After Jesus warned the disciples, they must be vigilant in their watch for his return, he told them, “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of the young maidens were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any extra oil for the lamps. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps.

The bridegroom was late, and they all became sleepy and fell asleep with their lamps burning. At midnight, the cry rang out, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”

The virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out.”

“No,” the wise virgins replied, “there may not be enough for both of us. Instead, go to the store to buy some oil for your lamps.”

But while they were on the way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

Later, the foolish virgins finally arrived. They cried out, “Lord, Lord! Open the door and let us in!”

But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”

Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return.

What the story means to us today

Be prepared – always

Five of the virgins represent wise Christians, five represent foolish sinners, and the bridegroom represents Jesus. Jesus warns us to be like the five wise young maidens – always be prepared by living every moment of your life according to the Christian creed. Those that choose to live as sinners (or false disciples) will be shunned – “Truly I tell you, I do not know you”.

Additional thoughts and considerations

Were the bridesmaids really virgins?

The term virginity in this story is not necessarily meant to imply the girls’ virginity. They were young maidens, customary positions for all weddings in Jesus’ day. They key points of Jesus’ parable are instead, the number ten (a common round number) and the fact that the ladies were maidens to the bridesmaid with defined responsibilities they were required to fulfill.

Why were the young maidens shut out of the wedding?

The foolish maidens were not prepared to carry out their duties – to carry the light for the bridesmaid’s ceremony. Instead, they likely got carried away with the festivities and paid little attention to their task at hand. As a result, their failure would have been not just an insult to the bride and groom but may have effectively “ruined” the wedding experience for all attendees.

The science and history behind the story

Ancient wedding customs

In Jesus’ day, the bridegroom and close friends would gather at the bride’s home for festivities. They would then parade through the streets after dark carrying torches or lanterns to light the way. The “ten virgins” would be the bridesmaid’s friends who would assist her. They were expected to meet the groom as he comes from the bride’s house. Everyone of course, was supposed to carry a lit torch.

Bible Text

NIV

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.

The NET Bible

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 25:2 Five of the virgins were foolish, and five were wise. 25:3 When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take extra olive oil with them. 25:4 But the wise ones took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 25:5 When the bridegroom was delayed a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 25:6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’ 25:7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 25:8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 25:9 ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 25:10 But while they had gone to buy it, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut. 25:11 Later, the other virgins came too, saying, ‘Lord, lord! Let us in!’ 25:12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’ 25:13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.

New King James Version

 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.

The Message

      “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

      6 “In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bridegroom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

      7–8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

      9 “They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

      10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

      11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’

      12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’

      13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

King James Version

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 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. 10 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. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, pLord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Sources: NIV, The Message, The NET Bible, King James Version, NET Bible Notes, Faithlife Study Bible, The Apologetics Study Bible, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary, The Bible Reader’s Companion, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Holman Concise Bible Commentary, The Bible Exposition Commentary, The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, The Teacher’s Commentary, The Bible Guide, Word Studies in the New Testament, Holman Bible Handbook, Calvin Commentaries, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines, The New Manner and Customs of the Bible, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, The Archaeological Encyclopedia, Biblical Archaeology Review, The New Bible Dictionary, The Lexham Analytical Lexicon, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database

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