Matthew 25:1
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXV.

(1) Then shall the kingdom of heaven . . .—The three parables of this chapter appear here as in closest sequence to the great discourse of Matthew 24, and are as its natural conclusion. On the other hand, no trace of such parables being then spoken appears either in St. Mark or St. Luke, and their absence is at least a phenomenon that calls for explanation. That which seems most probable is that the strictly apocalyptic part of the discourse was, as the destruction of Jerusalem drew near, frequently impressed by oral teaching on the minds of disciples, and then reproduced in writing, with the diversities of detail incidental to such a process, as a document complete in itself, while it was reserved for St. Matthew—here as elsewhere, eager in collecting parables—to add the teaching that actually followed it. The parables have a common aim, as impressing on the disciples the necessity at once of watchfulness and of activity in good, but each has, it will be seen, a very distinct scope of its own.

Be likened unto ten virgins.—On the general meaning of the symbolism of the Wedding Feast enough has been said in the Notes on Matthew 22:2. Here, as there, we have to remember, that while the bride is the Church in her collective unity, the contrasted characters of the members of the Church are represented here by the virgins, as there by the guests who were invited; and for this reason, probably, the bride herself is not introduced as part of the imagery of the parable. As far as the frame-work of the figure is concerned, the stage in the marriage rites which is brought before us is the return of the bridegroom, after the espousals have been completed in the house of the bride’s father, to his own abode, bringing the bride with him. Jewish custom required the bridesmaids to wait at the bridegroom’s house, to receive him and the bride, and as this was commonly after sunset, they were provided with lamps or torches.

Which took their lamps.—Better, torches, as the word is rendered in John 18:3. These were of tow, steeped in oil and fastened to the end of sticks.

