On the origin of Mystery Babylon in Zechariah 5

As Seraphim points out, the Biblical polemic against Babylon actually starts at Genesis 11, where the City of Man is constructed against the City of God. Ham rises against Noah and Nimrod builds a city counter the city that God will call from Abram’s seed. Even the most righteous man has an impure family line. This will be the case through all of Israel’s history.

In Zechariah 5, the prophet sees a vision of an anti-temple. Wickedness is evil incarnated in a woman who sits in an ephod flanked by two storks. These storks exist in the the space between earth and heaven, a firmament boundary like state. The lid of the basket containing the woman is lifted, but she is pushed back down and recovered. Neither the storks nor Wickedness herself can cross the firmament boundary (which will later be crossed when Christ ascends in John and his Bride makes the second ascension in Revelation). The whole scene is then, obviously, a false Holy of Holies. Wickedness is the false Ten Words in the false Ark of the Covenant, flanked by two anti-seraphim. These storks plan to bring Wickedness (the personification of the sins of Israel) to Shinar, the site where Babel was built. They will build Wickedness a house just as Joshua will build Yahweh’s temple and sit on the throne (Zechariah 6; cf. Haggai 2).

Wickedness seems to come out of nowhere for most English readers of the text. As Yahweh promises a new exodus to the prophet, in reply to those who ask “how long, O Lord?”, he also reveals that there will be a minor exodus: that of evil leaving Israel. When Yahweh is in the midst of his people, when he is their God and they are his people, wickedness cannot be in God’s presence. Yahweh’s return necessitates evil’s movement. But where did this evil come from?

The best answer might be: the evil was in Israel before they were even a nation-state. As Joshua leads his people to victory in Canaan under the direction of the Commander of God’s Armies, they hit a snag at Ai where they are defeated. This is not a simple military defeat: Yahweh is punishing Israel for forsaking their covenant and taking from the forbidden things. Israel, a nation of priests, was supposed to set the entire de-creation people of Canaan (Deuteronomy 12) to the ban. The ban was a fiery sacrifice where sinners were killed by the sword (Leviticus 1) and their smoke would rise as an ascension offering to the Lord (cf. Isaiah 34:10 and Revelation 14:11). It was a sin to take whatever you wanted from the altar, so Aachen sinned because he took from what was to be sacrificed to the Lord (cf. Acts 5).

It is interesting for this status to note what he stole. Joshua 7:21 details the loot that Aachen took. Note that he took a cloak from Shinar. Robert Alter translates this as “seir”, dropping the middle syllable, to mean a “fur” cloak. I think biblical theology explains this well: Aachen stole a coat from Babylon, introducing Babylon to the heart of Israel.

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