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Grant Osborne: This is the next in the set of parables that center on readiness for the Lord’s return. All have the same basic themes—ignorance of the time of the coming, importance of vigilance, being prepared for the sudden return, and accountability.

Donald Hagner: In this second consecutive parable of the apocalyptic discourse (cf. τότε, “then”) Matthew continues to address the importance of readiness for the coming of the bridegroom. The coming of the bridegroom and the wedding banquet have messianic associations (cf. 22:1–14), which make the parable particularly effective. This is the final pericope that stresses the need for constant preparedness, particularly because the time of the return of the remains unknown and may involve a longer-than-expected delay. . .

This parable makes yet once again, and in a most sobering way, the point that preparedness for the unexpected time of the coming of the Messiah is of the utmost importance. That is, how one lives in the lengthening interim period between the first and second appearances of the Messiah must be consistent with one’s claim to be a disciple. What matters is that one not be embarrassed by an “inopportune” coming of the Messiah. The difference between the foolish and the wise is that the latter do all within their power to be ready for the parousia. They will join in the eschatological reward of the messianic banquet while the foolish will find themselves excluded and without recourse. The bottom line of the eschatological discourse is the importance of preparedness, which looms larger and larger toward the end of the discourse.

David Turner: This parable stresses, for the last time in the discourse, that the time of Jesus’s coming (24:3) is unknowable. This point has been stated (24:36) and then illustrated both historically from Noah’s time (24:37–42) and parabolically from a burglary (24:43) and from good and wicked slaves (24:45–51). The present parable illustrates the point from another familiar scene, a wedding. Five foolish virgins do not prepare for nightfall by bringing extra oil for their lamps, because they expect the bridegroom to arrive immediately. But five others wisely prepare for a delay. The foolish virgins miss the bridegroom and are banned from the wedding feast, but the wise virgins share in the joy of the wedding (cf. 9:15). . .

Comparing 25:5 to 24:48 links the lesson of this parable to that of the evil slave. In both cases there is delay in the return of Jesus. But the two reactions to this delay are opposites, and these opposite reactions teach a crucial lesson. The evil slave is irresponsible because he overestimates the delay of the master’s return. He is unpleasantly surprised by the master’s seemingly early arrival. On the other hand, the foolish virgins are careless and underestimate the delay in the groom’s arrival. The evil slave’s lackadaisical approach to the master’s return is similar to the generation of Noah and the homeowner, neither of whom expected an imminent event (24:36–44). But the foolish virgins took readiness to the extreme and did not plan for any delay. From these opposite errors, the church learns that it cannot know the time of Jesus’s coming. It can assume neither an immediate nor an eventual return. Christians must constantly expect Jesus while they persevere in obedience and mission (cf. 10:22; 13:20–21; 24:13). The duties of constant readiness and future preparedness must be held in dynamic tension if the church is to be faithful to the teaching of its master (cf. Luke 12:35–40; Meier 1980b: 294–95). Those who do not exhibit constant alertness jeopardize not only their present opportunities for effective service to Jesus but also their eternal destiny.

D. A. Carson: In a real sense, it is the bridegroom’s delay that distinguishes the wise from the foolish virgins. Any interpretation that ignores this central element in the story is bound to go astray (cf. G. Bornkamm, Geschichte, 49–50). The context similarly shows that the overriding theme is preparedness for the coming of the Son of Man. Even when this involves certain forms of behavior (24:45–51; 25:14–30), that behavior is called forth by the unexpectedness of the master’s return.

From this perspective, vv.1–13 fit well into this sequence of parables and agree with what we know Jesus taught. There is no good reason for doubting their authenticity or retreating to one of several reconstructed cores.

  • The first parable (24:42–44) warns of the unexpectedness of Messiah’s coming.
  • The second (24:45–51) shows that more than passive watchfulness is required: there must be behavior acceptable to the master, the discharge of allotted responsibilities.
  • This third parable (25:1–13) stresses the need for preparedness in the face of an unexpectedly long delay.

William Hendriksen: Preparedness is essential, for the time is coming when getting ready will no longer be possible; the door will be shut.


Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins,

who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom.

R.V. Tasker: Although the first word in verse 1 Then (tote) is often in this Gospel merely a transitional particle with no chronological significance, it would seem that it should here be construed in a temporal sense, the reference being to the day that has played such a large part in the previous section.  So Knox rightly renders, “When that day comes, the kingdom of heaven will be like . . .”

Finally, after the lapse of about a year [after the engagement and betrothal] there was the marriage, when the bridegroom accompanied by his friends went to fetch the bride from her father’s house and brought her back in procession to his own home where the marriage feast was held.  It is most probably that it is this procession that the ten girls in the story are pictured as going to meet.

Stu Weber: This parable, like most of Jesus’ other parables, taught another aspect of reality in the kingdom of heaven. The virgins were the bridesmaids invited to be a part of the wedding ceremony. This was a great honor. They represent all who have been invited to be citizens of God’s kingdom—some of whom, as we shall see, will indeed enter the kingdom and some of whom will not. The bridegroom is the Messiah, and the wedding celebration pictures the eschatological wedding feast of Christ.

Jeffrey Crabtree: The future tense refers to that time when the kingdom will be consummated, when it will enter its final stage, whereas the present tense in Matthew 13:24, 44-45, 47 speaks of the early days of the kingdom during Jesus’ ministry.