Matthew 25:1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven, &c. — Our Lord, having fully informed his disciples of the circumstances and general season of his coming to destroy the Jewish place and nation, that lively, earnest, and strong figure of his future coming to judge the world; he passes, as we have seen, by a natural transition, to a declaration of that dread event; of the watchfulness necessary thereto; and of the punishment to be inflicted upon those who should neglect so to watch and prepare for their Lord’s coming. Referring to these events, he here proceeds to say, Then — When the Lord shall thus come to execute judgment on the Jewish nation, or to judge mankind in general, and punish the wicked servant, shall the kingdom of heaven — The gospel kingdom, or the state of things in the visible church, particularly the character, conduct, and lot of the subjects of that kingdom; be likened unto ten virgins — Or may be represented by the character, conduct, and fate of virgins at a wedding. In order to understand this parable, we must remember that here is an allusion to the customs of the Jewish marriages, as well as those of the other eastern countries. “With them it was usual for the bridegroom to bring home his bride in the evening, sooner or later, as it might happen. And that she might be received properly at his house, his female friends of the younger sort were invited to come and wait with lamps, till some of his retinue, despatched before the rest, brought word that he was at hand; upon which they went forth, with their lamps trimmed and burning, to welcome him, and conduct him with his bride into the house. And for this service they had the honour of being guests at the marriage-feast.” To ten such virgins our Lord compares the candidates for the heavenly kingdom, the complete number of all Christian professors: he mentions ten, because this, it seems, was the general number appointed at their weddings to wait upon the bridegroom. And he compares professors to virgins, to signify the purity required in the Christian character, or perhaps merely because the allusion in the parable so required it. Which took their lamps, &c. — The lamp means a religious profession, and every one may then be said to take up this lamp, when admitted into the outward church by baptism; and went forth to meet the bridegroom — The bridegroom means the Lord Jesus in this parable, as well as in that recorded Matthew 22:2, &c.; and every one that professes to expect and prepare for his coming, whether to call men hence by death, or to summon them to his bar. may be said to go forth to meet him.25:1-13 The circumstances of the parable of the ten virgins were taken from the marriage customs among the Jews, and explain the great day of Christ's coming. See the nature of Christianity. As Christians we profess to attend upon Christ, to honour him, also to be waiting for his coming. Sincere Christians are the wise virgins, and hypocrites the foolish ones. Those are the truly wise or foolish that are so in the affairs of their souls. Many have a lamp of profession in their hands, but have not, in their hearts, sound knowledge and settled resolution, which are needed to carry them through the services and trials of the present state. Their hearts are not stored with holy dispositions, by the new-creating Spirit of God. Our light must shine before men in good works; but this is not likely to be long done, unless there is a fixed, active principle in the heart, of faith in Christ, and love to God and our brethren. They all slumbered and slept. The delay represents the space between the real or apparent conversion of these professors, and the coming of Christ, to take them away by death, or to judge the world. But though Christ tarry past our time, he will not tarry past the due time. The wise virgins kept their lamps burning, but they did not keep themselves awake. Too many real Christians grow remiss, and one degree of carelessness makes way for another. Those that allow themselves to slumber, will scarcely keep from sleeping; therefore dread the beginning of spiritual decays. A startling summons was given. Go ye forth to meet Him, is a call to those prepared. The notice of Christ's approach, and the call to meet him, will awaken. Even those best prepared for death have work to do to get actually ready, 2Pe 3:14. It will be a day of search and inquiry; and it concerns us to think how we shall then be found. Some wanted oil to supply their lamps when going out. Those that take up short of true grace, will certainly find the want of it one time or other. An outward profession may light a man along this world, but the damps of the valley of the shadow of death will put out such a light. Those who care not to live the life, yet would die the death of the righteous. But those that would be saved, must have grace of their own; and those that have most grace, have none to spare. The best need more from Christ. And while the poor alarmed soul addresses itself, upon a sick-bed, to repentance and prayer, in awful confusion, death comes, judgment comes, the work is undone, and the poor sinner is undone for ever. This comes of having oil to buy when we should burn it, grace to get when we should use it. Those, and those only, shall go to heaven hereafter, that are made ready for heaven here. The suddenness of death and of Christ's coming to us then, will not hinder our happiness, if we have been prepared. The door was shut. Many will seek admission into heaven when it is too late. The vain confidence of hypocrites will carry them far in expectations of happiness. The unexpected summons of death may alarm the Christian; but, proceeding without delay to trim his lamp, his graces often shine more bright; while the mere professor's conduct shows that his lamp is going out. Watch therefore, attend to the business of your souls. Be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.Then shall the kingdom of heaven - See the notes at Matthew 3:2. The phrase here refers to his coming in the day of judgment.

Shall be likened - Or shall resemble. The meaning is, "When the Son of man returns to judgment, it will be as it was in the case of ten virgins in a marriage ceremony." The coming of Christ to receive his people to himself is often represented under the similitude of a marriage, the church being represented as his spouse or bride. The marriage relation is the most tender, firm, and endearing of any known on earth, and on this account it suitably represents the union of believers to Christ. See Matthew 9:15; John 3:29; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:9; Ephesians 5:25-32.

Ten virgins - These virgins, doubtless, represent the church - a name given to it because it is pure and holy. See 2 Corinthians 11:2; Lamentations 1:15; Lamentations 2:13.

Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom - The "lamps" used on such occasions were rather "torches" or "flambeaux." They were made by winding rags around pieces of iron or earthenware, sometimes hollowed so as to contain oil, and fastened to handles of wood. These torches were dipped in oil, and gave a large light. Marriage "ceremonies" in the East were conducted with great pomp and solemnity. The ceremony of marriage was performed commonly in the open air, on the banks of a stream. Both the bridegroom and bride were attended by friends. They were escorted in a palanquin. carried by four or more persons. After the ceremony of marriage succeeded a feast of seven days if the bride was a virgin, or three days if she was a widow. This feast was celebrated in her father's house. At the end of that time the bridegroom conducted the bride with great pomp and splendor to his own home.

