Vincent's Word Studies
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
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.
And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
They that were foolish (αἵτινες μωραί)
Read αἱ γὰρ μωραὶ, for the foolish. The for justifies the epithet foolish in the preceding verse.
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
Slumbered and slept (ἐνύσταξαν καὶ ἐκάθευδον)
Slumbered is, literally, nodded. Note the variation of tense. Nodded is aorist, denoting a transient act, the initial stage of slumber. They dropped their heads. Slept is imperfect, of continuous slumber.
And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
There was a cry made (κραυγὴ γέγονεν)
Rev., there is a cry. The verb is in the perfect tense, representing the past event as perpetuated in the present result, and hence is rendered by the English present. At great and decisive change was the result of the cry. No more sleeping, waiting, or silence. There is a cry, and behold the awaking, the bustle, the trimming of lamps and the running to the oil-vendors.
To meet him (εἰς ἀπάντησιν)
The translation can hardly convey the meaning of the Greek phrase, which implies a custom or familiar ceremony. Come forth unto meeting.
Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
Then all those virgins arose (τότε ἠγέρθησαν πᾶσαι αι παρθένοι ἐκεῖναι)
The Greek order is expressive. Then arose all the virgins, those former ones. Those (ἐκεῖναι) a pronoun of remoter reference, and emphatic by its position at the end of the sentence.
From κοσμός, order, and meaning to put in order or arrange. Tynd., prepared Trench ("Parables") quotes from Ward ("View of the Hindoos"), describing a marriage ceremony in India: "After waiting two or three hours, at length near midnight it was announced, as 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."
Their lamps (ἑαυτῶν)
Lit., "their own lamps ;" emphasizing the personal preparation in contrast with the foolish, who depended for supply on their fellows.
And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
Are gone out (σβέννυνται)
The A. V. misses the graphic force of the continuous present, denoting something in progress. They see the flame waning and flickering, and cry, Our lamps are going out! So Rev.
But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
Not so, lest, etc. (μήποτε οὐ μὴ ἀρκέσῃ)
The Greek does not give the blunt negative of the A.V. It is a more courteous form of refusal, making the reason for refusing to supply the place of the negative. Give us of your oil, say the foolish. The wise reply, Lest perchance there be not by any means (οὐ μὴ, the double negative) enough. The Rev. gives it very happily. Peradventure there will not be enough, etc.
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
And while they went (ἀπερχομένων)
A present participle, and very graphic: while they are going away.
They that were ready (αἱ ἕτοιμοι)
Lit., the ready or prepared ones.
To the marriage (γάμους)
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
Applying directly to the bridegroom, whose will was supreme, now that he had arrived at the bride's residence.
But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
The sense is more nearly about to travel, like our going abroad.
And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
Several ability (ἰδίαν)
Lit., his own or peculiar capacity for business.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
Connected with the beginning of this verse, instead of with the end of Matthew 25:15 : Straightway he that had received, etc., indicating promptness on the servant's part.
Traded with them (ἠργάσατο ἐν αὐτοῖς)
Lit., wrought with them. The virgins wait, the servants work.
Not made them, as A.V. The word is used in our sense of make money. Wyc. and Tynd., won. Geneva, gained. Some read ἐκέρδησεν, gained, as in Matthew 25:17.
And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:
Stronger than the austere (αὐστηρός) of Luke 19:21 (see there), which is sometimes used in a good sense, as this never is. It is an epithet given to a surface which is at once dry and hard.
Rev., didst scatter. Not referring to the sowing of seed, for that would be saying the same thing twice. The scattering refers to the winnowing of the loosened sheaves spread out upon the threshing-floor. "The word," as Trench observes "could scarcely be applied to the measured and orderly scattering of the sower's seed. It is rather the dispersing, making to fly in every direction." Hence used of the pursuit of a routed enemy (Luke 1:51); of the prodigal scattering his goods; making the money fly, as we say (Luke 15:13); of the wolf scattering the sheep (Matthew 26:31). Wyc., spread abroad.
And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
That is thine (τὸ σόν)
The Greek is more concise, and is better given by Rev., Lo, thou hast thine own.
His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:
With no more trouble than he expended in digging, he might have gone to the exchangers. The verse should be read interrogatively, Didst thou indeed know this of me? Thou shouldst then have acted with time promptness and care which one observes in dealing with a hard master. To omit the interrogation is to make the Lord admit that he was a hard master.
Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
Lit., throw or fling down, as one would throw a bag of coin upon the exchanger's table.
Taking their name from the table or counter at which they sat (τράπεζα). The Jewish bankers bore precisely the same name.
A very graphic word, meaning first child-birth, and then offspring. Hence of interest, which is the produce or offspring of capital. Originally it was only what was paid for the use of money; hence usury; but it became synonymous with extortionate interest. Rev., better, with interest. The Jewish law distinguished between interest and increase. In Rome very high interest seems to have been charged in early times. Practically usury was unlimited. It soon became the custom to charge monthly interest at one per cent a month. During the early empire legal interest stood at eight per cent., but in usurious transactions it was lent at twelve, twenty-four, and even forty-eight. The Jewish bankers of Palestine and elsewhere were engaged in the same undertakings. The law of Moses denounced usury in the transactions of Hebrews with Hebrews, but permitted it in dealing with strangers (Deuteronomy 23:19, Deuteronomy 23:20; Psalm 15:5).
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
All the nations (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη)
The whole human race; though the word is generally employed in the New Testament to denote Gentiles as distinguished from Jews.
Separate them (αὐτοὺς)
Masculine, while the word nations is neuter. Nations are regarded as gathered collectively; but in contemplating the act of separation the Lord regards the individuals.
The sheep from the goats (or kids, so Rev. in margin)
"The bald division of men into sheep and goats is, in one sense, so easy as not to be worth performing; and in another sense it is so hard as only to be possible for something with supernatural insight" (John Morley, "Voltaire"). Goats are an appropriate figure, because the goat was regarded as a comparatively worthless animal. Hence the point of the elder son's complaint in the parable of the Prodigal: Not so much as a kid (Luke 15:29). The diminutive (ἐρίφια) expresses contempt.
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Diminutive. Lit., kidlings. The sheep and goats are represented as having previously pastured together. Compare the parables of the Tares and the Net.
On the right (ἐκ δεξιῶν)
Lit., form the right side or parts. The picture to the Greek reader is that of a row, beginning at the judge's right hand.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Ye took me in (συνηγαγετέ με)
Tynd., I was harbourless and ye lodged me. The preposition and implies along with. Ye took me with you into the household circle.
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Lit., Ye looked upon. Our word visit is from the Latin viso, to look steadfastly at, and thence to visit. We retain the original thought in the popular phrases go to see one, and to look in upon one.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The word in the Greek order is emphatic: One of these my brethren, the least. So Rev., even these least.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.