Updated: Sep 27, 2022
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INTRODUCTION. The parable of the ten virgins is a story based on the wedding customs
of Palestine in New Testament times. There were two stages to a Jewish marriage.
First there was the betrothal which was a promise of marriage and a binding agreement.
Although the betrothed couple did not live together, they were considered legally married. Breaking the agreement required a bill of divorcement. Unfaithful- ness was considered adultery (Deut. 22:23-24).
The second stage was a ceremony that involved "bringing home the bride." The bridegroom's friends escorted the bride and her attendants from the bride's home to the home of the groom. Generally the procession occurred at night with the participants carrying torches. As the procession wound along the streets of the city or village, the onlookers would shout with joy.
After the wedding party entered the groom's house, a marriage supper followed. The
festivities continued for a week with the bride and groom treated as royalty, wearing their finest clothes and doing no work. Love songs were sung, speeches were made in honor of the couple, and elaborate feasts were prepared for the guests. This parable then is a description of the festive occasion known as "bringing home the bride." However, the story does not concern the bride, but rather the young virgins who were part of the wedding party. Young women, virgins, prepared the bride at her home to receive her bridegroom. The exact time of his arrival was unknown, and in this case, he was delayed. When the bridegroom did arrive to claim his bride, the joyous procession to the groom's home began. Since these festivities occurred at night, the attendants of the bride and groom carried torches for illumination.
The lamps or torches were made of oil-drenched rags inserted in a copper vessel which
was attached to a long pole. The lamp contained very little oil, and a fresh supply had to be added frequently. The reserve supply of oil was carried in another vessel in the other hand of the torchbearer. In the parable, five of the young women or virgins were wise and five were foolish. All took their lamps, but only five took an extra supply of oil. When it was time to meet the bridegroom and join the procession, the five foolish virgins did not have enough oil to keep their lamps burning. While they went to find more oil, the procession concluded, and the five foolish virgins were shut out of the feast.