This was done in the evening, or at night, Jeremiah 7:34; Jeremiah 25:10; Jeremiah 33:11. Many friends and relations attended them; and besides those who went with them from the house of the bride, there was another company that came out from the house of the bridegroom to meet them and welcome them. These were probably female friends and relatives of the bridegroom, who went out to welcome him and his new companion to their home. These are the virgins mentioned in this parable. Not knowing precisely the time when the procession would come, they probably went out early, and waited until they should see indications of its approach. In the celebration of marriage in the East at the present day, many of the special customs of ancient times are observed. "At a Hindu marriage," says a modern missionary, "the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, in the very words of Scripture, 'Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.' All the persons employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the procession. Some of them had lost their lights and were unprepared, but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed in a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut and guarded by sepoys. I and others expostulated with the doorkeepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at this moment - 'And the door was shut.'"

The journal of one of the American missionaries in Greece contains an account of an Armenian wedding which she attended; and, after describing the dresses and previous ceremonies, she says that at 12 o'clock at night precisely the cry was made by some of the attendants, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh;" and immediately five or six men set off to meet him.

Bridegroom - A newly-married man.

CHAPTER 25

Mt 25:1-13. Parable of the Ten Virgins.

This and the following parable are in Matthew alone.

1. Then—at the time referred to at the close of the preceding chapter, the time of the Lord's Second Coming to reward His faithful servants and take vengeance on the faithless. Then

shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom—This supplies a key to the parable, whose object is, in the main, the same as that of the last parable—to illustrate the vigilant and expectant attitude of faith, in respect of which believers are described as "they that look for Him" (Heb 9:28), and "love His appearing" (2Ti 4:8). In the last parable it was that of servants waiting for their absent Lord; in this it is that of virgin attendants on a Bride, whose duty it was to go forth at night with lamps, and be ready on the appearance of the Bridegroom to conduct the Bride to his house, and go in with him to the marriage. This entire and beautiful change of figure brings out the lesson of the former parable in quite a new light. But let it be observed that, just as in the parable of the Marriage Supper (Lu 14:15-24), so in this—the Bride does not come into view at all in this parable; the Virgins and the Bridegroom holding forth all the intended instruction: nor could believers be represented both as Bride and Bridal Attendants without incongruity.

MATTHEW CHAPER 25

Matthew 25:1-13 The parable of the ten virgins,

Matthew 25:14-30 and of the talents, which a king distributed among

his servants, to be improved by them.

Matthew 25:31-46 A description of the last judgment.

See Poole on "Matthew 25:13". Then shall the kingdom of heaven,.... The Gospel church state; See Gill on Matthew 13:24 either as it would be a little before the coming of the son of man to take vengeance on the Jews; or as it will be a little before his second coming to judgment: for the parable is manifestly connected with, and refers to the preceding chapter, which chiefly treats of Jerusalem's destruction: but though the Jews were in great security before their utter ruin, yet it does not appear that the Christian church was then in such a lukewarm, drowsy, and sleepy condition, as this parable represents; and since, in the latter part of the preceding chapter, there are some hints of Christ's second and last coming; when the servant found doing his Lord's will, will be greatly honoured, and the wicked, cruel, and licentious servant will be severely punished; and since, at the close of this and the following parable, there is a very lively description given of the last judgment; as also, because it appears elsewhere, that such will be the formal, lukewarm, cold, indifferent, secure, and sleepy state of the church, before the second coming of Christ: it seems right and best to understand this parable, and the following, as having respect to that: and that the design of it is to show, what will be the case of professors at that time; the difference between nominal and real Christians; how far persons may go in a profession of religion, and yet, at last, be shut out of heaven: as also the suddenness of Christ's coming; the necessity of being ready for it; and how watchful the saints should be, that they be not surprised with it. Now some time before this, the Gospel church state, or the body of professing Christians, will

