5:5 and Zec. Zec. 5:6 the “woman” is not seen - the leaden cover (cf. Zec. Zec. 5:8) had to be lifted before she could be beholden. The writer is satisfied that this hidden woman in the ephah is “the Woman” which is fully revealed in Revelation Rev. 17:1+ and Rev. 18:1+. Next, we are told that “wickedness” (lawlessness) was cast into the ephah, before its cover was closed again. Then, in what follows, we are shown this ephah, with the “woman” and “wickedness” shut up therein, being rapidly conveyed from Palestine to “the land of Shinar” (Zec. Zec. 5:11). The purpose for this is stated to be, “to build a house,” i.e. a settled habitation. Finally, we are assured, “it shall be established, and set there (in the land of Shinar) upon her own base.” This vision or prophecy contains the germ which is afterwards expanded and developed in such detail in Rev. Rev. 17:1+ and Rev. 18:1+, where it is shown that “the house” which is established for this system of commerce is “Babylon the great.”2

When the woman attempts to escape, she is thrown back into the ephah, which becomes, so to say, the chariot in which she is carried away as something which is defiled and defiling, from the land in which God shall dwell; and the talent with which she carries on her unrighteous trace becomes the heavy weight by which she is held down till she is landed safely “in her own place,” where, after a season of lawless liberty in which she will allure men to their own destruction by her seductive attractiveness and luxury, she will be judged and destroyed, together with him who is pre-eminently styled “The Wicked One,” by the brightness of the Lord’s parousia (2Th. 2Th. 2:8).3

One of the helpful aspects of this passage is the mention made of the destination: “the land of Shinar.” This locale is mentioned only a handful of times (Gen. Gen. 10:10; Gen. 11:2; Gen. 14:1, Gen. 14:9; Isa. Isa. 11:11; Dan. Dan. 1:2; Zec. Zec. 5:11) and is clearly established as the region of Babel and Babylon. It points to the geographical location of Babel and, later, Babylon:4

Shinar: the ancient name of the great alluvial tract through which the Tigris and Euphrates pass before reaching the sea—the tract known in later times as Chaldea or Babylonia. It was a plain country, where brick had to be used for stone and slime for mortar. Gen. Gen. 11:3. Among the cities were Babel (Babylon), Erech or Orech (Orchoe), Calneh or Calno (probably Niffer), and Accad, the site of which is unknown. It may be suspected that Shinar was the name by which the Hebrews originally knew the lower Mesopotamian country where they so long dwelt, and which Abraham brought with him from “Ur of the Chaldees.”5

We believe the transport of “Wickedness!” back to the land of Shinar is another piece of evidence that Babylon of the end is a rebuilt literal city in the same geographic location as Babel, the site of man’s original rebellious city ruled by Nimrod. The history of man is to be brought full circle: in the same place where the first king rebelled against God, so too will the last king rule before his demise and the institution of the Millennial Kingdom:

It shows from actual facts and events which are before us the very strong probability that “the land of Shinar”—which in the past was so “prominent in connection with the manifestation of evil on the part of man, and of judgment on the part of God, that it stands peculiarly as a memorial of proud ungodliness met by the visitation of righteous vengeance from above”—will yet, as Scripture forecasts, play a very important part in the consummation of human “wickedness” in the final anti-Christian apostasy, in which a godless Judaism and a corrupt, unbelieving Christianity will be united for the sake of the false peace, and pomp, and luxury, and a humanitarianism dissociated from God and the truth, which the system, outwardly symbolized by the ephah, will for a time minister to them, but which, as Scripture also warns us, will end in the most terrible judgment which has yet befallen man upon the earth.6

There are significant similarities between the woman in the basket and what John sees concerning Babylon in Revelation Rev. 17:1+ and Rev. 18:1+. We believe these similarities are intentional and that the two are to be connected. The transport of the basket to the land of Shinar establishes the location of end-time Babylon. She will be right where God said! The correlation between Zechariah’s vision and that of John is more than uncanny:

Zechariah Zec. 5:1 and Revelation Rev. 17:1+-Rev. 18:1+
Zechariah Zec. 5:5-11Revelation Rev. 17:1+-Rev. 18:1+7
Woman sitting in a basket. Woman sitting on the beast, seven mountains, and many waters (Rev. Rev. 17:3+, Rev. 17:9+, Rev. 17:15+).
Emphasis on commerce (a basket for measuring grain).Emphasis on commerce.
Woman’s name is wickedness.Woman’s name is Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.
Focus on false worship (a temple is built for the woman). Focus on false worship (Rev. Rev. 17:5+).
Woman is taken to Babylon.Woman is called Babylon.

It is our view that the only obstacle to taking Babylon in the book of Revelation as the literal city on the banks of the Euphrates River is one of timing and faith. Obviously, if Babylon is the literal city, then the events of the book of Revelation are still some distance off from the time of our writing. It will take time for events to conspire such that the city will be rebuilt to become a global hub for world trade. This is really the only obstacle between the Scriptural passages before us and a literal fulfillment. Fortunately, the One Who wrote the predictions also has all the time in the world and is faithful to keep His word!

And the LORD answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. (Hab. Hab. 2:2-3) [emphasis added]


1 Having wings of a stork, an unclean bird.

2 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “Antichrist and Babylon (Rev. 18).”

3 David Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1918), 164.

4 “The Beast is a man (Rev. Rev. 13:18+); therefore his throne is in a definite place: rebuilt Babylon on the Euphrates, we believe,—Satan’s ancient capital, in the ‘land of Shinar,’ where ‘wickedness’ is to be set on its base in the end-time (Zec. Zec. 5:5-10).”—William R. Newell, Revelation: Chapter by Chapter (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1994,c1935), Rev. 16:10.

5 William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), s.v. “Shinar.”

6 Baron, Zechariah: A Commentary On His Visions And Prophecies, 170.

7 Mark Hitchcock, The Second Coming of Babylon. (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2003), p. 109, cited by [Andy Woods, What is the Identity of Babylon In Revelation 17-18?].