Grant Osborne: The emphasis in “young women” (πάρθενοι) is not on the fact of their virginity (that is assumed) but on the fact that they were unmarried young women, probably between twelve and eighteen years old (by then most young women were married). Here they are obviously friends of the bride (like modern bridesmaids) sent out to meet her groom.

D. A. Carson: Normally the bridegroom with some close friends left his home to go to the bride’s home, where there were various ceremonies, followed by a procession through the streets—after nightfall—to his home. The ten virgins may be bridesmaids who have been assisting the bride; they expect to meet the groom as he comes from the bride’s house (cf. Kistemaker, Parables of Jesus, 130), though this is uncertain. Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands. The festivities, which might last several days, would formally get under way at the groom’s house. . .

The “lamps” (not the same word as in 5:15) are here either small oil-fed lamps or, more plausibly, torches whose rags would need periodic dowsing with oil to keep them burning. In either case, the prudent would bring along a flask with an additional oil supply.

Michael Wilkins: It was a larger dome-shaped container with rags soaked in the oil to light the way while a person was walking outside.384 These outdoor torches could last for several hours when extra containers of oil were brought for replenishing the lamp (25:2), as the wise virgins had done.


A.  (:2) Two Contrasting Groups of Professing Tribulation Believers

And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.

Jeffrey Crabtree: Jesus described two opposite groups of these women. Five He called wise because they took extra oil for their lamps in case there was a long waiting period. Their wisdom showed in their preparation for a possible lengthy delay of the bridegroom. The other five He called foolish because they took lamps with oil in them but no extra oil. They did not prepare for a delay. They expected the groom to come soon.

B.  (:3-4) Distinguishing Feature = Possession of Oil (Symbol of the Holy Spirit)

  1. (:3)  Foolish Possess No Oil so They Are Unprepared

For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,

Stu Weber: The five foolish (the Gr. word moros from which we derive our word “moron” for dull, inattentive, unthinking) bridesmaids were introduced first. They took insufficient oil with them to keep their lamps burning for the wedding procession.

Craig Blomberg: Jesus apparently wants to teach that spiritual preparedness may not be transferred from one individual to another. All people are responsible for themselves. But the oil should probably not be allegorized despite frequent and conflicting suggestions that take it to refer to such things as good works, faith, grace, or the Holy Spirit, because none of these can be bought.

Van Parunak: Outwardly, all the virgins look the same. They all have torches; they all come to the bridal house; they all claim to look forward to the coming of the bridegroom. But in fact, five of them have only the form of godliness, and not the true power (2 Tim 3:5). They are like the religious leaders whom the Lord has so vigorously condemned (ch. 15; ch. 23), appearing to be the Lord’s people, but actually defective. They think that the preparation of others in the company will suffice for them. And in the end they are cast out.

Homer Kent: To insist that they had some oil but not enough contradicts 25:3.  The failure to provide any oil at all displays their stupidity.

  1. (:4)  Prudent Took Sufficient Oil so They Are Prepared

but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.


Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.

Stu Weber: The bridegroom’s delay represents the stretch of history between the Messiah’s first coming and his return. Jesus acknowledged that the length of time before his return would be difficult to endure. All ten of the bridesmaids—both the wise and the foolish—fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. This is understandable for anyone under those circumstances.

Walter Wilson: Sleep in this content (25:5) is not a metaphor for death (cf. 9:24) or for negligence (cf. 26:40, 43, 45)—after all, even the prudent girls doze—but a narrative device for indicating how eschatological events will catch people unawares (cf. 13:25), a theme augmented by the depiction of the parousia occurring in the middle of the night (25:6; cf. 24:43).


A.  (:6-7) Sudden Arrival

  1. (:6)  Announcement with a Call to Action

But at midnight there was a shout,

‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’

  1. (:7) Attempt by All to Walk in the Light

Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps.

Grant Osborne: Excitement reigns as the bridesmaids awake, jump off the ground, grab their torches, and start to get them ready for going out in the dark to meet the procession. This makes the rest of the story all the more poignant, for we know that half of them will not make it. “Began to trim” (ἐκόσμησαν) is another ingressive aorist and means to “adorn, decorate”—in this case, to get the torches ready by either putting on extra oil or replacing the burnt-out rags with new oil-soaked rags, then lighting them.

B.  (:8-9) Urgent Differentiation

  1. (:8) Foolish Lack Oil and Plead for Assistance

And the foolish said to the prudent,

‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’

  1. (:9) Prudent Have Sufficient Oil But Cannot Supply for Those Who Lack

But the prudent answered, saying,

‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too;

go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’


A.  (:10) Opportunity to Participate is Only on God’s Terms

And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came,

and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.

B.  (:11-12) No Second Chances for the Unprepared

  1. (:11)  Request

And later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’

  1. (:12)  Rejection

But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

Grant Osborne: People do not enter the kingdom on their own terms but on God’s terms, and it is clear from the whole of 24:36 – 25:30 that one of those terms is readiness for the parousia, i.e., a life of obedience to God.

Stu Weber: The bridegroom’s delay represents the stretch of history between the Messiah’s first coming and his return. Jesus acknowledged that the length of time before his return would be difficult to endure. All ten of the bridesmaids—both the wise and the foolish—fell asleep while waiting for the bridegroom. This is understandable for anyone under those circumstances.


Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.