be likened unto ten virgins; to "virgins" for quality; being betrothed ones to Christ, at least in profession; and because of the singleness of their love, and chaste adherence to him, however, as they will declare, and which, in some of them, will be fact; and for their beauty, comeliness, and gay attire, being, as they will profess, clothed with the righteousness of Christ; with that fine linen, clean and white, with cloth of gold, and raiment of needlework, and so perfectly comely through his comeliness: and for their purity and uncorruptness of doctrine, worship, and conversation, at least in appearance, and which will be true of many of them; and all, from their profession, will bear the same character: these for their quantity and number, are compared to "ten" virgins; which may, perhaps, denote the small number of professors at this time; see Genesis 18:32 that there will be but few, that will then name the name of Christ, and fewer still who will not have defiled their garments, and be virgins indeed. The number "ten" was greatly taken notice of, and used among the Jews: a congregation, with them, consisted of ten persons, and less than that number did not make one (f): and wherever there were ten persons in a place, they were obliged to build a synagogue (g). Ten elders of the city were witnesses of Boaz's taking Ruth to be his wife, Ruth 4:2. Now it may be in reference to the former of these, that this number ten is here expressed, since the parable relates to the congregated churches of Christ, or to Christ's visible church on earth: moreover, they say, that

"with less than ten they did not divide the "shema", (i.e. "hear O Israel", and say any part of the blessings that went before it;) nor did (the messenger of the congregation) go before the ark (to pray); nor did (the priests) lift up their hands (to bless the people); nor did they read in the law (in the congregation); nor did they dismiss (the people) with (a passage out of one of) the prophets; nor did they make a standing, and a sitting (when they carried the dead to the grave, which used to be done seven times, to weep over the dead); nor did they say the blessing of the mourners, nor the comforts of the mourners (when they returned from the grave, and stood in a row to comfort the mourner; and there was no row less than ten); , "nor the blessing of the bridegrooms",''

which consisted of seven blessings, and this was not said but in the presence of ten persons (h): to which there may be an allusion here: for the whole alludes to the solemnities of a marriage among the Jews, when the bridegroom fetched home his bride from her father's house, attended with his friends, the children of the bridechamber, and which was usually done in the night: and, at the same time, the bride was waiting for him, accompanied with virgins, or bridemaids; see Psalm 45:14 who, when they perceived the bridegroom coming, went out with lamps, or torches, to meet him, and conduct him to her; hence it follows,

which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Persic versions, add, "and the bride", contrary to the "Greek" copies, excepting the Cambridge copy of Beza's. Nor do the Arabic and Ethiopic versions so read; nor Munster's Hebrew Gospel; nor does it agree with the above custom. By "the bridegroom" is meant Christ, who stands in this relation to his church and people; he saw them in the glass of the purposes and decrees of God, and loved them, and asked them of his father to be given him as his spouse and bride; and who did give them to him, when he secretly betrothed them to himself, in the everlasting covenant, as he does their particular persons at conversion, and will consummate the marriage of them all at the last day; and, in the mean while, acts the part of a bridegroom to them; he loves them as a bridegroom loves his bride, with a love prior to theirs, free and unmerited; with a love of complacency and delight, which is single and chaste, strong and affectionate; constant and perpetual, wonderful, matchless, and inconceivable: he sympathizes with them, nourishes, and cherishes them as his own flesh; providing spiritual food, and rich clothing for them; and indulging them with intimate communion with himself, and interests them in all he has; and when he comes again a second time, he will appear under this character. His first appearance was mean, in the form of a servant, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in garments rolled in blood; but when he comes a second time, he will appear as a bridegroom in his nuptial robes; all his elect will be prepared for him, beautified and adorned as a bride for her husband; when he will come and take them home to himself, and will avow them to be his before his Father, and his holy angels: and which will be a time of great glory, and great joy. Now these virgins are said to take their lamps, and go forth to meet him: by their lamps are meant, either the word of God, the Scriptures of truth, particularly the Gospel, and the doctrines of it; which, like a lamp, were lighted in the evening of the Jewish dispensation, and will shine the brightest towards the end of the world: these are like lamps both to walk by, and work by, and were a light to all these virgins; some were savingly enlightened into them, and by them; and others only notionally, but were taken up, owned, and professed, as the rule of faith and practice, by them all; and that in order to meet and find the bridegroom, for they testify of him: or rather an external profession of religion is designed by the lamps, which is distinct from the oil of grace, and the vessel of the heart, in which that is; and is that into which the oil is put and burns, so as to become visible: and must be daily recruited, and trimmed with fresh supplies of grace from Christ, without which it cannot be kept up, nor will be of any use and service; and is what may go out, or be dropped and lost, as some of these lamps. Now this was what was taken up by them all; they all made a profession of Christ, and his Gospel: some of them took it up aright, upon an experience of the grace of God, and principles of grace wrought in their souls; others, without any experience, and without considering the nature, importance, and consequences of a profession: and so they all went forth to meet the bridegroom: some in the exercise of faith on him, and in his coming; in love to him, and his appearance; desiring, and longing to see him; expecting, and waiting for him: others only in a way of a visible profession of religion, and an outward attendance on ordinances. The custom here alluded to of meeting the bridegroom, and attending the bride home to his house in the night, with lighted torches, or lamps, and such a number of them as here mentioned, was not only the custom of the Jews, but of other eastern nations (i). Jarchi says (k), it was the custom of the Ishmaelites; his words are these:

"it was a custom in the land of Ishmael, to bring the bride from her father's house to her husband's house, "in the night", before she entered the nuptial chamber; and to carry before her , "about ten staves"; and upon the top of the staff was the form of a brazen dish, and in the midst of it, pieces of garments, oil, and pitch, which they set fire to, and lighted before her.''

Something like this is the custom of the East Indians now, which is thus related (l):

"on the day of their marriage, the husband and wife being both in the same "palki", or "palanquin", (which is the ordinary way of carriage in the country, and is carried by four men upon their shoulders,) go out between seven and eight o'clock "at night", accompanied with all their kindred and friends; the trumpets and drums go before them; and they are "lighted" by a multitude of "massals", which are a kind of flambeaux; immediately behind the "palanquin" of the newly married couple, walk many "women", whose business is to sing verses, wherein they wish them all kind of prosperity.--The newly married couple go abroad in this equipage, for the space of some hours; after which they return to their own house, where the "women" and domestics wait for them: the whole house is enlightened with little lamps, and many of these "massals", already mentioned, are kept ready for their arrival, besides those that accompany them, and go before their "palanquin". This sort of lights are nothing else, but many pieces of old linen squeezed hard against one another, in a round figure, and forcibly thrust down into a mould of copper; those who hold them in one hand, have, in the other, a bottle of the same metal, with the mould copper, which is full of oil; and they take care to pour out of it, from time to time, upon the linen, which otherwise gives no light.''

(f) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 6. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 11. 3.((g) Maimon. Hilch. Tephillah, c. 11. sect. 1.((h) Misn. Megilia, c. 4. sect. 3. Maimon, Hilch. Tephilla, c. 8. sect. 4, 5. (i) Bartenora in Misn. Megilla, c. 4. sect. 3. T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 8. 2.((k) In Misn. Celim, c. 2. sect. 8. (l) The Agreement of Customs between the East Indiana and Jews, art. 17. p. 68, 69.

Then {1} shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and {a} went forth to meet the bridegroom.

(1) We must desire strength from God's hand which may serve us as a torch while we walk through this darkness, to bring us to our desired end: otherwise, if we become slothful and negligent because we are weary of our pains and travail, we shall be kept from entering the doors.

(a) The pomp of weddings was usually preferred to be done at night, and that by young unmarried women.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 25:1 f. An additional exhortation to watchfulness in consequence of the day and hour of the advent being unknown, and embodied in the parable of the ten virgins, extending to Matthew 25:13, which parable is peculiar to Matthew (having been taken from the collection of our Lord’s sayings); for it is not the echoes of the present narrative, but something essentially different, that we meet with in Mark 13:35-37 and Luke 12:35-38.

τότε] then, i.e. on the day on which the master will return, and inflict condign punishment upon his worthless slave. Not: after inflicting this punishment (Fritzsche), for the parable is intended to portray the coming of the Messiah; but neither, again, is it to be taken as pointing back to Matthew 25:37 and Matthew 25:14 of the previous chapter (Cremer), which would be an arbitrary interruption of the regular sequence of the discourse as indicated by τότε.

ὁμοιωθήσεται] will be made like, actually so; see on Matthew 7:26.

ἡ βασιλ. τῶν οὐραν.] the Messianic kingdom, in respect, that is, of the principle of admission and exclusion that will be followed when that kingdom comes to be set up.

ἐξῆλθον εἰς ἀπάντ. τοῦ νυμφ.] Here the marriage is not represented as taking place in the house of the bridegroom, in accordance with the usual practice (Winer, Realw. I. p. 499; Keil, Arch. § 109), but in that of the bride (Jdg 14:10), from which the ten bridesmaids set out in the evening for the purpose of meeting the expected bridegroom. The reason why the parable transfers the scene of the marriage to the home of the bride, is to be found in the nature of the thing to be illustrated, inasmuch as, at the time of His advent, Christ is to be understood as coming to the earth and as setting up His kingdom here below, and not in heaven. Comp. also the following parable, Matthew 25:14 ff.

ἐξῆλθον] they went out, namely, from the bride’s house, which is self-evident from the context (εἰς ἀπάντησιν τοῦ νυμφίου). Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 112 f.,—who, like the majority of expositors, supposes that what is here in view is the ordinary practice of conducting the bride from her own house to that of the bridegroom (but see on Matthew 25:10),—and Ewald understand ἐξῆλθον of the setting out of the maids from their own homes to go to the house of the bride, in order to start from the latter for the purpose of meeting the bridegroom as he comes to fetch home his bride. But the meaning of the terms forbids us to assume different starting-points for ἐξῆλθον and εἰς ἀπάντησιν (Acts 28:15); this is further precluded by the supposition, in itself improbable, that the foolish virgins could not have obtained a fresh supply of oil at the house of the bride.

Whether ten was the usual number for bridesmaids cannot be determined; but generally “numero denario (as the base of their numeral system) gavisa plurimum est gens Judaica et in sacris et in civilibus,” Lightfoot. Comp. Luke 19:13.

φρόνιμοι] Comp. Matthew 24:45, Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26. This second virtue belonging to a right ἑτοιμασία (see on Matthew 24:45), viz. practical wisdom, is here intended to be made specially prominent. The idea of a contrast between chastity and its opposite (Cremer) is quite foreign to the context. Comp. κοράσιον φρόνιμου, Tob 6:12.Matthew 25:1-13. Parable of the Ten Virgins, in Mt. only.Ch. Matthew 25:1-13. The Parable of the Ten Virgins

In St Matthew only.

1. Then] In the Last Day—the time just spoken of.

the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins] The condition of the Church at the End of the World shall be like the condition of the ten virgins described in the parable.

This parable is another warning for the disciples of Christ “to watch.” Like the rest of the discourse it is primarily addressed to the Apostles, and after them to the pastors of the Church, who are posted as sentinels for the coming of Christ; lastly, to all Christians. Whatever interpretation may be put on the lesser incidents they must be subordinated to the lesson of the parable—vigilance, and the reason for vigilance—the certainty of the event, and the uncertainty as to the time of its occurrence.

their lamps] Either like the familiar Roman lamps carried in the hand or attached to staves, or else torches which were sometimes fed with oil.

to meet the bridegroom] The usual Jewish custom was for the “friends of the bridegroom” to conduct the bride to her husband’s home; and when the procession arrived, the bridegroom went forth to lead the bride across the threshold (Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. ad loc., and Dr Ginsburg in Kitto’s Cycl. of Bib. Lit.). The imagery of the parable, however, implies that the bridegroom himself went to fetch his bride perhaps from a great distance, while a group of maidens await his return ready to welcome him in Oriental fashion with lamps and flambeaux.Matthew 25:1. [Τότε, then) sc. when the last day is close at hand.—B. G. V.]—δέκα, ten) There is a mystery in this number, employed also in Luke 19:13, and in its division here into two equal parts.[1077] The bride in ancient times had always ten virgins, at least, as bridesmaids.[1078] We do not possess many remains by which to illustrate this parable from Jewish antiquities. It is better to compare it with Psalms 45 and the Book of Canticles.—λαμπάδσς, lamps) i.e. burning.—ἐξῆλθον, went forth) i.e. engaged to go forth; see Matthew 25:6.—τοῦ Νυμφίου, the Bridegroom) See Luke 12:36.

[1077] Either because the number on both sides will be equal, or because the inequality will not be evident.—V. g.

[1078] In general, at least among the Jews, ten constitute a society or company.—V. g.Verses 1-13. - Parable of the ten virgins. (Peculiar to St. Matthew.) This parable, as a continuation of the teaching of the last chapter, sets forth the necessity of having and retaining grace unto the end, in order to be able to welcome the advent of Christ. The duty of watchfulness and preparation for the great day is, of course, implied and set forth (ver. 13); but the point is that the oil of God's grace alone enables the soul to meet the bridegroom joyfully, without dismay. The usual marriage customs of the Jews are well known. On the appointed day, the bridegroom, accompanied by his friends, proceeded to the bride's house, and thence escorted her, with her attendant maidens and friends, to his own or his parents' home. In the parable, however, the proceedings are somewhat different. Here the bridegroom is not in the town, but somewhere at a distance, so that, though the day is settled, the exact hour of his arrival is uncertain. He will come in the course of the night, and the virgins who are to meet him have assembled in the house where the wedding is to take place. They wait for the smnmons to go forth and meet the bridegroom and conduct him to the bridal place; and when the signal is given that he is approaching, they set forth on the road, each bearing her lamp (Edersheim). Verse 1. - Then. The time refers to the hour of the Lord's advent (Matthew 24:50, 51), and the parousia of the Son of man (Matthew 24:36, etc.). Shall the kingdom of heaven be likened. At the time named something analogous to the coming story shall happen in the Church, in the gospel dispensation. Ten virgins. Ten is the number of perfection; such a number of persons was required to form a synagogue, and to be present at any office, ceremony, or formal benediction. Talmudic authorities affirm that the lamps used in bridal processions were usually ten. The "virgins" here are the friends of the bride, who are arranged to sally forth to meet the bridegroom as soon as his approach is signalled. "The Church, in her aggregate and ideal unity, is the bride; the members of the Church, as individually called, are guests; in their separation from the world, and expectation of the Lord's coming, they are his virgins" (Lange). The bride herself is not named in the parable, as she is not needed for illustration, and the virgins occupy her place. These virgins represent believers divided into two sections; evidently they are all supposed to hold the true faith, and to be pure and undefiled followers of the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 14:4), to be waiting for his coming, and to love his appearing; but some fail for lack of grace or of perseverance, as is shown further on. Their lamps (τὰς λαμπάδας αὐτῶν, better ἑαυτῶν, their own lamps). They all made separate and personal, independent preparation for the meeting. These lamps (for they were not torches) were, as Dr. Edersheim notes, hollow cups or saucers, with a round receptacle for the wick, which was fed with pitch or oil. They were on these occasions fastened to a long wooden pole, and borne aloft in the procession. Went forth. This does not refer to the final going forth to meet the bridegroom on the road (ver. 6), as it is absurd to suppose that they all fell asleep by the wayside, with their lamps in their hands (ver. 5), and, as a fact, only five went out at last; but it doubtless intimates that they left their own homes to unite in duly celebrating the wedding. To meet the bridegroom. An evident interpolation adds, "and the bride," which the authorized Vulgate unhappily confirms, reading, exierunt obviam sponso et sponsae. In this case the scene refers to the bridegroom's return in company with his bride. But this is a misconception, as no mention is made of the bride anywhere in the genuine text. The bridegroom comes to fetch home the bride; and these maidens, her friends, assembled in her house to be ready to escort him thither (cf. 1 Macc. 9:37). The wedding seems to take place at the bride'e house, as Judges 14:10. Lamps (λαμπάδας)

Lit., torches. Probably a short, wooden stem held in the hand, with a dish at the top, in which was a piece of cloth dipped in oil or pitch.

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